November 08, 2022
On this episode, Lyndsay Soprano speaks with her guest Kelly Clark about her lifelong struggles with a rare phobia called emetophobia–the intense fear of vomiting. In addition, she talks about childhood sexual abuse and an eating disorder that formed because of her emetophobia. And with all of this, the shame, anxiety, and depression that held her hostage.
Lyndsay opens up the episode by talking about her anxiety, as she has mentioned in prior episodes. She’s also talked about how debilitating it is for her, far more than she likes to admit, but she’s starting to feel much more comfortable in her skin in regards to talking to her listeners and guests about her anxiety. Lyndsay talks about getting better at opening up and digging deeper within herself and taking more inventory. And jokes about how large her damn warehouse is!
Lyndsay mentions some of the issues that they’ve discussed thus far, of course, sexual and emotional, and physical traumas and abuse. We’ve talked about abandonment and safety issues to that and then top the cake off for her with chronic pain and CRPS, she tends to not eat very much because she does something called pain puking.
And when her pain is just too high for her little body to handle, even the smell of food will make her vomit or not want to eat whatsoever. She mentioned that she has created this cute little eating disorder over the years without even knowing it because of this. She brings up nutrition and episode 10, with Deborah G from Debra G Wellness, and she talked about her journey to health and nutrition and how she changed her career entirely to help others on their path to nutrition and wellness.
Lyndsay introduces her guest Kelly Clark. She is a mother of twins. One boy, one girl. She’s been married for ten years, and she works in the field of functional medicine in the great state of Texas. She has struggled with massive out-of-control anxiety, sexual traumas. That’s plural, unfortunately, an eating disorder and a weird phobia. Very rare. And that might just make your tummies churn a bit when you’re listening to her.
They begin with her trauma and anxiety that started when she was about eight years old, when anxiety kind of started to grab a hold of her little young heart and life.
Kelly speaks of being sexually molested by a family friend at a place where her family had a condo in Palm Desert. She remembers feeling a lot of shame because she thought that she had done something naughty.
She gets into how as a little kid; she just couldn’t articulate what was going on. She felt very unsafe and very frightened of a lot of different types of situations. A few years later she started experiencing what we call emetophobia, which is the fear of throwing up or fear of vomiting.
Kelly spoke about how a lot of it revolves around control. When you vomit, you have no control. Like it’s happening. There’s no control over it.
As years passed and not until I got older, she realized that it had something to do with her brain processing childhood trauma and with her molestation.
Kelly was then faced with another sexual trauma when she was in 9th grade, that was a date rape type situation.
She was dealing with all these feelings of anxiety at that time and stopped eating because she didn’t like the way that food felt in her stomach because it made her feel unnerved. It made her feel like she didn’t know if that food was going to stay in her body or if it was going to reject. And she was terrified of it. So, she started this eating disorder due to not wanting to throw up. It had nothing to do with her being obsessive with her thoughts at the time, which grew later, but it was more about, her not wanting to throw up, so if she didn’t put food in her stomach, there was nothing that was going to come out. She’d drink her water. Maybe eat a couple of crackers, but she just stopped eating food, basically.
Lyndsay speaks about her own eating disorder that stemmed from chronic pain and her anxiety.
Kelly talks about how her family and friends started to notice her weight loss and that she wasn’t eating as much. Her mom has always been a firm believer in therapy and counseling, and she spoke about being grateful for that. So, she started counseling at 15 and wasn’t getting anywhere because she didn’t want to be honest about anything because she was a 15-year-old kid, and she was not going to tell the truth because she wanted the therapist to like her. But she struggled to articulate what she needed to share.
She started suffering from panic attacks at school and was quickly spiraling into her eating disorder. Her parents took her to a doctor in Newport Beach, CA and they thought she should be hospitalized, She was struggling with depression and anxiety and then panic attacks. She remembers being so terrified of what was going on in her body because she really thought that she would be escaping her situation and by being in a hospital environment, she’d be safe.
She thought she was 1000 times worse than she could even explain. She was in there with kids that tried to kill their parents. And now she is 17 years old, and all these kids were in there for drug use. She was the only one in there that was there for heavy anxiety and anorexia.
At the hospital, they took all this stuff away from her. They would watch her eat. Constantly watching when she would shower. They had to watch you to make sure you didn’t do anything to yourself, like get rid of your food, basically.
Lyndsay asks about whether it was an outpatient program or inpatient.
It was called CPC. It was right out on the border of Santa Ana in Newport Beach, CA. It was inpatient.
Kelly spoke about how the experience felt like more trauma. So that situation caused even more trauma on top of the other layers. And then she became even more of a ball of nerves and would not talk to the therapist. She would go silent. And she is not the silent type!
Kelly literally started to just shut down completely so her parents checked her out. She was supposed to be there for 21 days, and after ten days they pulled her out of there and she got to go to her junior prom, which was a huge deal.
And then they didn’t address anything for a while. Her eating disorder continued. It was more managed, but the stomach pains were just so excruciating because she wasn’t eating, but she liked the way it felt. It was comforting to her. She knew what her body felt like without food, and she could give it just enough to get rid of that intense hunger pain and then be fine and be able to do what she needed to do.
Lyndsay states, “Well, you just nailed it for me. Because we manipulate ourselves, you know? I’ll say, you know, I’m not hungry or whatever. Of course, you’re hungry!”
“You’re starving yourself. But I know exactly what you just said. If I can put just a little bit in to curb that enthusiasm of my stomach, then I’ll be fine and everybody will get off my freaking back about it.”
[00:24:07.160] – Speaker 2
Kelly started having more issues with my bones and started noticing pain in her hip. And started losing a lot of her hair. She was then diagnosed with a hypothyroid issue.
She 24 when she finally had to share and be honest for the first time with an internist in Mission Viejo, CA. The internist claimed she was abusing Adderall which she was not. She was abusing her body by manipulating herself and starving herself to the extreme. She’s five foot eight and should weigh about 165 pounds. She was 114 pounds.
She was emaciated. She then got triggered by getting food poisoning. That was when her emetophobia was diagnosed—there was a word for it!
They spoke about how anxiety plays into her emetophobia.
She has come to a place now where she has good days and bad days. She started seeing a therapist and started doing EMDR
Kelly spoke about how she self-soothes and her grounding techniques. She hugs herself when she feels anxious. She cradle rocks herself, wrapping my arms around my knees. She also has to feel the earth under my feet, if that makes sense. She prefers to have grass or dirt or something under her feet and usually something cold on the back of her neck. If she feels something in her stomach and then anxiety goes crazy. And so, if she gets outside, she has to get away from bathrooms because if she sees a bathroom she thinks “it’s” going to happen.
She states, “I hate my body. I am mad at my body. I’m like, why in the world is this happening to me? Why can’t I just be like the other person that over it? They don’t freaking stew on it. It doesn’t run their life. And I’m so envious of it.”
And the scariest thing, was feeling alone with it. There was no one else but her that had this bizarre feeling.
Let’s get to the heart of how to heal. With you by my side.
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