It’s a difficult time for a person of emetophobic sensibilities today.
You can’t understand what it’s like to be an emetophobe. It’s grueling. I’ve been emetophobic most of my life. Only in recent years has it occupied less of my psyche, but it might be because I’m in harsh denial and my hermetic lifestyle has prevented myself from witnessing too many incidents of vomiting (or being exposed, myself). The last time I vomited (not owing to alcohol) was like 2001 or 2002. I had been drinking, but very lightly, and just beer. The nausea that I felt later that night had nothing to do with the beer. Believe me, I know my body, and I know alcohol poisoning when I get it. This was not the booze. I vomited in the toilet and felt like shit the next day, causing me to cancel some lunch plans with friends. I had the day off but spent it all lying in bed.
Emetophobia is wicked. Especially when you’re young. It distorts a “common” occurrence into a heinous, fearsome, even slightly supernatural, event that assumes otherworldly significance to the extent that you even have twisted dreams about it, and when recalling old vomit-involved events, causes you to imbue them with a extra-dimensional Alice In Wonderland darkness and fatalism.
I remember in 1st or 2nd grade, a girl vomited all over the schoolyard. The monitor lady walked her back to the nurse’s office but puddles of vomit were everywhere and it stunk deathly. Now really, who knows. Maybe it was only a couple small puddles and it just smelled normal nasty like all vomit, but to my young mind, it was monstrous and evil and menacing.
My reaction to vomiting (in others) has been, throughout most of my life, to run like hell. Literally. I will run, dash away from all vomit events. It’s like vomit is a monster, a Herculean killer than I must escape. When people vomit it’s like I’m living my own little slasher movie. Run! Hide in the closet! I have a friend who is fond of retelling the story of a time I was driving him home one night after we had to leave miniature golf early because his stomach was upset. On the way home he kept moaning, and suddenly, as we neared a small side street, he said he had to vomit in that agonizing here-it-comes manner. I made the wildest, deadly right turn, skidded to a stop at the curb, and ran across the street to be as far as possible from the scene of the puke. It’s really bad.
Emetophoia distorts your sense of reason.
Vomit is your monster, your demon, and yet it is so common that you live your life wondering if it will pop out of every closed door you cross. That’s the best analogy I can come up with. It’s a monster. I used to comfort myself that as long as I was reasonably careful about what I ate, and cleaned my hands and practiced other sanitary common sense, I would be safe from the beast of vomitus. My worst inconsolable and illogical nightmare was that someone who was vomiting would chase me. Chase me, vomit at me. It’s the most irrational fear in the world. But by avoiding touching my mouth and my eyes and my nose, and cooking my food well, by cleaning my hands, I could be relatively assured I would avoid vomit bugs.
Until this mother-effin norovirus. Norovirus is my nightmare come alive. Norovirus is the stuff of dread for all emetophobes. It is an unstoppable monster battering down your door with nothing but its slimy tendrils, usurping your supposed safety and destroying your sanity. Meet the virus bastard (courtesy of the electron microscope):
This is my spiritual nemesis, this is the beast that lays waste to my sanity. It is my emetozilla. Run!
Norovirus is not especially lethal. It is not Ebola. You’ll most likely survive a bout with this critter, but for a few days, you will wish it was Ebola. You will be splattering acidic, bile-laced liquified rot out both your oral and anal orifices. Stomach aches, nausea, vomiting, the triad of misery. You will feel like utter shit. I’ve been ill at times during my life in which I suspect I might have had norovirus, but I do not know for sure.
What sucks is that the norovirus is a hardy, persistent, relentless bastard of a virus. It’s level of contagiousness is renowned among pathologists.
I shakily read a couple of investigative reports about norovirus. It is a monster. It is relentless and nearly impossible to foresee and just as difficult to ward off. You’d have to live in a bubble to escape all risk. Its infectiousness is amazing.
I will summarize some of the horrible things I learned in these articles:
-Rotavirus was once the most common cause of gastroenteritis but norovirus has begun to “rise in the ranks” and now causes 20% of all puke disorders.
-Unlike rotavirus, norovirus can be spread by air. Most viral infections require thousands of viruses to “get things going.” Norovirus only requires 10 to 100 viral particles, which is truly phenomenal when accounting for the microscopic size of the pathogens.
-Someone, somewhere, puked on the floor in a concert hall lobby. This already raises my hackles. The thought of someone puking on the plush carpet of a luxurious theater just makes me break into a cold sweat. However, to make matters worse, it was determined that 300 people who walked through the same lobby afterward became ill with norovirus in the following days. They didn’t even have to kiss the vomiter.
-A CDC viral expert cited an incident in which a restaurant worker with norovirus vomited in a sink. He later cleaned the mess up but the sink was still used for food preparation, and as a result, thousands of people were sickened. (Why in the world did this happen to begin with??? UGH)
-Another CDC disease dweeb calls norovirus the “perfect pathogen.”
-Norovirus is “sticky.” It can remain on surfaces that have been cleaned, such as spoons, fresh laundry, or dishes that have been through a dishwasher.
-Infected members of a tour group threw up on a plane flight. In the ensuing six days, many passengers and flight crew became ill with that evil virus.
-Public vomiting (the one I flee) has been linked to many outbreaks since the viral, contagious droplets are “spewed” into the air.
-Health investigators studied a hotel after an outbreak of norovirus and found that the virus still lived on light fixtures (sometimes six feet off the ground) and fireplace mantles.
My little nightmare about vomit following me, chasing me, and infecting me with vomit-making seeds doesn’t seem so farfetched anymore.
The beast is here.