Hi. My name’s Janine H. Jones and I’m emetophobic. This means that I have a crippling phobia of me or someone near me, being sick.
Most of you know this about me, I explain it to everyone in the hope that they will better understand some of my behaviours. Most people are very sensitive to it and in response are considerate of my needs/idiosyncrasies.
The rest of you I’m telling now and asking just two things of you, from now and forever:
1) If you experience diarrhoea and/or vomiting, even if you think it may be food poisoning, please do as the NHS say and “Stay at home until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea, to prevent spreading any infection to others.”
None of you, *none* of you, is so important, so indispensable, that you can’t take a bit of time off work. Don’t be a martyr, have some consideration for everyone around you and stay at home. Which means actually stay at home; don’t go shopping or to the opticians or anywhere else you can spread your grossness. And wash your hands. A lot.
2) If I (or anyone else) should tell you that I suffer from emetophobia – and I do suffer, daily – please engage your brain for just one second and don’t let the next thing you say be about your worst experience of vomiting. Seriously, I don’t know what’s wrong with you people, but a lot of you do that.
It may charm you to know that every experience of vomiting I’ve ever encountered, even since I was at nursery, is etched on my brain. And replayed, often. This includes descriptions of *your* experience, which my brain has made visual and added to my collection. I think about it all the time, and when I say *all* the time, I mean more often than I think about anything else.
It may also interest you to know that:
- I didn’t drink from the age of 17-18 for fear of being sick.
- I spent over a year, twice, barely able to leave the house and unable to go anywhere ‘too public’ (buses, cinemas) for fear of contagion.
- When I was a newly single mother I used to lie awake all night terrified that Naughty Daughter might throw up. I used to call Mama almost every night at 1-2am in the midst of horrendous panic attacks and she’d have to talk me down, helpless, from 70 miles away.
- I had my allotted NHS counselling for this condition back in 2005 and they’ve been unable to help me since.
- I still have panic attacks, only about once a fortnight now, when I take public transport, or private transport, cinemas, theatres, gigs, my daughter’s drama school shows, meetings in work, if I’m hungover, anywhere up high that I can see how high I am, hospitals (including the Casualty set), in supermarket queues and basically anywhere that people are.
- I love prawns. I probably only eat them about twice a year for fear of getting The Bad One.
- Unless I’m drunk, I can’t bear drunk people. It’s all I’m thinking about if I’m sober and in a pub/town/party/football match/train/etc.
- When you tell me you are ill, until we clarify that it’s a non-communicable, non-vomitting type of illness, I am not thinking about you at all, don’t care about you for one second, all I’m thinking about is that you’re going to infect me.
- Even if you tell me you’re ill via some form of electronic communication media, from miles away, I’ll fret about it for a goodly time. And I will have to go and wash my hands.
- I wash my hands a *lot*, I have alcohol hand sprays *everywhere*, I don’t touch stair-rails, or doors, I bring my own utensils to work and I’m very cautious around the work toilets.
- I’m petrified of London.
Now I can’t be sure, but most of you won’t know all of that about me. It’s not as if I’m secretive about it, like I say, I think it benefits me that you know about it. I’ll say again, *most* people are incredibly considerate when they find out. A couple of people have told me they also suffer, and you have no idea how wonderful it is to know I’m not alone. Some nights, Twitter is the only thing that’s stopped me rocking and crying and being unable to sleep – just someone listening and caring and sometimes understanding is often the only thing that works.
There are loads of people worse off than me. It comforted me at my worst, to hear of a woman who was so afraid that when her three year old child threw up one night, she ran out into the street to find a stranger to deal with it. I’m not that bad.
I just wanted you to know the effect you have on me (and people like me), give a little insight into the workings of my brain and hopefully instil in you those two fairly reasonable practices.
PS You like Charlie Brooker, yeah? He’s one of us too: