Overcome Anxiety – Part 2: From Emetophobic to Thriving

This is part 2 of my personal tale of how I was able to overcome a phobia – part 2 – and go from emetophobic to thriving – through the Thrive Programme. See Part 1

Unintended Consequences

When I moved to the U.S. in 1995, I did not realize how much of a one-way trip I would be making. I did not go home (on a plane) for anything short of family emergencies for a period of 20 years. Still, I managed to keep my secret. Only those closest to me knew about my phobia. For other people I gave excuses. For some reason, I was more comfortable explaining my lack of travel as a fear of flying than as emetophobia. Even my step-kids did not know about it – how I got through the experimental teenage years I will never be able to explain.

Tipping Point – Making the Change

And then I reached a tipping point. I was managing a team of people located in the U.S. and India. I had a great relationship with the team, and we did some wonderful team-building work. Then the invitation came… “will you come to India and meet the rest of the team?”

India has always fascinated me. My grandfather had served in India and I had always wanted to see the country first hand. I wanted to scream “YES!” but knew I had to say no.

I don’t know why this was the final straw that made me look for something new. There had been many opportunities that I had missed out on, and obligations I had failed to meet because of my phobia. In that moment, I found myself thinking “Enough! This phobia has stolen enough! I have to get control over it now.”

Before I said the inevitable “no”, I emailed my sister. Telling her that I knew it was hopeless, I admitted a secret desire to go, and she said … nothing! I don’t know why I didn’t start concocting my reasons there and then for not going. Instead, I waited. I discussed the impending trip with my husband. He knew my relationship with my team and could see how much I wanted to be able to do this.

Advice from Someone I Trust

Finally, my sister sent me a long email. Contrary to my belief (low self-esteem) that she had just had enough of me and my phobia, she had been searching for and researching options. And then, with a flourish, she presented me with The THRIVE Programme. She sent me links, and testimonials. She told me she had read all about it, and she thought it just might work. I scoffed, it was only six weeks to the trip. What could possibly work in six short weeks? Years of therapy had not made a dent. She encouraged me to try, pointed out that I had very little to lose and I ordered the book.

Just so you know, my sister is a psychologist and I have enormous regard for her work and her opinion. That made me slightly less skeptical than I might otherwise have been. By the time the book came I only had four weeks until the trip. I was already getting vaccinations, visas and panic attacks! I had told my colleagues I would go, but they should know that I am a terrible flyer. Again, I denied the real reason for my anxiety and played down the extent of it. 18 hours of flying to land in a country renowned for water and food related diseases!

A senior manager, on hearing I was making my first trip to India, sought me out to share his story. He told me that on his first (and only) trip he was airlifted out to Germany after he became severely dehydrated following food poisoning. He had never even made it into the office. Other well-meaning colleagues told me to cover the taps in the bathroom to prevent me mindlessly drinking the tap water. Others recommended that I only drink hot water and alcohol (not a solution for an emetophobic!)

I was a wreck. I could not believe I had been so stupid as to say yes! My husband was driven crazy with my obsessing and anxiety. And I started the Thrive Programme. Rob Kelly tells us often how emetophobic don’t stick with the program, how they like to skip to the good bits at the end.  I wasn’t quite that bad, but faced with limited time, I rushed through the book, doing all the exercises at record breaking speed.

The Thrive Programme – the Ticket to India

I was shocked that my Sense of Power and Control over my Experiences (a.k.a. Locus of Control) was so abysmally low! I was surprised to find my self-esteem was not just low – I knew that – but was practically non-existent! I was not so surprised to find that my social anxiety was through the roof.

Even as I rushed through, I knew I was not getting the full benefit, and I promised myself I would have another more thorough go at the program when I returned. I went to the doctor and asked for valium – for my fear of flying. The doctor commiserated and said, “one pill and a glass of wine and you will sleep all the way!”

The day came and my husband drove me to the airport. I popped a pill. Two hours later I was on the plane and…… I enjoyed it! I enjoyed the food, watched movies, read books and relaxed(!). 22 hours later I arrived in India. I certainly suffered culture shock – I had never been anywhere before that at 3 am was so crowded and so hot. I saw stray dogs sleeping in the airport. There wereIMG_1818-300x225 Overcome Anxiety - Part 2: From Emetophobic to Thriving people everywhere. But even so, I laughed with my two male colleagues that I only had a carry-on and they had checked HUGE suitcases. And there I was in India.

The trip was unbelievable in so many ways. The people, the sites, the food, the welcome, the history, the animals, the buildings, the traditions – they all fascinated and entranced me. There I was IN INDIA!

On the way home, I stopped in London and met my sister for lunch. All I could say was “I did it! I went to India!” Based on experience I should have added “and I came back!” I could not thank her enough for finding the Thrive Programme and pushing me to use it. For the first time, I knew things were possible. Certain there was more that I could glean from the program, I took more time and really worked with the material. And I knew that I needed to bring this to others. I signed up right away to train as a Thrive Programme Consultant.

The Secret – From Emetophobic to Thriving

So, you may ask, what changed? What is the secret?

There is no secret, no magic bullet. This is a training program, and we train hard, but it is all very empowering, easy to understand and it is ALL evidence based. That is very important for a skeptic like me – and probably for anyone reading this. Through the program and the help of a consultant learn to understand and manage our thinking, build our self-esteem, and develop the ability to cope.

I stopped:

  • Focusing on controlling the uncontrollable – what happens during the day – and started to focus on coping with whatever happens.
  • Focusing on being perfect and focused on being the best I can be in that moment.
  • Beating myself up.
  • Seeing every small setback as the end of the world.
  • Covering up my emetophobia by saying it was something else. I took ownership of it. Knowing I had created it, now I needed to admit to it.

And then I needed to learn new ways of thinking. I trained!

Just as I woIMG_1818-300x225 Overcome Anxiety - Part 2: From Emetophobic to Thrivinguld train for a triathlon in years gone by, I trained to think helpfully instead of helplessly. The book had it all laid out. And with the help of a Thrive Consultant I could not cheat, or duck out, or give up. As Rob says, no-one trains us in how to manage our emotions, and we usually copy the models in front of us.

But as I discovered for myself, it is never too late. We can re-train at any time.

This year I flew – medication and anxiety free – to the U.K. and joined Rob and some of the other Thrive Consultants at the spring conference. As I stood on the stage speaking about my experience, I looked around the room at people who had experiences like mine or worse than mine, who are now helping others to thrive and flourish. I realized that there could be nothing better than to help others who are where I have been. To use my experiences to guide others out of the hole they are in will make sense of the years that I struggled.

There is so much more to the program than I can describe here, and I would be thrilled to tell anyone more. I would be even more thrilled to see others use the program to take control of their own life – with me or with any of the network of consultants.

I have been down this hole before and I know the way out…

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