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My Most Irrational Fear

For as long as I can remember, I have had an irrational fear of vomit.

No, not just the normal, “Well yeah, no one likes vomit!” It’s been deeper.

It’s an ever-present nagging worry in the back of my mind, whether we’re having dinner as a family (what if I see some of this food again later?), when I’m cuddling my kids goodnight (what if they’re sick already and I don’t know?), when we’re planning to go on holiday (this won’t be fun, it will be a total disaster, actually, if someone gets sick).

It’s always strategically choosing the bed or side of the room that will “protect” me if throwing up is to happen during the night.

It’s feeling unsafe on long car trips or going to bed without a bucket nearby, just in case.

It’s always sending my husband to tend to the kids during the night, again, just in case.

It’s never having properly seen the beginning of “Home Alone”. (Until recently! And I discovered that you don’t actually see anything.)

It’s being quick to react and think the worst whenever I feel mildly unwell.

It’s having a panic attack if a child does get sick.

It’s being nervous about trying a new restaurant because they might have dodgy food safety practices.

Now, in reality, mine is actually a relatively mild phobia. Some people who suffer from this end up trapped in their homes, never have children, and never live their life. I am so thankful I have been able to live my life!

As our family grew, I found that my anxiety around this was getting worse. My husband had been saying for a while that I would need to confront this at some point and deal with it, but it took me some years to feel like I was actually able to get started on it. Really it was coaching that helped me get unstuck and start taking very small steps – like listening to a podcast, and ordering a book.

I started reading The Emetophobia Manual, and one of the things that Ken Goodman said really stood out to me.

The phobia is actually fueled by the avoidance and safety behaviors. The more we try to avoid the uncertainty of vomit, the worse the phobia gets. The only way through is to embrace the anxiety. To learn that you can handle anxiety and uncertainty.

This really hit home to me with the following analogy that he shared:

When cows see a storm approaching, they run away from it. They therefore end up spending more time in the storm, because they are running with it, in the same direction. Buffalos, on the other hand, run right into the storm. They come out the other side much faster.

Goodman used it to illustrate how our tendency to avoid feeling the discomfort of anxiety is actually the thing that drives the phobia. It keeps us stuck in this cycle of staying in the storm.

The healing process involves learning to embrace the anxiety as an opportunity to practice feeling uncomfortable, to sit in the uncertainty, and realize that you’re going to be ok. It’s a feeling, and it will pass.

This has been such a great life lesson for me! And it tied in beautifully with my experience of labor and birth: that the more that you can embrace and lean into the pain of the contractions, the less painful they are, and the faster that labor will progress.

And ultimately? The more we can embrace the cross, the faster that resurrection and new life will come.

If you want to stop resisting your suffering as much and embrace your crosses more, a Catholic coach can really help with that. I invite you to try out the Metanoia Catholic journal and to take advantage of the 20-minute coaching calls available to you inside the Metanoia Catholic Academy if you are a member. Or, if you’re really ready to dive deep, book a discovery call with one of us coaches professionally trained by Metanoia Catholic!