I’m writing this whilst panicking. This is a fear that has shown its face many times before: the fear that I’ve eaten something that is going to make me ill. This is a component of my eating disorder and one of the main reasons why I eat a basically vegan diet, because it is animal products that are more likely to be off or uncooked and make you ill. But this evening I cooked salmon from frozen and when I went to eat it, having left it for a minute, it wasn’t piping hot but I didn’t think anything of it until I was halfway through eating it. I tried to tell myself that I was overreacting but after I’d finished I started worrying and put the other piece in for another ten minutes until it’s now horribly dry. What if the overcooking will make me ill when I eat that? I will probably throw it in the bin. I feel nauseous now but it may be psychosomatic.
When did my emetophobia start? I developed food poisoning from coleslaw when I was about 12 or 13. I was away from home and it was a horrendous experience. I have not eaten coleslaw since I would worry a lot about mayonnaise. Only a year or so later I had a stomach virus so bad that I don’t remember it. Afterwards I couldn’t eat meat although I have tried a few times since. These ailments were the beginning of the slippery slope towards developing M.E. and, later, anorexia. One of the main symptoms of M.E. is nausea and I would live out my days constantly worrying I’d be sick. Another symptom of M.E. is travel/motion sickness and there were a few years where I could hardly travel anywhere and was reliant on anti-nausea medication. I would have panic attacks as soon as I got on a train. The potential for animal products to make me ill was something Ana could used to her advantage; convincing me that if I ate them I would get fat and sick.
Whilst recovering from anorexia and M.E. having to eat my (now ex) boyfriend’s barely cooked chicken stir-fries without resulting in illness, and getting so drunk that I was sick, helped me to be less afraid of meat and of vomiting. However the fear still prickles in my head in situations where I’m worried I may be sick and without anyone here to reassure me I am panicking. I know that it is irrational. I know that I probably won’t be sick. I also know that if I am sick it’ll be ok. It won’t be pleasant but it will end and I will be ok again.
My M.E. is bad at the moment. My energy levels are low and I’m getting worn out easily. My muscles and joints are weak and achy. More worryingly my concentration levels are failing, my perception and memory impaired. I keep feeling light-headed, dizzy and breathless like I might faint. I’m going to have blood tests at the M.E. in case I’ve become deficient in some nutrients. In some ways a result showing I’m deficient in something will be positive because it means I have something tangible to treat. However it will also make me face up to the fact that my diet is still quite limited; especially when it comes to protein. My new doctor was kind when I explained about my M.E. and anorexia and told me “protein is your friend, it gives you energy!” She congratulated me on my recovery from anorexia which is a thing that healthcare professionals do which makes me feel strange. I’ve been told it is one of the hardest mental illnesses to recover from so I guess being at a healthy weight with a good appetite is an achievement. However, when these fears about food flare up I do not feel worthy of congratulations. I feel scared and confused and angry.
I will sip peppermint tea, distract myself with the TV and podcasts until I fall asleep and pray my fears don’t come true. Wish me luck!