Sharing this article because it’s one of the best articles I’ve seen on the whole frankly irritating cult of positivity our culture has since Barbara Ehrenreich’s TED talk…
You have probably by now seen the viral video about labelling people- especially kids- with mental health conditions, which was originally done as a reaction to the (in the opinion of the video maker) over-labelling of kids with ADHD (If not, this is it- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv49RFo1ckQ)
I’m not here to talk about ADHD in particular, but it does raise an interesting point nonetheless- how many of us find others including medical professionals labelling our beliefs or personalities, particularly more unusual parts of them, as part of our illness, rather than appreciating them for what they are- part of us?
*TRIGGER WARNING- talks about EDs and safe foods*
One example I have personal experience with is the belief of vegetarianism or veganism with any sort of eating disorder, or, in my case, emetophobia. I’ve touched upon this in a previous post, but I’m vegan for animal rights reasons. Not because I’m worried about getting food poisoning from meat, or dairy. Sure, if it’s one less thing to worry about it’s a bonus, and sure,I love being able to eat raw cake batter(!) but it’s not the reason I’m vegan. My phobia predates both my vegetarianism and veganism, and ironically due to all my health anxieties, if it actually had been my only reason I’d have quit a very long time ago for fear of lacking some nutrient or other if there wasn’t another reason (concern over animal rights) that I cared about more.
So it frustrates me to hear counsellors and support groups bang on about getting over a fear of eating meat* rather than stopping, listening, and accepting and appreciating my reasons why it’s not a fear of salmonella but a love of chickens making me not want to eat parts of dead chicken.
Neither does being vegan cut out all potential sources of food poisoning I know you can also get it from things such as reheated rice or fruit and vegetables too. There’s no need to remind me of that, especially in that smug, almost gleeful way so many people do. Being reminded of potential sources of food poisoning is as triggering as fuck and I really don’t get why people do that!
*And going slightly off topic, yes, I’ve done the whole “feel the fear and do it anyway” recovery thing in terms of eating rice when out, eating out in general, going to buffets, potlucks etc. I’m trying not to let this phobia completely rule my life but it”s very, very, very difficult!!! Just because I eat and even enjoy eating something doesn’t mean I’m not worrying about it for hours and days later, attributing any gastric discomfort to possibly having eaten something poisoned or touched by someone who has come into contact with noro and not washed their hands properly. Doing all the behaviours I’m supposed to and rejecting safety behaviours which impact my life doesn’t mean my phobia is cured. I’m still scared.
I know that for some people avoidance of meat, eggs or dairy may simply be a means of avoiding food poisoning if they have emetophobia, I know that for many others with eating disorders it’s a way of avoiding eating at social gatherings or avoiding trigger foods and many of these people don’t care about animal rights at all, but that’s certainly not true of all of us and the two things- genuine concern for animals and eating disorders- are in no way mutually exclusive. This ought to be respected before jumping to any wrong conclusions about anyone.
Another thing I find often being pathologised is my decision to be childfree.
Much as pregnancy and being around small children does indeed frighten me, my emetophobia absolutely isn’t my only reason to remain childfree, just one of many.
Trust me, I have done a lot of soul searching on this issue, and I don’t feel as if I am missing out on anything by choosing not to be a mother, and without wishing to offend anyone who chooses otherwise, the lifestyle is something that for many reasons, including the stress, drudgery and tedium (sommething many mothers speak of), I find very unappealing. I’ve never had any biological urges to outweigh that sense of it not being for me, and never felt any sense of loss that I’m missing out because of my phobia that so many women seeking help with emetophobia report, I simply have a sense of relief that I’m lucky not to have a ticking biological clock to contend with on top of everything else.
Do you have any aspect of your personality which you find that people pathologise, that you feel would still be part of you regardless of your conditions? x
*warning- lots of gory medical details*
I went vegan for animal rights reasons in New Year 2005, after realising my 12 years of vegetarianism wasn’t quite enough to not be part of the problem of animal exploitation, and that even free range products didn’t guarantee an animal wasn’t being exploited, and the only way to be part of the solution was to avoid using animal products altogether.
I found the prospect of giving up so many favourites rather daunting but I was pleasantly surprised to find it was a lot easier than I had anticipated it being. Despite my initial disappointment in dairy free cheese subs, I discovered lots of new favourite foods, and taught myself how to cook. My repertoire consisted of ready meals, stir fry and omelettes, and I enjoyed expanding my horizons and veganising old favourites. (And about two years after going vegan I even rediscovered cheese subs at a vegan fayre I was volunteering at, and found I actually enjoyed them)
So I had no desire whatsoever to go back to eating animal products, I did not miss them and had come to find the idea of eating them quite repulsive if I’m honest. I never had any cravings The one and only thing giving me any doubts was my health.
I’d suffered health issues including IBS, asthma, and eczema, as well as very heavy and painful periods and some mental health issues all my life, with the severity ebbing and flowing over the years. In early 2006, about a year after going vegan I had a massive gastric bleed, losing so much blood that I’d become anaemic and needed a transfusion. Doctors performed an endoscopy at the time but couldn’t find the source of the bleeding and were very dismissive after that. I wasn’t to have another massive gastric bleed until 4 years later in 2010, then for the next few years I had rather a lot of them unfortunately, and for a long time they remained a mystery to the doctors.
Between the first episode which landed me in hospital in 2006 and the next in 2010 I had a lot of issues with my periods moving into a shorter 21 day cycle and seeming to get more heavy and painful by the month. I was tired a lot, and blood tests showed that although I was not actually anaemic, my iron levels were still fairly low so I was given liquid iron supplements on a few occasions to get it back up to normal again. It frustrated me to have to take the supplements as I’d liked to have got adequate iron from diet alone! I did my research and tried to maximise my iron intake with lots of leafy greens and dried fruit- sadly things that I can enjoy in moderation, but seem to be an IBS trigger whilst eaten in large amounts for me. 😦
So I was tired, had IBS flares, asthma and eczema playing up, and also frequently felt nauseous for no apparent reason (at the time- it later became clear to me that the nausea was partly due to some gastric inflammation and partly psychosomatic due to my emetophobia- fear of vomiting- turning any little twinge into a vicious circle of anxiety causing nausea).
I wasn’t a vision of health, and hearing of any ex vegans who complained of health issues gave me doubts. I was miserable feeling so ill and wondered if for my health to recover that it might be a necessary evil to no longer be vegan. But still I had no desire to ever go back to a lifestyle which exploited animals. The idea broke my heart. I looked at vegan dietitians such as Ginny Messina and Jack Norris’s articles debunking these vocal ex vegans for reassurance. I knew that the dietetic associations said that well planned vegan diets were appropriate for all stages of life. I had a healthy vegan husband, and healthy, sporty vegan friends, so I knew it was possible to be a healthy vegan. These people, particularly my husband, were also a good support for me when my health was bad and I expressed some of my concerns. I think I have them to thank for keeping me vegan when in different circumstances without that support network and living evidence, I might have strayed off the vegan path.
After that second gastric bleed I had a lot more and the local hospital was beginning to feel like a second home. The drugs I was on for inflammation found under the many endoscopies I had, further exacerbated my IBS. Before getting a colonoscopy I had to eat a low residue diet for a few days- very limited for a vegan, as it’s basically low fibre- and a dietitian at the hospital said that if this colonoscopy showed up certain conditions such as Crohn’s then I might have to stay low residue until it was in remission- but he said that I could indeed stay vegan and still do it, and he could work with me to develop a meal plan and supplements if needs be. But it would have been a very limited diet so I was very relieved to find out it wasn’t Crohn’s.
I finally had a lot more tests done, to cut a long story short what they actually found was that I had a congenital birth defect resulting in abnormal spider of veins in my stomach, and a form of haemophilia known as Von Willebrand’s slowing my blood clotting so I lost excessive amounts of blood. I may have had stomach bleeds slowly dripping between those larger ones which landed me in hospital contributing to my low iron, and the heavy periods were also a symptom of Von Willebrands.
I asked a gastroenterologist if there was anything I was doing wrong or anything that I could do with my diet to prevent the infllammation and bleeds, and he said no, some people were just unlucky. I’m on a low dosage of proton pump inhibitor drugs which has helped stop the inflammation and nausea.
To treat the heavy periods, I had an endometrial ablation operation and now have the far lighter periods of a normal person, no longer having to double up on super heavy towels and tampons or mooncups and change every hour or so like I used to.
This has vastly improved my quality of life and energy levels. I enjoy good health now and have even joined a gym and go to classes 4-5 times a week. 🙂 My asthma is virtually non-existent and although the IBS is still there I have noticed some improvement.
I’m glad to be a healthy vegan, although I can completely empathise with those whose health concerns drove them back to animal products in desperation, and the feelings of self-doubt and guilt associated with this. It’s a horrible place to be and choice to feel faced with. This post was inspired by Sayward Rebhal at Bonzai Aphrodite’s blogs on ex-vegans* and her own challenges. It can be a taboo subject and difficult to ask for support when you’re having doubts, so it’s good to know we’re not alone and that there is hope that we can stay vegan and regain health xxx
I’ve had emetophobia- a phobia of vomiting- for as long as I can remember to varying degrees, and in my opinion it’s the scariest phobia there is as I’m essentially terrified of my own body being able to torture me- and unlike other phobias there’s no way to run away and escape… well actually, there is one, and many of us have suicidal thoughts triggered by this phobia.
Many of us are filled with self-hatred, for example, when someone else is seriously ill and we are consumed by our phobia (I can remember when my brother who had meningitis when I was 12, and my tears and panic attacks had a catalyst of this phobia as much as fear of losing my brother (fortunately he made a full recovery!).
Because of this guilt, many of us self injure, which is also used as a coping mechanism for anxiety (we’d use alcohol or narcotics as a coping mechanism for our anxiety, but there’s the risk of vomiting…)
Exposure doesn’t always, work and can in fact make us feel vilified in having this phobia as we are reminded how awful it is. Vomiting is bad enough for anyone, but imagine coping with panic attacks while you’re ill already. I’ve tried hypnotherapy, CBT and exposure (both incidental and deliberate- the latter was an act of self harm as I felt angry at myself and guilty for having this phobia). Nothing’s worked and I don’t hold out much hope of being cured (I also have a combination of medical conditions meaning vomiting can trigger a gastric bleeding and a bleeding disorder meaning I lose a lot of blood- plus my husband is type 1 diabetic meaning being infected with a stomach bug could put him into a low blood sugar coma and potentially kill him- which I guess means my perhaps once irrational phobia of vomiting now isn’t entirely irrational!)
Despite not expecting a cure I’m trying not to let the anxiety rule and ruin my life. I’m very lucky in that I’ve never wanted children anyway so this is a non-issue, but I am determined to travel, something I’ve always wanted to do, but had never gone abroad until I was 31 due to my phobia making me to scared to.
I’m K. This is my recovery journal. I suffer from anxiety, depression/suicidal thoughts and am a (mostly) recovered self-injurer, and, well, I’ve seen it said many times that a recovery journal is a useful step for recovery.
Plus I’ve wanted to do one for a while to share my thoughts on other interests, such as politics, animal rights, feminism, art and music etc.
I’m on prescription Atarax atm to treat my anxiety, and had been going to counselling for a while but stopped as my original counsellor left due to illness(I don’t know what was wong with her, although I worry that it was just a lie I was told and that I was too difficult a client 😦 ) and with the new counsellor from the organisation who replaced her, I was finding it upsetting and not helpful (or maybe I was having a breakthrough? Or not getting on with my counsellor as an individual? I honestly don’t know. I may go back at some point.)
I’m still working atm- well, actually I have two jobs- I’m a self employed artist and I work part time in retail. Plus I’m a bit of a hygeine freak so cleaning feels like a third job! I’ve not been formally diagnosed with OCD but everyone says jokingly that I’m a bit OCD… what I do definitely have though is emetophobia (a fear of vomiting) so the hygeine-obsession and anxiety goes hand in hand with that. (And I’m tired most of the time, yet at the same time I feel guilty for never having done enough to feel satisfied with what I’ve achieved!)
I’ve tried hypnotherapy for my phobia but although I felt great just after it (happier and more relaxed than I’d felt in as long as I could remember), having had a panic attack while someone felt ill, I’m not sure if it’s just not worked, or whether I need to go back for another session- I think I will next month when I get paid though.
One thing I have done since the hypnotherapy session though is meditation- I’d tried this a while ago and just couldn’t get into it, but after the hypnotherapy it seemed easier to get into. I still use guided meditations, as I can’t seem to do it alone, or just by listening to a sound. I’ll make another post in the future with some good free ones I’ve found on youtube.
I’ve also found some of Flylady.com’s tips for being organised and looking after yourself helpful- although I have to admit I’ve not started doing all her habits as yet. I will make another blog post talking about this in more detail. Now, I know I said I worry about hygeine but to me, clean and tidy are similar but different! And I may be clean but I’m certainly not tidy!
I’ve also found Kati Morton’s Healthy Mind, Healthy Body videos on youtube really useful- and she is a strong advocate of recovery journals so this one here is partly inspired by her and I’ll try some of her suggested topics which I feel are relevant to me.
Anyway, that’s all for now, here are some useful links-
Kati Morton- http://www.katimorton.com
To anyone reading this, please stay safe and give one of these numbers a call if you need immediate support-
The Samaritans- http://www.samaritans.org
NHS 24- http://www.nhs24.com