about me · fear · life is messy · mommy guilt · sick

Mama’s a Germaphobe

Hello, my name is Rachel, and I am a germaphobe.

And my germaphobia manifests itself in a very specific form: Emetophobia.

Emetophobia: the fear of vomit and/or the fear of the act of vomiting. Specifically for me, it’s the fear of catching a stomach virus.

“But Rachel,” I hear you saying, “nobody likes to vomit.”

Well…maybe. But I have an irrational fear of it. Logically I know it won’t kill me, but the mere thought of contracting a stomach virus turns me into an agoraphobe as well (meaning I do not want to leave my house). And that is not good for me or my kiddo.

I am so very afraid of being sick. I think a lot of it is a control issue; what would happen if I was very, very ill and no one could come help me with the Boy? And what if it dehydrates me and I am hospitalized (another phobia)? What if, what if, what if? So I am driven to do wacky things.

Examples of my phobia induced wacky behavior include, but are not limited to:

* washing my hands over and over again
* not coming to your house if I know that anyone else who has been there in the past two weeks has had the stomach flu (or vomited for any reason)
* reading “vomit updates” on Facebook and calculating how many hours it has been since I have been near you (even if I haven’t been near you in, oh, say, months or years) (even if I have actually never met you IRL) (because I somehow think that just because I know you I can get sick from you)
* refusing to eat food prepared by people I don’t know, especially if I know your house has been victim to said stomach flu (hence I rarely eat at things like church gatherings or meetings that are pitch-ins)
* refusing to eat at all but a handful of restaurants during winter
* obsessive use of Wet Ones hand wipes (because they kill norovirus)
* counting hours until we are “safe” after we have been in crowds where we could have picked up something
* eating only crackers and drinking ginger ale if I suspect in the slightest I am coming down with something

See? Ridiculous. But it’s a phobia, which by its very definition means it isn’t rational.

But I fear even more that I will pass this fear on to my son. He already wants to wash his hands multiple times a day (although I honestly think he just wants to play in the sink and in the water). And he’s picked up the word “diarrhea,” because if Keith changes the diapers and makes a big production of how gross it is, I find myself asking if it’s diarrhea, which is a first sign of stomach illness. How sad that my child now asks that, even if he really doesn’t even know what it means.

I am trying to manage it. I take vitamins and probiotics. I am exercising three or four times a week. I drink lots of water. I pray and journal. I meditate on 1 Peter 5:7 – “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

But if you combine my germaphobia with my introvertedness, that’s when things get really tricky. I taught for 6 1/2 years with minimal anxiety in this area because I had an end of the day prep period where I maintained a fair amount of silence and solitude, and the hour drive at the end of the day went a long way to restore my energy. Plus, weekends were generally just me and the hubby for long periods. Not a lot of interaction with other people.

Now? Now I have a two year old who is RIGHTTHERE all the time. And I have meetings and playdates and appointments. I haven’t had any real solitude in…well, I honestly can’t remember. Wait. January 7th. I had two hours at home completely alone.

So I am struggling mightily with this right now. Panic attacks. Cracked and bleeding hands from sanitizer and soap. Fear of going to a college basketball game Saturday. Sleeping with a bucket next to my bed and driving around with one in the car. Never being far from my motion sickness pills that also serve as an anti-emetic.

That’s it with me.

I am a mom and a germaphobe and that is what is happening around here lately.

Oh, and Mom? Not your fault! And I know you would come help. But it would take you an hour to get here, and we can only imagine the damage Little Man could do in an hour 🙂

7 thoughts on “Mama’s a Germaphobe


    specifically the virus as well, not a fear of dying but because it's so intense and although you can greatly reduce your chances, if someone in the house gets it you can't be 100% safe.

    also, imagine this scene:
    laying in the hospital (any one of the 4 times over the past 2 years, pick any of them, the scene was exactly the same) i am about to head into brain surgery.
    the anesthesiologist & nurse come in to talk to me.
    “now, don't worry about waking up during it, we'll watch you. and we will be giving you pain medication starting now and all the way through your recovery.”

    me: “okay, but please make sure i don't throw up.”

    them: “if you feel sick, we can give you something for that.”

    me: “no, i'm serious. i will freak out and unless you want me pulling the cable you screwed into my skull out of my brain, or pulling my IVs out, because i'm going crazy, you'll take me seriously.”

    them: blank stares.

    them: “okay, well we can start you on something.”

    me: “thanks. don't bother monitoring my pain, just focus on not letting me throw up.”

    see, i was having brain surgery, and each of the 4 times, i wasn't worried about pain so much as throwing up from anesthesia, pain, medications, or any other reason.

    that is not normal!

    and sometimes during flu season i wear gloves everywhere. fine when it's cold, weird questions & stares when it isn't. i'll even shower & change when i get home, especially if i've been to the doctor's office.



  2. oh, i forgot – i never go anywhere without plastic bags tucked into my purse/backpack/whatever so i can throw up if i get sick. perhaps that would be better than a bucket for you, smaller, easier, discreet, and you can just tie it up & throw it away rather than cleaning & sanitizing for reuse. just check for a hole first, and if you're really worried, double up.

    and i also have the hand problem. i'm extreme, i wash hands then use sanitizer in case any germs from drying.

    gosh, writing this all out, i sound mental. i really do appear normal. wonder who else is “undercover crazy”?


  3. OH MY GOODNESS! This post reminds me of a devotional my friend (IN REAL LIFE) wrote the other day. She used to go to your Church (I think), but now lives a few hours south. I am sending you her devotional via email.


  4. I hate throwing up. Ever since I had my back surgery, if I'm throwing up, I'm also peeing. So I have to make sure I get to the bathroom in time to sit on the potty AND get a bucket or something for the vomit. So annoying. I actually threw up last night, but I guarantee you the cause was the diminished capacity of my baby-squashed stomach, not any sort of bug. 🙂


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