A woman who suffered a debilitating fear of vomit for years has finally conquered her phobia so she can have children with her husband.
Chelsie Skroback, 24, suffered from emetophobia – an extreme phobia of sick – since she was four years old.
As a child she would use 12 bottles of hand sanitiser a day to avoid getting ill from germs – and lived in constant anxiety of being sick or being around people who might vomit.
As a result she had no friends at school because she was terrified they might be sick, and she stayed away from parties and alcohol.
She was also terrified of doctors surgeries, theme parks, flying on an aeroplane and travelling in the car.
Chelsie Skroback, 24, has finally conquered her phobia of vomit so she can have children with her husband
Her phobia began when she was four (left), following a botched tonsillectomy operation which left her vomiting blood. As she grew up, she lived in constant anxiety of being sick or being around people who might vomit
She could only eat specific ‘safe’ foods she knew would not cause her to fall ill.
But when she married her long term boyfriend Brian, she decided to conquer her phobia so they could have children together.
Now, after years of therapy, she feels as though she has beaten her anxiety – and wants to try to have a baby with her husband.
Mrs Skroback, from Twin Falls, Idaho, said her phobia was triggered by a botched tonsillectomy, which left her throwing up blood for two months.
She said: ‘I’ve had emetophobia for as long as I remember.
‘For the longest time I thought I was crazy. I would have OCD about washing my hands.
‘My biggest trigger was when people said they didn’t feel well and coughing.
‘My adrenaline would start pumping. I would even panic when we saw people pull up on the side of the road.’
She used to be hyper aware of headaches or stomach aches in case she was falling ill.
She said: ‘The last time I was sick was in high school and weirdly enough I remember thinking after that it really wasn’t that bad.
‘But a few weeks later the anxiety returned.’
Her phobia was so bad she once tried to jump out of a car travelling at 70mph when her sister was feeling unwell.
At 18 years old, she confessed her fears to her mother, who sent her for counselling.
But her family didn’t really understand her fears and thought she was simply overreacting.
Mrs Skroback said: ‘They didn’t see it as an issue.
‘They didn’t understand and thought it was an overreaction, so I tried to hide it.’
At school, Mrs Skroback felt she couldn’t make friends – and certainly never went to parties.
‘I thought it was inevitable they would vomit,’ she said. ‘I had no friends because it was easier to be alone.’
As a teenager, Mrs Skroback says she had no friends as she assumed they might throw up. And she certainly did not attend parties or drink alcohol – as this too was linked with vomiting
But she began dating her now-husband Brian at university, and he was able to handle her anxieties.
However, she realised her fears had taken over her life when she could not care for Brian when he caught norovirus.
‘He was so sick and I was lying in bed thinking I was the worst girlfriend as I didn’t want to be anywhere near him,’ Mrs Skroback said.
‘The whole time he just wanted to know if I was okay even though he was puking his guts out.
‘It really impacted my life as I felt like a failure because I couldn’t take care of my boyfriend.
She decided to beat her phobia after she was unable to take care of her husband Brian when he was ill
‘But it also sparked the fire that meant I needed to take back my life.’
She realised that if the pair wanted to have children, she would need to be able to deal with vomit without becoming panicked.
She said: ‘Having kids was our five year plan and we got married three years ago so I have two years to get my head together.
‘I didn’t want to drop my kid because they were sick.
She had already been undergoing cognitive behavioural therapy for years, which helped reduce her anxiety.
But after the pair got married, she decided to try eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR).
This is a technique which aims to reduce effects of disturbing memories and is used on victims of PTSD as well as emetophobia sufferers.
After a year, she has noticed a dramatic difference.
Last weekend Mrs Skroback offered to babysit her friend’s child – a task that was previously impossible for her.
Hours into the day and her worst fear came true – the little girl started to vomit in the car.
‘When the little girl got sick I couldn’t believe it,’ Mrs Skroback said.
‘We pulled over and realised I wasn’t necessarily anxious.
‘I felt a little uneasy and my adrenaline was pumping from the initial shock of hearing her heave, but I wasn’t freaking out.
‘When I realised I was actually okay and could go about my merry way without anxiety I was over the moon – ready to scream from the rooftops that I had done this.’
Mrs Skroback, pictured on her wedding day, had three years of cognitive behavioural therapy to reduce her anxiety. She has also had a year of eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) – a therapy which aims to reduce effects of disturbing memories
For the rest of the trip she didn’t panic, and was able to continue babysitting.
‘I ate fine afterwards, hugged the little girl goodbye and even held her hand,’ Mrs Skroback said.
‘In that moment, I was normal, and that was the first time in a long time I felt like that.
‘I think that was the biggest accomplishment.
‘This moment made me realise that I’m so close to being a mum now.’
She said her husband had tears in her eyes when she told him she had helped care for a little girl who was vomiting.
She said: ‘He was so proud of me and how far I’ve come and it makes me happy to know that I’ve made him so proud.
‘I needed it for me, but most importantly, I needed it for us and our family and the future we have planned for ourselves.’
Recently, Mrs Skroback was able to babysit for her friend Sarah (pictured)’s little girl. The child started vomiting – but she was thrilled to be able to handle it without getting anxious
Ms Skroback documents her battle with emetophobia on her blog: https://youmeandemetophobia.com/