Therapy for my Emetophobia is Helping!

I mentioned previously, in my Travelling with Emetophobia post, that my emetophobia has been getting worse.  This played out again in church on Sunday when the child in the row behind me started coughing and my first thought was, “Oh, my God.  I hope he doesn’t puke!   EEEK!”  Yeah, so it seems like the emetophobia has started to spread out a little and make me uncomfortable about other people getting sick too.  Kind of like with the retching baby on the plane.

Good thing for me, though!  Last week I called the therapist my husband and I saw last year.  He didn’t seem completely sure what he could do to help, but he said he wanted to meet with me to find out more and see if we could come up with a plan.  I appreciate how candid he was in that respect.

We met yesterday at lunchtime, and I had to explain what I went through with the HG and how it affects me day-to-day.  He listened carefully and took notes in that disconcerting way that therapists do.  Ultimately, he came up with a few coping ideas for dealing with my anxiety:

  • Live in the moment.  Remember that it’s the Fear of the Fear that causes the panic.  Live in the moment by reminding yourself that you aren’t sick right now, so there’s nothing to be afraid of right now.
  • Shift your focus.  The panic comes from your brain working itself into circles.  Don’t start down that path to begin with.  If you feel yourself starting to go down that hole, breathe and consciously shift your focus to something unrelated to the fear.  A dinner table example might be the good conversation with the family.
  • Say a mantra. Come up with a mantra to keep from going down the hole of panic if you start getting scared.  Not something to say over and over until you freak (“I’m gonna be ok. I’m gonna be ok. I’m gonna be okay. OMG I’M SO NOT OKAY!!!”), but something calm to say once to trigger yourself to calm down.  You might have two mantras: one if you hear someone else coughing or retching (“Thank goodness that’s not my problem!”) and one to keep from going into panic about germs and being sick (“You were good yesterday, you’re good today.”)
  • Keep a talisman. Get a few anti-anxiety pills from your doctor in case you do start having a panic attack.  Head it off at the pass.  Like the zofran you keep from last year, you probably won’t need it, but just having it there will bring a sense of comfort and control.  If you start feeling scared, remind yourself that you have this if you need it, and you don’t need to fear the fear.  Stop thinking of this as a “crutch.”  It’s not a crutch.  It’s a positive tool to help bring control to an otherwise out of control situation.  It’s a talisman.

He said that learning to use those little techniques takes practice, but he complimented in saying that I’ve actually got a pretty good handle on it already with the way I was able to talk myself down from panic on the plane.  I told him about some of my fear and reservations going into an HG pregnancy, and he drew me back to the points he made that I listed above.  I can use those to deal with the anticipatory fear of HG just like with the emetophobia.

He reminded me of my own words:  I’ve been through this before.  I know what to expect.  I know that I will be getting the best medical care available.  Some days will be good.  Some days will be bad.  Live in the moment.

It actually didn’t take that long to talk about.  I still had half an hour left!

Like a good blogger, I took the opportunity to plug my site!  Okay, well, I didn’t really “plug” it, but I did talk about how I’m channelling my anxiety and energy into something positive: helping other women who have had, do have, and will have again HG.  He seemed pretty pleased with that, and he talked about the positives that this whole thing will bring:

  • I will have the ability to give back to the community through writing and the ability to receive support through sharing my experience, something that appeals to my activist mindset.
  • In a morbid sense, odd things make for good blog posts.  Hang onto that on crappy days and remember to watch for the weird.  This plays right into my somewhat sarcastic and slightly twisted sense of humor.  Yeah, if I have to go to the hospital, I’m so making my husband take the camera.

The biggest thing he focused on was that I wouldn’t be suffering for nothing.  Interestingly enough, he didn’t talk about that “something” as being the baby.  In a weird sense, that’s okay.  When I was pregnant with the Grasshopper, I reached the point where I was so detached that I didn’t really care that much about that.  I just wanted to get through the damn pregnancy and get her out.

He focused on the “something” as being my contribution to the community, my contribution to other women and families in sharing my experience.  In that sense he helped me find a way to bring value to the HG itself.  It’s certainly a means to an end, but in approaching the journey in this way, it makes the horrible means a whole lot easier to get my head around.

Another thing that appealed to me was when he pointed out that this will be like a science project.  What does a really aggressively managed case of HG look like?  What does HG look like when a woman does have the proper support of doctor, family, community, and friends?

I really like science.  The idea of thinking of this whole thing as an experiment really appeals to me.

Ultimately, I left the session feeling empowered and uplifted.  We both agreed that I probably wouldn’t need a follow-up any time soon.  The tools he gave me are ones that I need to practice, and, as another positive, the chances to practice those really do come few and far between.

He said if I do start struggling with depression as a result of having HG, he’s absolutely willing to see me to talk things over.  Talking out loud, and saying the words can be healing.

Ultimately, we parted with smiles all around and a hearty, “See you later!”  “Hope not!”

Yesterday was a good day.  I can do this.

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8 thoughts on “Therapy for my Emetophobia is Helping!

  1. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear you say you were detached during your pregnancy with the Grasshopper. I was incredibly detached. Sometimes I forgot entirely that I was pregnant and instead viewed my “condition” more like a chronic illness. I obsessed to an unhealthy level about my due date. I would dream about March 7th (my EDD, he was actually born on the 2nd) marching around me like a cartoon. The date actually took on some kind of anthropomorphic qualities in my mind as it was the date itself that was my “savior” from this illness. I would forget that baby was the end goal. It’s incredible what HG does to the mind.

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  2. Kat, I have to admit that not only was I detatched from the Grasshopper during the worst of the HG, but I felt animosity toward her. When I was feeling better, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to be a good mother to her because I didn’t have those glowy feelings that other pregnant mommies talked about. I never even nested for her. I didn’t want to terminate because then I felt like my illness would be wasted and I’d have nothing to show for it. But there were times that some really, really dark thoughts crept into my mind. I believe that the dehydration and the reglan were MAJOR contributors to that. Somehow being dehydrated sucks away your humanity.

    I’m happy to say that I have never loved so deeply and so fiercely as I love my little girl. I think having the HG made her more precious, more of a treasure to me. I occaisionally see moms over on the HG forums posting that they’re worried that they will have trouble bonding with their babies. I try my best to reassure them that when the HG is over, and it WILL end, that life can begin again, and yes, they will bond with their babies.

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  3. Oh my goodness, how I relate to you! I too had some very dark thoughts. They haunted me, in fact. I remember writing a very late night email to Ashli telling her, “All I thought about today was termination. I’m a Christian. I’m pro-life. I don’t believe in this….What’s wrong with me?” And I’ll never forget her reply: “Thinking about it and doing it are very different things. Your thoughts are not wrong. You won’t do it. You would have already. You’re fine.”

    I didn’t nest either. I didn’t know if he would survive (he was IUGR, severely underweight due to my malnutrition at the critical time when the placenta sets up). We bought a crib and didn’t set it up. (Of course, we practiced attachment parenting, so he slept with us anyway, but still). I didn’t have a baby shower until he was 2 months old. I bought one little outfit and hung it in the back of my closet. Sometimes when I was feeling good, I would go in there and hold the outfit, but the disconnect was so vast that I couldn’t imagine an actual baby wearing the little onesie. I begged my doctor to do a c-section early. There were times I would just cry and beg for her to. I would never want a baby to spend time in NICU…but I was certain in my heart that he would be fine, so I was willing to risk it. I feel guilty typing that. Seeing it in front of me on the screen makes my stomach sick. He was born 39 weeks, 2 days.

    I worried countless nights that I wouldn’t bond with him. It was the weirdest thing that’s almost hard to describe. When I went in for my scheduled c-section, Travis was bouncy with excitement to become a daddy and to meet his son…I was off the walls excited to be healthy again. I was talking all the way to the hospital about all the food I could eat, and the sleep I could finally enjoy. It was as though it still didn’t really occur to me that a baby was coming out of this ordeal! When he was born, I kid you not, five minutes after they wheeled me into recovery, I was a new person. Tears rolled down my face because for the first time in months, I wasn’t nauseated. I asked the nurse for food! They took me back to my room after about an hour, and brought Josiah to me. He was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my entire life. I asked Travis, “He’s mine?” I was bewildered. All of that suffering, pain, sickness, and I got him for myself, forever? I just couldn’t believe it. I, like you, have never loved anyone so much in my life. It may have never really registered in my mind that I was pregnant with him, and I may have despised the thing that was making me sick, but when I met him, I just couldn’t believe my blessing. It’s definitely worth it. And if his life hadn’t been in such danger throughout that pregnancy, I’d do it again. I just can’t risk a baby’s life like that.

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  4. Sorry, I don’t want to take over your comment board, but there was one more thing I thought of… I think that being sick, or having a high-risk pregnancy of any kind makes mothers somehow more loyal and more appreciative of their blessing. I’ve seen mothers of preemies who spent time in NICU later in life still talk about how beautiful this “gift” of theirs is. Not that mothers with healthy pregnancies don’t love their children (please don’t flog me), but there’s definitely this sense that comes from suffering that our child is a gift that we somehow had to fight for. I sat at the baby shower of a healthy mother with healthy friends recently and heard her sister in law talking about possibly having another baby. She has 2 children, complication-free pregnancies, and she said, “I told [husband] that I’m not done having babies yet. I can tell because when I think ‘baby’ I don’t wanna gag…” All of the ladies around her just laughed and laughed. My heart actually ached and I had to fight back tears. Maybe she was really kidding, but it killed me. If she had gone through what I’d gone through to get her children here, she wouldn’t take it for granted so easily and be making such jokes.

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  5. I didn’t have HG, but looking back, especially after my struggles with Post Partum Depression, I think I was depressed during the pregnancy as well. I felt very detached from the baby, too, just like you are describing, only for me, that detached feeling continued for months after the birth.

    Now, I can’t imagine my life without my son, but for a long time, he was just a burden to me. The PPD is one of the many reasons we decided to stop with one.

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  6. The idea of a talisman is interesting, particularly that the “talisman” is actually a med. I had a coworker offer me one of her Xanax any time I needed one (she was supposed to take them regularly and has taken maybe two in six months).

    I’d never take someone else’s meds, but just knowing it’s there and having her remind me of that during very high stress times has helped ward off panic attacks. It really does work!

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  7. Kat – It wasn’t until recently that I didn’t feel anger toward non-hyperemetic pregnant women. I remember a co-worker that would crack jokes about her kids getting on her nerves over stuff, and I would get so angry about it. It would just cut me to the quick for some reason. Now that I’ve got more distance it’s easier to deal with stuff like that and recognize it for being a joke.

    Zorro – I always think of you whenever I hear someone worrying that they won’t bond with their baby. I’m always really careful to say that if they don’t have that shining moment when their baby is handed to them that it’s okay. That doesn’t make them less of a mother. Not. At. All. Sometimes it takes time. And that can be magnified when PPD is involved. I managed to dodge the PPD bullet last time around, thankfully. Hopefully I can be so lucky next time as well.

    AW – I was pretty blown away by the whole “talisman” thing. I always called that my “crutch” and mentally scolded myself for it. Thinking of it as a Talisman is a lot more positive, I think. Just knowing it’s there makes a huge difference.

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  8. Thank you for posting the tips there. They really make a lot of sense, and like you, it’s the reason I started blogging too- so all this being sick turns into actually having a purpose. Hope you work through your phobias and that they become less important and fall by the wayside soon.

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