Lisa speaks about her week with Rob where she finally learned what it means to put in persistent and consistent effort. Lisa has done really well overcoming her fear of being sick together with addressing (an unusual) habit for someone with emetophobia – drinking a litre of whisky a day!

 

Below is Lisa’s diary from her experience. If anyone else wants any help in overcoming their phobia, why not give one of the Licensed Thrive Programme Consultants a call?

 

Untitled-3Hi! I’m Lisa, and I have had emetophobia since I was six (until this week of course!). Due to being told as a kid that a shot of strong whiskey kills bacteria in your stomach and stops you getting a stomach bug, I have also been for the last year or two a very heavy drinker, consuming up to a litre of whiskey a day in the hope that it would ‘sterilise’ bacteria in my stomach and stop me from getting ill, which I latched on to to avoid panic attacks.

Brief background – standard emetophobe stuff really! It started when I was young, never really got over it, used to have panic attacks and/or run out of the room crying if people were sick, be careful about germs and food preparation etc. I would try and starve myself for days to prevent sickness or to stop there being anything to throw up, I stopped eating meat in restaurants unless it was either cremated or was dark meat like steak, which you can eat safely even if it’s rare. At one point I could only eat half a bowl of soup a day and even then I would panic, I would drink copious cups of tea and coffee to curb my appetite, and I would get through 4 packs of chewing gum a day because I thought it would speed up my metabolism and if I felt hungry, I felt ‘safe’ from vomiting. Sleeping was a nightmare (until this week I hadn’t had a proper night’s sleep in 4 or 5 years), I used to have panic attacks on planes, I struggled to go on any trains if there wasn’t a stop at least once every 10 minutes because I’d panic between each stop that I couldn’t get off if I felt sick (and I would literally count the seconds between each stop), I had to sit on the ends of rows and by exits in cinemas and theatres so I knew I could leave quickly, etc. etc… I was also very clever at hiding it, so whilst my parents knew something was wrong – guessing at everything from anorexia to manic depression over the years – they never knew until recently what was going on.

So essentially, like every emeto out there, it totally controlled and ruined every aspect of my life and I ended up miserable and reclusive (anyone that knows me knows that I am usually FAR from reclusive, which made this even more of a noticeable change). Coupled with the heavy drinking over the last year or two, which was my biggest and most harmful safety-seeking behaviour, life basically increasingly sucked for me.

I’ve known Rob for a while, and a year ago I bought the Cure Your Emetophobia And Thrive book and had some sessions with him. I had a few weeks where I really nailed it, where I put effort in and the drinking came down and the fear receded, and I had a life again. But a number of factors – collusive/significant others, a very controlling and hurtful relationship that ended badly, and the fact that I still felt a bit reliant on whiskey when panicking etc. – meant that I kept going off track. The longer it took to start to get better again the harder I found it to get motivated to get back on track when I veered off, especially when I saw how quickly other people were completing the book and how long it was taking me in comparison. As we were friends, Rob decided that a more hands-on approach was needed and offered to have me for a week for a ‘Thrive bootcamp’, as a tester week for future bootcamps.

Key facts prior to starting bootcamp;

  • Self-esteem score: 20/20 (0% self-esteem!!)
  • Locus of Control score: 26/30
  • Social Anxiety score: 15/20

Total ‘Thrive Factor’ – 61/70!!

Medical tests also showed I was very dehydrated (I didn’t drink much water) and my kidney function was starting to be affected, I was vitamin deficient and undernourished, and my Gamma GT levels (which show how hard your liver is working) – which should be 38 for a normal person – were extremely high at 150.

So, I decided to go to bootcamp and get my life sorted; here’s my diary for the week!!

 

DAY 0 – SUNDAY (can’t really call it day 1 seeing as I arrived at 7pm!)

Arrived and the first thing Rob did was to pour my newly-bought bottle of whiskey down the drain and to tell me that (under the supervision of a doctor) I was going cold turkey, which scared the hell out of me! So we headed out for a curry where he set out how the week was going to work, and where he gave me 5 ‘key rules’ for the week;

  • It’s not about the past, it’s about the NOW
  • No negatives
  • No mitigation or justification for not doing bits of Thrive
  • This week is about THRIVING, rather than focusing on sickness (because once you do the exercises to Thrive, the emetophobia goes anyway!)
  • Where have you gone wrong in the past? We are going to find out and change it

I still had some whiskey left in my bag though, which I finished throughout the night – not sleeping and panicking constantly – so I started Monday really hungover and felt hideously sick, which only made my emeto worse.

My general mood /10:                      0

% better:                                                    0%

 

DAY 1 – MONDAY

We had a chat about the drinking first thing and he set out that I was now completely banned from drinking for the week. Any drink at all and I was going home, so I made my mind up to stop it and to make this week as productive and successful as possible.

As the hangover got worse, eventually Rob decided on a first ‘challenge’ – which was to induce vomiting to get the alcohol out of me. This is every emetophobe’s nightmare so I spent a long time resisting him – I cried, swore, shouted at him, called him almost every name under the sun (which seemed to entertain him more than anything) was shaking and panicking, but he made me a saline solution to drink and after a lot of stomps and crying (about 40 minutes worth) I finally agreed to drink it. Rob sat with me as I vomited 3 times, talking me through it, and by the third time I had calmed down a lot and realised it just wasn’t that bad! A big achievement.

We then set out a plan for the week – lots of daily chats about Thrive stuff, doing some Thrive tasks for him to solidify my knowledge, getting out of the house, and also being given a new challenge each day. It was truly a week of Thrive immersion!

So after the vomiting stopped, Rob took me for a flight with him in his microlight plane (he was dipping and diving it continuously to try and make me vomit again, thanks Rob!! Although I guess that’s punishment for the hangover…!), which I did and was very proud of. And I didn’t vomit in the plane either 😉 We then came home, talked through some more concepts, and made notes. He gave me 3 videos to watch on key concepts from the book, and we finished by watching a comedy film to chill me out before bed. We had a chat beforehand as I was definitely getting into a negative zone again, but Rob reassured me that today had been a really *positive* day, because I’d been sick and gotten through a horrible, hangover-ridden day without any of my normal safety-seeking behaviours and that was a really hard thing to do. So started to try seeing the positives of my day.

That night was another night of panic and no sleep, pacing the house all night as I didn’t have any whiskey to use to calm my anxiety down and hadn’t yet learned the Thrive skills to control myself.

My general mood /10:                      2

% better:                                                   15% (I felt a bit brighter, but didn’t feel the emeto was much better)

 

DAY 2 – TUESDAY

I was groggy from lack of sleep (and the remainder of my hangover) but we started again early with a cup of tea and a chat through my aims for the day and key areas I needed to improve on. I listened to a couple of relevant recordings, and whilst he had a few Skype sessions with other clients, I worked in another room on some Thrive tasks he had set me.

We then headed out for another plane flight, where my challenge for the day was to take-off, fly, and land the plane – with his help of course! Throughout each day he ensured that I accompanied him everywhere that I could so that we could continuously talk through how I was doing and I was in Thrive mode all day long. By the evening, we had then isolated a few things I had really been struggling with over the year, so I spent another 2 hours in his car accompanying him whilst he ran some errands, all the time talking through my issues and challenging my thoughts on them (which we recorded so I could listen back during the week). Although I awoke in the night for around 3 hours, that night was the first night where I had actually had a few hours of genuine sleep so I felt a bit better.

My general mood /10:                      4

% better:                                                    20%

 

DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY

Same routine – we got up, Rob was doing a few Skype calls but in-between those we talked through my aims and challenges for the day, the key things to work on, and drew up a ‘mantra’ for me to say to myself every 20 minutes every day, to keep me focused and putting effort in. We set an alarm on my phone to make sure that every 20 minutes I sat and went through my mantra and managed my thinking.

He also sat and used a few visual aids to talk me through concepts I was struggling with (we even made our own ‘visual aid’ of the concepts using lego bricks!), and we discussed the importance of putting real, focused, continuous effort into doing all the exercises. I was also processing my positives – especially that I had not drunk anything since that first night, and was gradually wanting it less and less too.

We went into Cambridge as he had some clients to see and I wandered around Cambridge, constantly checking my thoughts and making sure I was keeping on track. Whilst I was in town I suddenly got a runny tummy (I think I must have eaten something funny), and I spent a good 20 minutes on a shopping centre toilet, panicking and worrying that I might be sick. But interestingly, this time, I calmed down a lot faster. Most importantly, I kept telling myself my mantra and reminding myself of all the things Rob and Thrive had taught me, and I therefore also completely resisted the urge to go and buy a bottle of whiskey, which would have been my normal response. Another huge milestone! Rob also reassured me that it’s perfectly normal for someone to feel anxious about having a funny tummy in a shopping centre so I felt less worried about my panic and stopped berating myself.

Untitled-4We then headed to a friend of his for a BBQ dinner – another big test for me as everyone there was drinking and I was only drinking water, but in fact didn’t even want a drink anymore which was huge progress! I was still having issues around food, Rob said we would chat about that tomorrow and try to get me eating a bit more.

At the BBQ he revealed my next challenge – that evening we were going to climb a 300ft tower together, in the dark!! I hate heights and I’m not very strong so the idea of climbing this enormous metal thing was pretty terrifying, but it was my challenge so I decided to embrace it and surprised myself by managing to do it!! Another massive positive which I have been relentlessly processing! Then headed home to bed. I made sure I did the exercises Rob had taught me this week to prepare for bed – visualising a good sleep, telling myself I was going to be relaxed and calm, and if really desperate counting sheep! – and for the first time in 5 years I actually slept the whole night through, for 8 hours!!! Amazing progress!!

How I felt /10:                      6 or 7

% better:                                  30%

 

DAY 4 – THURSDAY

I woke up and just felt so refreshed and proud that finally, after all these years of anxiety, I had had a normal, non-panicky, non-alcoholic sleep! I was literally beaming and Rob said he could already see a huge difference over the last few days in my attitude, positivity, and sleeping patterns. That was a real turning point for me and made me realise that I could do this and I WAS doing it because I was putting so much effort into doing all the exercises in the book. I was writing daily lists, processing my positives, listening again to some of our recordings from the week to keep my mind refreshed, and it was really starting to work. With Rob constantly reminding me of how well I was doing I couldn’t help but feel like I was finally starting to see some milestone results.

As Rob had a fair number of clients in the afternoon, I spent my time listening again to some of our conversations from this week, starting my blog, and processing my positives. I also decided to make a list of things I was good at, and things I liked about myself, and I spent a lot of my afternoon going through these, and also repeating my mantra every 20 minutes! When it came to lunchtime, I nearly panicked again (eating food has previously been a tricky one for me) but as I sat cooking it and eating it I kept reading my mantra, telling myself everything Rob had been telling me about how bodies need food and that food doesn’t make you ill, and by the time I got to eating my food – correcting any anxious or negative thoughts along the way – I felt a lot calmer and didn’t even panic after the meal, for once!

That evening I went to dinner with one of my best friends who lives in Cambridge, and she couldn’t believe the change in me since Sunday – she said I was literally glowing! Brighter, happier, laughing again, and no anxiety about food or anything. In just 4 days!!! I then got home and watched a film eating chocolates without even thinking about it (haven’t done that for YEARS), and went to bed. Had a fairly good sleep again – woke up at around 7am feeling a bit sick and had a sore tummy, but decided rather than brooding that I would go downstairs to distract myself. Went through my positives and my daily mantra, told myself it was probably anxiety but if not I could cope with throwing up, and felt a LOT more relaxed – after 10 minutes I went back to bed and straight back to sleep. A really, really big deal for me!!

How I felt /10:                      8

% better:                                  60%

 

DAY 5 – FRIDAY

Felt even better – really relaxed having slept a fairly good amount, and felt really proud for how I had handled my anxiety this morning when I woke up feeling sick. Really starting to recognise some big progression now!

Read some new parts from the draft of the upcoming new edition of Thrive whilst Rob was with a client, and helped with grammar edits. Also helped to keep my head in the ‘Thrive’ zone by reading it! Then sat and had an interesting chat with Rob about what constitutes ‘success’ and ‘cure’ with Thrive/Cure Your Emetophobia; we worked out that I actually didn’t have much of a clue when I would call myself ‘cured’, so we discussed it and I actually realised that I had already succeeded with Thrive, it was just a case of maintaining it and continuing to get even better and carry on Thriving! Another big development, because then I could finally see that I was cured! My anxiety was almost completely gone, I was happy and positive, and had completely stopped the panic drinking because I had discovered that I actually had the ability within myself to handle any situation – including vomit – and that I didn’t need my safety seeking behaviours anymore. Can’t stop smiling J

Untitled-5In the afternoon, made my video diary for Rob talking about the progress I had made during bootcamp week – normally this would have terrified me as I used to feel really socially anxious making videos of myself for people to watch, but I was so excited for other people to see my progress and feel enthused to put effort into Thrive, that I was really calm and relaxed. We then went for another short flight in his microlight plane before returning to the house to prepare for dinner.

11095388_10155387112320333_4992642909462566564_oNormally I get really anxious and panicky before meals, but I took a lot of time preparing myself and making sure I had visualised it going well, and so when we went out for dinner I was COMPLETELY fine!! For the first time in probably years!! We had two courses – I didn’t finish all of the second (I think it will take some time to regain my stomach capacity seeing as I’ve barely eaten in recent years!!) but I made sure I didn’t feel guilty or socially anxious at all about stopping when I was full. Usually I would feel guilty for leaving food and think it was insulting to the restaurant, but Rob taught me that this was all down to social anxiety and that I shouldn’t care what they think so should just let it go, which I did!
We then sat in a piano bar upstairs just listening to the music and I did my positives and reflected on how far I had come that week. I’m so pleased and relieved that I’ve managed to do so well, and all because I finally put so much hard work into doing the programme thoroughly with Rob’s support. When I got back to the house, I had my third night of full sleep, which felt amazing! Starting to get the hang of this relaxation thing now!

 

DAY 6 – SATURDAY

I left my Thrive ‘bootcamp’ on Saturday morning and can’t emphasise enough how pleased I am at my progress – I truly am Thriving!! Every day my anxiety gets less and less, I feel happier, calmer, more positive, and more self-confident. I know I can (and will!) continue to get better, and my shift in attitude and effort has been a big reason for the reason I got here. You have to believe that you can do it and that the programme will work for you because this is what motivates you to do the exercises and to steadily improve. I know I will have blips but I’m ready to handle them, so bring it on! My shit-tinted spectacles are well and truly off so it’s time to stop existing and start living!

How I felt/10:                       9

% better:                                 80%

 

THANK YOU ROB AND THRIVE!

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