I’m afraid of barfing.

“You asked me once, what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.”
—Nineteen Eighty-Four

Anyone familiar with George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel remembers Room 101 – the torture chamber in which a prisoner’s worst nightmare becomes his or her method of punishment. I’ve given my own Room 101 a lot of thought, and over time it has developed into a perfect vision of Hell:

I’m on an airplane, in a window seat next to a child who’s suffering from acute motion sickness. As I leap onto the lap of the guy in the next row, an unpleasant flight attendant orders me back to my seat. When I refuse, an air marshal tackles me in the aisle and cuffs me as I lie on the soiled floor. (So sue me for having a flair for the dramatic.)

When asked to write a post about fear, I started a list: scorpions, cobras, scorpion/cobra hybrids, accidentally buying a blood diamond, etc., cleverly avoiding the carsick elephant in the room. It speaks to the depth of my fear that I have difficulty even writing it down.

I’m afraid of barf.

I was surprised to learn emetophobia is fairly common. Not many people enjoy throwing up, but imagine spending a good part of your life avoiding it. Adding insult to injury, people think puking is hilarious, and once alerted to my weakness can’t wait to tell me all their barf-tastic stories.
I would rather French kiss a tarantula while wearing a meat suit in a shark tank than throw up or be near someone else who is. To illustrate how this phobia manifests itself in my daily life, here is a sampling of strategies I employ to create a barf-free environment:

Be proactive.
To avoid the unique embarrassment that comes from being tackled by an air marshal, get an aisle seat whenever possible.

Be prepared.
Always travel with anti-nausea wristbands, prescription anti-emetics, Dramamine and Xanax.

Be vigilant.
When eating out, I’ve been known to feel the temperature of the butter or cream on the table, and if they’re not adequately chilled, request fresh replacements.

Avoid drunks.
If you have a problem with the idea of being left in the gutter, don’t count on me to be your designated driver. I will dump your drunk ass on the side of the road, drive home and sleep like a baby. Guilt does not factor into this equation.

Plan well in advance.
If my husband says he’s feeling queasy, I pack a bag and put it by the front door with my keys and a blanket just in case. If he ends up getting sick, I sleep outside in the truck. In retrospect, this might explain why he says I’m not a nurturer.

The first step is admitting you have a problem.
I choose to believe that drinking alcohol protects me from raw egg cooties, so I do tequila shots whenever I bake. I realize this strategy is flawed, but there’s little point in baking if you can’t lick the beaters. Plus, I get a nice little buzz going.

Always get it in writing.
I’ve been known to make overnight guests promise not to throw up in my house. (I don’t actually require a written contract, preferring instead to use the honor system for friends and family.)

An ounce of prevention is worth a gallon of hand sanitizer.
If I had to choose one strategy with the biggest potential payoff it would be this:

Do not have children.

Don’t be stupid.
Avoid roller coasters, raw chicken, small planes, deep sea fishing, unrefrigerated dairy products, spinning in circles, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and children’s birthday parties.

Acknowledging my phobia is strangely liberating. When people discover this part of me, my other quirks seem a little less glaring. Sure, I have hermit-like tendencies and an inability to eat tomato soup without a grilled cheese sandwich, but that’s nothing compared with the decontamination process I undergo after a visit with my nephews.

Unlike Orwell’s fictional version, my Room 101 is all too real. One look at my nauseated husband crawling to the kitchen for a glass of ginger ale while his wife sleeps peacefully in the driveway should be enough to convince you of that. Now, will somebody please get that poor man a cool compress and some saltines? I hear his wife is a real jerk.

“You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.” —Nineteen Eighty-Four

Ilene Haddad (aka: Ileenie Weenie) is a graphic designercartoonist, sometimes-blogger and founder of BlogathonATX. In her spare time she watches NCIS marathons and hosts a coworking group for local entrepreneurs. When not hard at work in her office/laundry room, she can be found cruising Facebook and Twitter or in line at the Starbucks drive-thru.

Krystle: I came really close to drawing you french kissing a tarantula while wearing a meat suit in a shark tank, but I couldn’t figure out the spider-kissing part without (ironically) gagging. Spiders are my weakness. There were multiple things that made me laugh out loud, so thank you for that. I wonder how many people can relate to your fear. Readers, fess up and share your barf-tastic stories!

Fear Confessions is a series of essays by creatives who share personal stories about facing their fears. It’s a celebration of vulnerability.

  1. I too have this fear…maybe not as bad as Ilene, but it’s gotten much worse over the years.

  2. I would pay good money to see that illustration, Krystle. :) Glad you enjoyed the post. It was fun to write.

  3. Oh yes. I fall in line with this. Big time. It was worse when I lived at home and before had a daughter. Baby barf doesn’t bother me. My own kid’s barf doesn’t bother me toooo much (she’s almost 4). I don’t want to see puke. smell puke. hear you puke. or rehash stories of said puke. It gives me full blown panic attacks but I’ve learned that life goes on. Especially after having an allergic reaction to almonds (I had no idea I was allergic!!) and I felt like barf city 24/7 (never actually puking, but felt like if push came to shove it could happen any second.) I lived in that state of barf heaven for FIVE MONTHS before I figured out the hell was going on. I seriously thought I was pregnant month after month…nope..just allergic to almonds and I kept drinking morning shakes with almond milk…DUH!!!

    • Ugh, that sounds awful!! One of my cousins had severe morning sickness (not just in the morning) throughout EVERY day of BOTH pregnancies. I can’t believe she did it twice. I’ve heard of other parents who suffer from the phobia except when it’s their own child doing the barfing. I just played it safe and didn’t have kids. I think you can be arrested for leaving children in the gutter.

  4. Ilene I never knew that about you! My sister threw up on me once in the car when I was little and til this day I still can’t eat what came out of her mouth: orange cheezy puffs. Gaaggggggg!

    • OMG, that sounds HORRIBLE, Andrea! Yeah, I don’t broadcast this little detail about myself as much these days. Unless I have houseguests. :)

  5. This is perhaps the funniest #fearconfession post to date—not the fear itself, but the writing. Hilarious! Though I can’t relate to having this fear, my comment is this: I would rather vomit any day, anywhere, over having dia—-. It is socially acceptable to puke in public. But if you shit your pants? It’s over!

    • Sadly, I’ve given the barfing vs. shitting in public thing a lot of thought. It’s like the Sophie’s Choice of gross bodily functions. Glad you liked the post!