SHARED BY CHRISTIE FRAVELETTI
It took me awhile to come forward about my anxiety—anxiety that has gripped my life and affected the lives of those around me for so many years. My fears about what people might think of me went through my head over and over again.
I am sure many of you have had some type of anxiety. My anxiety or panic attacks last for more than just moments. I’ve heard it once described like this: "You know that feeling you get when you lose your balance and you’re about to fall, but you catch yourself?" That is how I feel during anxiety attacks, but it can go on for a week or more. My anxiety is unpredictable, confusing, and intrusive—not only just for myself, but for everyone around me. Social anxiety has caused me to lose friendships, but those who truly love me have stood by my side.
Emetophobia (Say What?)
Emetophobia is an intense phobia that causes overwhelming, intense anxiety pertaining to vomiting or nausea. Here is where most of my anxiety lies. Crazy, I know.
I truly didn't have this phobia until I had my first child. I remember my two-year-old daughter vomiting, and I felt like the walls were closing in on me. I had to leave her in the kitchen and call my sister over because I couldn't handle it.I was shaking uncontrollably, having multiple panic attacks.
It's an awful feeling to watch your baby cry. I wished I could leave and stay at a hotel until the whole thing was over. I knew how much I loved her, and it was extremely painful not to be there for her. I couldn't be the mom she needed. I just cried and prayed that I wouldn't get sick. I looked up gastroenteritis on Google to find out exactly how long it was contagious for and what cleaning agent would kill it. This was my first experience with this phobia, and as I have aged it has gotten worse.
I have been through therapy, have been prescribed medications—nothing seems help. It has affected my marriage, and I know it has affected my children’s lives in ways I can’t now change. Because of this phobia I avoid a lot of social gatherings. I don't let my kids play in those McDonald's play parks. I am constantly aware of everything everyone is touching. If someone is acting weird, I automatically think they could be coming down with the stomach bug. I know I annoy my friends; before they come over, I have to ask if anyone has had the stomach bug in the last couple of weeks. The thing is: I am constantly worried, constantly thinking. The anxiety is always there. There is not a day that goes by that I am not thinking about the possibility of someone in my family being sick.
Calm in the Darkness
In January 2016, my son, Logan, got sick. He was crying in the bathroom, "Mommy, I have diarrhea." I woke up and immediately felt the panic. My heart was racing, and I was sweating. I yelled back for him to stay in the bathroom. He cried for me, and I just froze. Like many other times, I texted my husband, Tony, to come home and take care of Logan. I couldn't do it.
(Here is where it affects my marriage. My husband thinks the phobia is ridiculous; he cannot believe that I cannot take care of my own kids. I have asked before for him to come home because I couldn't get up and face it if the kids were sick. Once I awoke and thought I was sick, so I made him stay home until my anxiety was gone.)
This time, my husband was already downtown, so it would be awhile before he could get back home. After I texted Tony, I reached for my Xanax—my lifesaver, my calm in the darkness. I need it at my side at all times. At the time, my psychiatrist was prescribing thirty pills per bottle, and I very foolishly took too much. My tolerance was creeping up, and therefore, I needed more and more. When my husband got home, I was calmed from the Xanax. I made sure my son was situated with a bucket to throw up in, and I went and hid in my room for the day. I remember it very clearly. It was a Monday morning.
That week, I didn't sleep in bed with my husband, which took a toll on our marriage. It was my way of hiding from the possibility of being woken up in the middle of the night. I spent the week worried my daughter would be next, or maybe my husband. I definitely didn't want to be upstairs when it did happen. By Wednesday, my daughter had caught it, and I had to take more Xanax. Once again, I took more than I needed to take or should be taking.
My husband didn't understand and spent the majority of January pissed off at me. I just cried because no one understood. Even my friends thought it was crazy. I kept telling my husband I didn't choose this for myself. I didn't want to spend my life scared every day, but anxiety had a grip on my life. I called my psychiatrist because I was concerned I was addicted to Xanax after taking too much for a week straight and suffering withdrawal symptoms the following week.
A Constant Cycle
It has been a year since, and I am doing better. My psychiatrist only gives me six Xanax at a time now, after my possible addiction. I have to choose wisely when to use them. I try to use deep breathing to get through my anxious times. I make an effort to get out of the house and not focus so much on what my kids are touching. Instead, I just make them wash their hands before we eat.
A couple of months ago, my twelve-year-old daughter came downstairs and said she wasn't feeling well. I told her to take an antacid, and the panic immediately set in. I went to the corner of the dining room and slept there—to be farther away from the staircase that leads to the bathroom. I was in fear that I would hear her vomiting. I woke up a few hours later on the floor.
This sounds crazy to me as I am typing, but this is my life. It’s a constant cycle of fear and more anxiety. This is stomach flu season, and my kids go back to school in a few days. Oh, how I wish I could homeschool them! That way they would be under my watchful eye at all times. I hope and pray every day that there is an end to this. Anxiety is like a weight at your feet. It is continually living your life "on edge." I am always waiting for the next "what if" to come about. My entire existence is about preparing myself for these "what if" scenarios.
For those who live a carefree lifestyle, it is hard to imagine what it’s like to live with anxiety. My husband lives under the same roof and doesn't have a clue. If you know someone who struggles with anxiety, try and be their calm. For me, I looked to my anxiety medication, but I think it's possible for that to be replaced with a person—a friend, a family member, or God. I think it's important to know you can go to someone to guide you through the darkness that is anxiety.