You know, I managed to survive my last bout of hyperemesis gravidarum with almost no long-term effects. Considering some of the things other HGers have to deal with in the aftermath, I’d say that’s pretty lucky. The only thing I really came away with is emetophobia.
For those of you who don’t know, emetophobia is a fear of vomiting. It can manifest in people in different ways. For some just reading the v-word is enough to trigger panic. Other people have trouble with seeing, hearing other people puking. For me, it’s just if I throw up or get nauseated.
I first realized emetophobia was a part of my life when my daughter was a baby, she picked up a stomach bug, and, of course, gave it to me. I expected discomfort. I expected misery. What I did not expect were the flashbacks and the panic attacks. My husband tried to console me and remind me that it wasn’t HG. The rational part of my brain knew this and agreed with him, but that part in the back, that lizard part, went into total fight or flight mode.
When I had HG, normal “sick foods” were triggers. Water was a trigger. Because of this, when the stomach bug hit, I stopped eating and drinking. It was bad enough, that in retrospect, I really should have gone into the ER. I wound up not eating much of anything for close to a week. I got below my HG weight. It was bad. Really bad. It took me a month to get back to normal and close to six months to get the weight back.
Emetophobia isn’t a discomfort with throwing up. It’s not that it’s simply unpleasant and I don’t like doing it. Does anyone find it pleasant to puke? It’s an intense fear. The intensity is akin to fearing impending death. It’s as if vomiting will kill me. I know it’s not rational. I mean, duh. That’s why it’s a phobia right? If it were rational we’d call it self-preservation.
I’m not sure if what I have is actually technically emetophobia or more like PTSD from the HG. Maybe the two aren’t mutually exclusive. All I know is that when I catch wind that a stomach bug is going around I freak the heck out.
My doctor has been kind enough to write me a prescription for 15 tablets of 8 mg ODT Zofran. I’ve got 13 left. How sad is it that I know exactly how much Zofran I have at all times? Maybe Dr. K is enabling my fear by writing the prescription, but honestly, I felt a lot safer once I knew it was there. I haven’t gone into emetophobic panic since I had it filled. It’s my safety net.
Today, though, I overheard my next door cubicle neighbor talking about her niece puking.
Honestly, though, with all the HG prep I’ve been doing, the fear isn’t as bad as it used to be. I’m still freaking out, but I’m not panicking. I’m not sure how I will react if I actually catch the stomach bug. I’ve managed to avoid one since that first one I got a few years ago.
The bigger question is this: How will I react when the HG hits? Will it be different because it’s HG and my doctor’s willing to basically drop a nuclear bomb on it to treat it? Will I panic? Will I have flashbacks? Will I have the dreaded anticipatory fear kick in when I find out I’m pregnant?
Why can’t I just have a normal pregnancy?