I mentioned previously, in my Travelling with Emetophobia post, that my emetophobia has been getting worse. This played out again in church on Sunday when the child in the row behind me started coughing and my first thought was, “Oh, my God. I hope he doesn’t puke! EEEK!” Yeah, so it seems like the emetophobia has started to spread out a little and make me uncomfortable about other people getting sick too. Kind of like with the retching baby on the plane.
Good thing for me, though! Last week I called the therapist my husband and I saw last year. He didn’t seem completely sure what he could do to help, but he said he wanted to meet with me to find out more and see if we could come up with a plan. I appreciate how candid he was in that respect.
We met yesterday at lunchtime, and I had to explain what I went through with the HG and how it affects me day-to-day. He listened carefully and took notes in that disconcerting way that therapists do. Ultimately, he came up with a few coping ideas for dealing with my anxiety:
- Live in the moment. Remember that it’s the Fear of the Fear that causes the panic. Live in the moment by reminding yourself that you aren’t sick right now, so there’s nothing to be afraid of right now.
- Shift your focus. The panic comes from your brain working itself into circles. Don’t start down that path to begin with. If you feel yourself starting to go down that hole, breathe and consciously shift your focus to something unrelated to the fear. A dinner table example might be the good conversation with the family.
- Say a mantra. Come up with a mantra to keep from going down the hole of panic if you start getting scared. Not something to say over and over until you freak (“I’m gonna be ok. I’m gonna be ok. I’m gonna be okay. OMG I’M SO NOT OKAY!!!”), but something calm to say once to trigger yourself to calm down. You might have two mantras: one if you hear someone else coughing or retching (“Thank goodness that’s not my problem!”) and one to keep from going into panic about germs and being sick (“You were good yesterday, you’re good today.”)
- Keep a talisman. Get a few anti-anxiety pills from your doctor in case you do start having a panic attack. Head it off at the pass. Like the zofran you keep from last year, you probably won’t need it, but just having it there will bring a sense of comfort and control. If you start feeling scared, remind yourself that you have this if you need it, and you don’t need to fear the fear. Stop thinking of this as a “crutch.” It’s not a crutch. It’s a positive tool to help bring control to an otherwise out of control situation. It’s a talisman.
He said that learning to use those little techniques takes practice, but he complimented in saying that I’ve actually got a pretty good handle on it already with the way I was able to talk myself down from panic on the plane. I told him about some of my fear and reservations going into an HG pregnancy, and he drew me back to the points he made that I listed above. I can use those to deal with the anticipatory fear of HG just like with the emetophobia.
He reminded me of my own words: I’ve been through this before. I know what to expect. I know that I will be getting the best medical care available. Some days will be good. Some days will be bad. Live in the moment.
It actually didn’t take that long to talk about. I still had half an hour left!
Like a good blogger, I took the opportunity to plug my site! Okay, well, I didn’t really “plug” it, but I did talk about how I’m channelling my anxiety and energy into something positive: helping other women who have had, do have, and will have again HG. He seemed pretty pleased with that, and he talked about the positives that this whole thing will bring:
- I will have the ability to give back to the community through writing and the ability to receive support through sharing my experience, something that appeals to my activist mindset.
- In a morbid sense, odd things make for good blog posts. Hang onto that on crappy days and remember to watch for the weird. This plays right into my somewhat sarcastic and slightly twisted sense of humor. Yeah, if I have to go to the hospital, I’m so making Juan take the camera.
The biggest thing he focused on was that I wouldn’t be suffering for nothing. Interestingly enough, he didn’t talk about that “something” as being the baby. In a weird sense, that’s okay. When I was pregnant with Gabi, I reached the point where I was so detached that I didn’t really care that much about that. I just wanted to get through the damn pregnancy and get her out.
He focused on the “something” as being my contribution to the community, my contribution to other women and families in sharing my experience. In that sense he helped me find a way to bring value to the HG itself. It’s certainly a means to an end, but in approaching the journey in this way, it makes the horrible means a whole lot easier to get my head around.
Another thing that appealed to me was when he pointed out that this will be like a science project. What does a really aggressively managed case of HG look like? What does HG look like when a woman does have the proper support of doctor, family, community, and friends?
I really like science. The idea of thinking of this whole thing as an experiment really appeals to me.
Ultimately, I left the session feeling empowered and uplifted. We both agreed that I probably wouldn’t need a follow-up any time soon. The tools he gave me are ones that I need to practice, and, as another positive, the chances to practice those really do come few and far between.
He said if I do start struggling with depression as a result of having HG, he’s absolutely willing to see me to talk things over. Talking out loud, and saying the words can be healing.
Ultimately, we parted with smiles all around and a hearty, “See you later!” “Hope not!”
Yesterday was a good day. I can do this.