Opening up a little more about some of my personal battles and mental health issues
Photos: Jenelle at Inspiring Witmer
I have a bit of an interesting one for you today. I was spending some time thinking about body image and body issues for this post, and I started thinking more about an interesting period I went through in my late teens/early twenties and it prompted me to change the focus of this post a little. I have spoken about body image on Little Miss Mon Bon before, but mental health (with the exception of talking about the importance of taking a break or breather) hasn’t come up as often, despite it’s importance. So, here is a little bit of a story, about my journey with a bit of a different mental health issue…
I, like a lot of men and women, went through the battle of an eating disorder. At the time, I was completely unaware that it was actually an eating disorder, and in all honesty, I daresay most people around me had no idea about it either. Interestingly, my battles didn’t stem from concerns about my weight or body shape, but they were a product of an anxiety issue that centred around a fear of vomiting. It sounds kind of crazy, I know. Somehow, I had managed to manifest an eating disorder from my irrational fear of vomit.
Most people don’t like vomit – the sound, the smell, the action of vomiting, it is all vile and I would be concerned if someone came forward to say that they actually enjoyed it. But my issues ran deeper than that, I had the classic signs of emetophobia. I had become so scared of vomiting that I stopped myself from eating virtually everything but very small amounts of plain rice or plain pasta (because plain rice or plain pasta can’t taste too bad when it comes back up, right?). My fear even started to affect the way in which I socialised. I wouldn’t eat from certain restaurants (almost any restaurant) in case it gave me food poisoning, unless I could order a fairly flavourless garden salad without dressing. I would even choose to stay in some nights because I was worried that there might be the chance I would get sick when I was out. I was scared to travel by train in case, God forbid, I needed to vomit while I was on the train. Thinking back about it all now, it sounds kind of crazy, and I am sure there will be people out there who find it ridiculous too, but it was a very real and rather debilitating phobia to have.
These days, the phobia isn’t entirely gone. I guess you could say that I still have quite a mild form of emetophobia (I always have a plastic bag in the car ‘just in case’, and I will run a mile if anyone so much as says ‘I feel sick’), but I don’t let it get in the way of my life. My phobia is more controlled and under wraps for now. I still feel my heart race and panic set in when I get a funny tickle in my throat, and don’t even get me started when I get a little bit of reflux, but for the most part, I am in control. In fact, myself and Adelle (another scaredy cat when it comes to chunder) often laugh about how ridiculous we can be when faced with a vomit dilemma, and we can easily identify when we are becoming overly paranoid about it. Being able to understand my fear is one part of being able to deal with any anxiety or issues that it causes.
Although it is seemingly quite a random thing to bring up, I found it important to talk about my irrational fear, because anxiety and mental health issues are something that everyone will come to experience at some point in their life, be it their own battle, or watching someone go through it themselves. I haven’t really ever spoken about what I went through because I thought I was crazy, and it wasn’t until last year that I even realised I wasn’t at all alone in my fear. Now, with more of an understanding, I feel better about sharing my story, and I hope that, in doing so, someone is helped along the way. I know it is like to be too scared to ask for help, too scared to say anything because you think you are being ridiculous (I mean, imagine having to tell someone that you are actually so scared of vomit that you don’t want to eat?!). After seeking the answers I needed, I now also know what it is like to be completely aware about how to deal with anxieties and associated issues, and trust me, it is far better being on this side of the fence than keeping my issues my little secret.
I urge anyone who reads this to speak out to someone if they are facing a mental battle, no matter how absurd you think your anxiety, phobia or mental health issue is. There will always be someone out there who is going through something similar, and no problem is ever too hard to attempt to resolve!