Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Emetic Hobos. . .

. . . is how, on facebook, the autocorrect of a friend of a friend kept revising "emetophobia." Good garage-band name? Bad Halloween costume?

Playmobil stylings courtesy of the fabulous KJ  Dell'Antonia. Who sent me an email, with the subject-heading "barf picture," that I avoided all day.
My little essay on that grave condition, and on barfing in general, is up at the Times here. If you're a long-timer with me, I'm so sorry to be talking about barf again. But at least, just this once, there's no weirdly-associated recipe! While the piece was in the pipeline over the weekend, both Ben and my editor got stomach bugs. We took to calling it "The Haunted Essay of Contagion."

38 comments:

  1. Never mind the barf stuff - Ben is 13!!!! I can't believe it! My oldest turns 13 in March. How did we get here :)

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  2. I've had emetophobia my whole life! It's gotten a bit better now that I'm a mommy (and a doula - labouring women barf A LOT). However, I would still run screaming from the room if a stranger were to suddenly begin barfing in front of me. For some reason, I can tolerate it when it's someone I love :)

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  3. Catherine, There is no one better at comically discussing the intersection between barfing and parenting than you. (You can use that on a book jacket if you'd like). I had no idea you were a fellow emetophobic. Before we had children, I made a deal with my husband that I would take on all diarrhea if he would handle the barfing. So naive! As I quickly learned, when the barf bug comes calling, we need all hands on deck. (Shutter) But somehow, they all turn into comic stories after the fact.

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  4. Loved the article! I was a puker back in the day (every holiday, long car trip, etc.) and my kids are pukers. Even strep does not reveal itself by a sore throat but by en episode of vomiting. My youngest is a Type 1 diabetic and if he starts puking, we know he's probably got a serious blood sugar issue going on. I'm lucky that it's kind of a non-event anymore. They realize they have to puke, go into the bathroom and puke in the toilet then crawl back to bed.

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  5. Beautiful, as usual, Catherine.

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  6. Catherine, for the millionth time and in another unexpected way, you give me hope about my own family. Just yesterday we decided to embark on a (costly-gulp) series of exposure therapy treatments for my 15-year old emetophobe. He's suffered with it since 3rd grade and we've tried everything, but his fear is extreme. During this flu season with all the hyperbole in the news he is now having nearly nightly panic attacks. He can't go to sleep for fear of being awakened by that lovely feeling. The anxiety affects his stomach and the vicious cycle continues. Yes, he can tell anyone who will listen about the difference between norovirus and influenza & rotovirus for that matter, but still this season brings the anxiety.
    Anyway, what I really wanted to say is that I have been reading you since the early days and can relate wholeheartedly with you on so many aspects of parenting (I used to think you had snuck into my house b/c Ben & my son were so similar in early years) but I never dreamed you'd be addressing emetophobia today! And the fact that you can suffer yet write about it in a light-hearted manner gives me hope that my sweet little (6' tall) boy can grow into a confident man who can also laugh about it someday. I know we are on the right track and I know he will beat this fear -- it's absolutely amazing how common this fear is and how well the therapist knew EXACTLY what he was going through -- but your article just warmed me up on the insides. OMG. Unless that's norovirus?!?!? ACK!!! (Yeah, perhaps the apple doesn't fall far from the tree....)

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  7. Laura3:07 PM

    Thank you for clueing us into the article - I get all upset if there's something out there by you that I didn't know about! Congrats on the piece.

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  8. “It is just stomach contents,” I tell my zen self. “It was there all along, and now it’s here.”
    BEST LINE EVER!

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  9. I'm a little nervous about commenting...the whole contagion thing. But, hilarious and true and ahhh...the lightness I needed.

    Also, when I click on Dalai Mama Dishes links I get redirected to some weird place that offers the recipe with none of your words. This is bad, very bad. Help?

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  10. Case in point!

    "I go to the doctor in this season under duress, but I do, and I sit (as I did last week) with my 13-year-old for what I still think of as his “well baby” checkup — even as I know that we are sitting in hastily mopped-up puddles of vomit, and he is likely to leave less well than when he arrived."

    I hope you weather this epidemic with only 1/4 of you getting ill!

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  11. I still remember and refer to your "Great Barftastrophe" blog entry all the time. I'd write passages word for word right here, but since you wrote them in the first place I won't!

    (But, oh! The imagery of the hand sanitizer in the car full of virus! So great! And the staring into the bathroom mirror thinking "So this is what I look like when I'm about to barf." And blowing into the kitchen like tissue paper the next morning...)

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  12. Ugh, I have a mild barf phobia too. I have to absolutely grit my teeth and WILL myself to be kind and helpful when I open the door to a room I know contains a freshly vomited-upon bed. What I want to do is slam the door and run, going "Not it! Not it!" When I was little, I used to cry and cry if I had to throw up, and then again after throwing up. I um, still kind of cry if I vomit. I hate it so much.
    Unfortunately I got lots of practice being kind and helpful against my instincts this past week as noravirus swept through our whole house, all six of us, one at a time until I felt caught in a weird time warp of nothing but washing sheets and preparing tea and changing horrifying diapers. I am not leaving the house again til flu season is over, I think.

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  13. Janelle Thomas7:06 PM

    I am speechless. I casually check your blog every few days looking for something delicious or inspiring or hilarious. Today what I found was a PRECISE description of the phobia that has followed me since childhood and become ever so much more complicated in motherhood. As part a recent remodeling project, I begged my husband for a soundproof room ... where I could sleep safe from the sounds of retching (denied). I could go on for pages. Anyway, I resonated with every. single. word. Amazing.

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  14. Can I share my little PTSD vomiting story? This fall, my 18 month old got the worst virus I've ever seen. She threw up about twenty times a day for a week. They put her on the same medicine that they give to chemo patients. She was monitored very closely and only stayed out of the hospital by the thinnest of hairs. I'd give her one of those tiny medicine syringes of water every few minutes around the clock to keep her hydrated enough. She would nurse too, but mostly just throw up the contents. It was so much vomit that we almost stopped trying to avoid it, particularly at night. Just add another towel, fold it over, move a bit to the right. At the end, even when she started eating, she was so weak that she couldn't walk more than two steps. She would sag into me while reading a book because using the muscles to sit was too much work. So now when someone gets sick, I hate it, but I know what is worse - wondering if your baby is ever going to get better. I think I just really needed to tell that story. wow. Thanks for listening.

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    1. Oh, your story made me so sad! It's awful when our babies are so sick :(

      Are you talking about Zofran? I had that for SEVERE morning sickness (9 months of it, twice)---it is a wonder drug.

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  15. Angela5:00 AM

    Aww, Catherine, I feel for you! I used to have a phobia of barf (as in, run a mile), but miraculously it has subsided enough for me to deal with the kids. My fear of the fact that the kids _might_ throw up because they are feeling rotten (that fear I still have), gets replaced by "oh thank goodness, it has started and now it can be over quicker!". I hold hair, stroke backs, replace sheets and pyjamas, wash whatever is obviously contaminated... and then give up worrying, because either we will all get it anyway, or we won't. Lucky, really, because my husband vanishes quicker than you can say "Could you help..."!

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  16. I just posted that essay to FB, saying that every word is true for me, as well. United in our vomit-phobia, Catherine!

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  17. I loved your post - it is ME! All winter I have ultra dry cracked hands from constant washing. My kids always make fun of my germ-a-phobic ways. I am sad to say I would rather have a tooth pulled then vomit, or have anyone in my house do it!

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  18. I'm the exact same way and actually had to purelle my hands WHILE I was reading the article. I become a crazy person December - March and both of my daughters have Feb and March birthdays so hosting their birthday parties at the height of "stomach flu" season sends me into a tizzy every winter. Unfortunately, I'm also making my own girls complete OCD germ phobes as well. I love your writing because you write as though you have a hidden camera inside my own brain -- and this is why I've read "Waiting for Birdy" 6 times even though I've only been pregnant twice. : ) Love you. I'm off to go wash my hands again.

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  19. I had crazy puke anxiety as a kid and still have a major gag reflex sometimes even thinking about it. For some reason I had about a 5 year hiatus when it subsided, while my kids were babies. Maybe it was the constant diaper-changing that made me less reactive to odors and body discharges in general. But now that the kids are old enough to (almost always) make it to the bathroom - or at least aim into the bucket, it's back with a vengeance. I now tend to plug my ears when I hear it start, and call lamely from downstairs after a bit to ask if they are OK.

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  20. I just went and read Great Barftastrophe and now I have to close my browser before I get sucked into re-reading the entire archive. I love you so much.
    Oh! And please tell Ben that we are LOVING the cauliflower mac-and-cheese at our house.
    Did you know I have a Ben, as well? I'll bet you didn't know that. ;)

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  21. "Being phobic about barfing and having children is like being afraid of heights and giving birth to the Empire State Building. "

    This is a perfect sentence, if I ever read one. Just wow. I tip my imaginary cap to you.

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  22. Oh, Catherine...exaclty!

    And, I'm right there with you SeeTryFly! Our daughter had nearly the same experience as yours, except the diarrhea and subsequent dehydration would have killed her if she hadn't ended up in the hospital with an IV that took 4 hours and as many "tries" by different nurses to finally get into her dried out little self. It IS something I think back on when the stomach flu comes and goes in a day, and it's oddly empowering-and so very blessed-to have survived it with her alive! I'm convinced it was by grace alone that we didn't have another stomach virus for two years after that, because I think the anxiety of it literally would have killed me. We were those people who ran screaming from anyone who barfed, had family barfing, or had even thought about barf recently!

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    1. Oh, I wish that no one else has ever had this in the history of the world. The weird thing with my little one? She never got diarrhea. Or a fever. Either one of those would have meant the hospital for sure. But I do think of those families, for countless generations and for much of the world now, that do not have the luxury of anti-nausea medication, or pedialyte, or an IV when needed. And so I am traumatized and so grateful too.

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  23. Anonymous7:21 PM

    So, where does one find the Playmobil frat house play set?

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  25. Oh Catherine. You illustrate how I feel so well. This phobia is bad enough for me to require anti anxiety medication and cognitive therapy and is also why I homeschooled my young kids. What a nightmare. I also count hours after eating out until I hit the magic 48 hour milestone that means my food was properly handled by clean hands. It is all consuming but it is getting better. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook has been a great resource for me along with monthly talk therapy. Thank you for projecting (ha) your views on this subject.

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  26. I feel the exact same way. I become completely paranoid any time I have to ride the subway after 10PM. Drunk hipsters! They are always barfing on things! I will switch cars if someone in my car bobs and weaves even just a little. If someone looks not good I break into a cold sweat and run away, leaving them to, presumably, die alone. I love all other parts of medicine--I could've been an ENT!--but I can't take barf. No ma'am.

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  27. Melanie9:26 PM

    I just have to say, your kids DO vomit quite a bit! I have a six-year-old, and she's only really vomited three times in her life (knock on wood, now, of course). I'm a nurse, though, so I've seen a lot of pretty grody stuff, and I will confess to you (because we're e-friends, right?) that I once RAN out of a patient's room WHILE she was projectile vomiting, and only returned after someone else had cleaned up the mess. (Not my proudest moment, but whatevs.) I do realize I've just tempted fate, by the way...

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  28. A friend linked me to your NYTimes article and I just had to let you know - you described me EXACTLY. (Which is why, of course, the friend linked me.) I laughed so much!

    My two children are adopted, and although I was once-upon-a-time disappointed not to experience pregnancy, maybe God just knew I wouldn't be able to handle morning sickness. :P I don't care if it's not contagious - still icky!

    Anyway, thanks for making me feel less alone as a chicken parent.

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  29. Catherine,
    I have never commented before and have been reading you for YEARS and your book as well. I just wanted to tell you how much your article touched me. Not the part about the puking as I am the cleaner of the puke in our house and my husband is the one gagging and running out of the room with his hand over his mouth. I am referring the end, where you recognize that although gross and annoying it is trivial in comparison to what it could be. I have a son and a daughter who are living and a daughter who passed away when she was 2 1/2. She was healthy, but then seemed to get the flu and was that pukey little 2 year old we fed pedialyte and checked for wet diapers. 2 days of this and we hit the hospital only to have her put in a medically induced coma to try to figure out what was wrong. She was diagnosed with a very rare blood immune disorder called HLH and died 2 days later. Kids with HLH are very sick and have to have a bone marrow transplant to survive. They live in hospitals for months and months and are so sick and cry and cry and their parents watch them suffer. I read articles differently them most people I know. I read about parents complaining about their kids ear infections and flus and colds and just think "At least they are alive". Not many people have the insight and kindness to recognize that and write it down. Kudos to you! I have two kids that are 11 and 9 and I too have the fear of the germs, but if my kids get sick I also have the real fear they will die because of it, because one did. Thank you for recognizing and reminding parents of how lucky they are to have a pukey kid who will get better.
    Julie

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  30. I should not have read the haunted article, as the next day, my daughter puked in her bed at 5 AM. I blame you.

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  31. Whenever my 14-year-old son gets out of bed in the middle of the night, I wake up (every time), paralyzed with fear that he is going to puke. He rarely does anymore, but just the thought of it strikes fear into my very soul. I HATE it, and though I am sorry that there are others that share my horror about barf, I'm glad I'm not alone. Thank you. Really.

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  32. Hi

    I have just been updating and moving our site on this problem. There are some personal stories and reviews and things there too. Its called http://phobiatreatment.com

    I hope it helps
    Sarah

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  33. Re previous post

    Stupid me, the site is http:phobiatreatment.org
    (not dot com)
    Sorry - thats how new it is!

    Sarah

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  34. Another awesome essay! Emetophobiac here too! :)

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  35. I'm afraid too! Luckily my wonderful husband can handle it when the kids get stomach bugs.

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  36. OMG! Emetophobia! This is totally a thing and I have it!

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