I'm lying here wide awake next to my five year old boy who's sleeping fitfully. Every few minutes I hover over him with a sick bowl praying the retching will stop soon. My heart's racing and I have a dry mouth. I'm giving myself an internal pep talk on my ridiculous over reaction. It's just a tummy bug. I'm a mum of three. This is part of the course. But I'm also a mum living with emetophobia - that's a fear of being sick. Don't worry I didn't know there was as an actual medical name for this too until one of my middle of the night Googling sessions, when worrying I was losing the plot.
Nobody likes vomit. But most people don't think about the possibility of someone in their family falling ill multiple times a day. I panic when a child tells me he has a sore tummy. That's most days for my firstborn who is an anxious boy. Long car journeys are tense with me constantly asking if anyone feels sick, which evidently doesn't help if they do. When they are ill I deal with it, I don't run off screaming down the street. I rub their backs and stroke their hair like I'm supposed to. And bizarrely I feel a sense of relief that we've had a bout of it, so I can relax for a few weeks. Irrational I know. The worst for me is the anticipation. After one of them is struck down, I then wait in trepidation every night for the telltale sounds and cries. The anxiety can keep me awake until the small hours.
I have no idea where this fear stems from. In therapy it would probably be traced back to some traumatic incident from my past, though I had a pretty carefree childhood. It's just something I've had to put up with for as long as I can remember. My university friends and I laugh when we recall a panic attack that left me lying on the bathroom floor with strangely splayed out hands all just because I felt a bit nauseous. Now though, as a mum of three, I feel like it's something I should have gotten over. I'm deeply embarrassed, believing it questions my mothering skills. I rarely admit it to friends and family. To me it shows a weakness.
So writing this is the first step to some kind acceptance that there is an issue. Now I'm on the search for a miraculous cure that doesn't involve exposure therapy where you have to listen to a CD of someone being sick. Why would I put myself through that? Some sufferers talk about trying everything but still being crippled by it years on. Maybe I'll never shake off. As kids get older they get less bugs right? So now I'll cuddle my little boy as thank goodness the sickness has subsided. I can breathe again, for now at least.