As fall approaches every year, I can feel the anxiety rising. Ironically, fall is my favorite season of them all. I love the leaves changing, and sweaters, and all things pumpkin. But, it’s also a signal of something looming that I dread every year – sickness.
While my Anxiety and OCD isn’t just about illness, it’s a huge triggering factor for me. It robs me of the joy I want to feel around my favorite time of year. I’m constantly waiting for the inevitable – for someone to get sick.
This holiday season, we had three trips planned back to back. I was a mess inside my own head. I slept horrible, and had a hard time enjoying myself because in the back of my mind, it was always there nagging at me. What if someone gets sick? What if we’re trapped in this hotel room together sick? What if we’re trapped in someone else’s house and it runs through all the cousins like wildfire?
A kid saying their tummy hurts immediately sends a hot wave through me. My heart starts racing and I have to calm myself down so others don’t notice how I’m panicking inside. I feel isolated, ridiculous and alone.
I take medication, and I’ve been to therapy. Both help. But, I also want to lock my family inside and never leave the house for all of the winter season. It’s irrational, I know. But, I also feel like it’s the only way to protect us. And, yet, I feel guilt and shame for even entertaining those thoughts.
People get sick. No big deal, you might think. But, for me, it’s my biggest trigger. I sleep less. I am angry when I find out I was exposed by a friend, or when my child comes home from school and tells me someone threw up in class that day.
For me personally, the worry about illness is mostly about my Emetophobia which is a nightmare to live as a parent. But, it’s also about winter in general. It’s an association with what I’ve deemed a miserable time of year when I have to be hyper-vigilant, hyper aware, and I’m constantly on high alert.
Most people find solace in posting about their various illnesses on social media, but for me, it’s more than just stress inducing to see their posts. I don’t care if you live three states away, if you post about someone in your family throwing up, I’ll think about it for days. I’ll worry that it’s coming my way, and I’ll likely lose sleep over it.
Most people lament that they hate this time of year as they exchange horror stories (at least that’s how they feel to me) of their entire family falling victim to an illness, but it’s not really that I hate this time of year, I just hate who it makes me become.
I went to visit family right after Christmas, and on the long drive home I crashed. Hard. I slept almost the whole way while my husband drove for most of the 11 hour trip. I was relieved. Relieved we lasted for a full week with no one getting sick. Relieved that I had survived it (because that’s what living with anxiety feels like every day). And, at the same time feeling that feeling of relief made me realize something.
This anxiety is robbing me.
It’s stealing sleep, but it’s also stealing happy moments I could be enjoying more fully, and it’s stealing peace I could feel during a beautiful Christmas season. It’s stealing joy I could feel when cousins are in close quarters because I’m too busy worried about a little cough in the night or a kid restless in his bed.
It’s robbing me, and I’m on survival mode. I’ll get through it. I always do. I just wish I didn’t have to fight so hard.
Mandy V. says
I go through this exact same thing. Other than the travel part, I feel like I could have written it myself! My family got the stomach flu last year and the 4 of us had it all during the same week with one bathroom. I can’t tell you how horrific and traumatic that was! It still is.
It makes me feel better knowing I am not alone. It makes you feel crazy and worry that you are losing your mind. No one else I know is like this. Thank you so much for writing. If I am crazy, at least I am not alone in it.
Good luck to you, Momma!
Ashley Draz says
This could not be more me than if I had written it. It’s exhausting. People say, “calm down. Kids get sick.” What I think is, “well dang, I hadn’t thought of just calming down!! You’ve cured me of a disorder!!” I am always so thankful when spring and summer roll around!
We might be twins based on this post alone! When I hear the stomach bug is going around I literally begin eating less food. No red sauce, no heavy meals. Cereal and toast for weeks. For every meal. I too take medication.
I’m sorry you go through this too! I can definitely relate!
Someone tagged this on Facebook and I am crying because this is who I am. Some years are better than others and this is a bad year. I’ve been looking into something more than talk therapy. I haven’t been very successful yet. 🙁
I’m sorry Breanna. I know what you’re going through. It’s so hard! Hug!
Oh gosh I do the same freak out! Hadn’t thought it was anxiety but you know,I believe it is. Hate it!!!
OMG! This is ME! It’s overwhelming! My youngest (4) has febrile seizures. The thought of him getting sick, with a fever, scared me to death! I kept him out of daycare nearly a month 1 was so worried. To top it off, when he has anything respiratory, it flares up his asthma. Between the seizures and asthma attacks, we used to frequent the ER often. I see a post on fb about someone’s sick kid and I’m feeling his head for days, listening for a cough all night! It’s awful and out of my control. People just do not understand it!
Fortunately, knock on wood, we’ve been doing pretty good recently. Idk if it’s the combination of Thieves and Elderberry or just luck, but it seems we’re coasting at the moment!
I was really happy to see someone write about this. I’m really wary of admitting it but I’ve had emetophobia since I was a teenager. I thought I could avoid triggers by just never having kids and didn’t want to for many reasons but especially that I thought having this phobia (along with other mental illnesses like ADHD) would make me a terrible parent.
And it was easy for a while because I never really wanted to or tried to become a dad. That is until I met my current boyfriend. He has a wonderful little girl and though I know I’d never be the same as her biological dad, I know that if things get more serious between me and him, then one day I might need to take on something closer to a parental role. For the first time in my life I find my phobia at war with this weird, new, vague desire to have a family. And I don’t want it to be. I don’t want to have this. I don’t want to be like this. I kind of hate myself for being like this because they deserve the world and I know this makes me very NOT THAT.
But anyway I guess it’s just nice to see someone be open about it so I know I’m not alone. If you develop any magic cures (if only) or perfect coping mechanisms I would love to read about them.
I absolutely could have written this exact same article. The anti anxiety medication and the face that my kids are older and can take care of themselves has helped tremendously. Every winter I wonder why we don’t live somewhere warm where they’d be outside more or why I don’t homeschool (I know why but I seriously think about it during the winter). It’s a nightmare.
I am only 13 and I have the same anxiety as you I have been struggling with it for years and I wish it could go away I thought I was the only one but to here I am not the only one makes me have a little hope. I loved hearing your story ♡
Hi Ella! Thanks for sharing that with me. There is hope that it can get better. I would encourage you to get help from someone who specializes in this kind of thing. It can help! I’m sorry you struggle with this but you are not alone!
Thank you for the advice
Thank you for putting in words how I feel. I thought I was the only one who knows in their mind that getting sick will happen but has absolutely no control over how paralyzing the anxiety can be. Then there’s the guilt about feeling that way.
I am the EXACT same…, all of it! I am a little comforted that there are others that feel the same as I do when it comes to this but it is very difficult to live with especially when those around you do not understand and are not affected like I am. The first sign of a sniffle, stuffy nose, sneeze, itchy throat, and/or “my tummy doesn’t feel well” sends me into panic.
DJ Hunt says
Did you ever find recovery from this? I struggle too.
Hi DJ – I have spent a lot of time in therapy, also take meds, and also my kids have gotten older. I find it much easier to manage. I think it’s mostly meds and my kids getting bigger. I hope you can find some relief too.
I have this same exact problem! Especially when it’s a stomach bug sickness. My husband thinks I’m crazy so that makes if so much worse for me. I lose so much sleep when one of my kids isn’t feeling well. I get so stressed out and can’t eat for days because of it. I didn’t know it was an actual thing and didn’t know there was a name for it and also didn’t know therapy or medication could help? My kids are 11, 9, and 6 and when they get sick I am such a hot mess and try so hard to not let them know I am stressed and worried 🙁
Sarah H says
I honestly thought I was the ONLY one who got this way 🥺 It’s comforting to know I’m not alone for sure, but I still absolutely hate myself when it happens. My son at this very moment has the flu. He will not stop throwing up, has a slight fever…he’s 6 and resting at the moment but the minute I saw that thermometer temp heading passed 99 I felt my muscles tense, my stomach turn and I started to get hot. Like a panic attack tries to set in for HOURS until the sick kids are better. It all revolves around the fear of puking. I had it bad as a kid, had it under control a bit in my 20s but after I had my daughter and son it came back. Every time they get sick I just lose it, I can’t eat, can’t sleep…I physically make my own self sick from the worry. I really haven’t found a way around it, I haven’t tried medication or therapy but it looks like I should look into it. I suffer with all of you and we can get through it ♥️