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 🙂