I haven’t written about my “puke phobia” in a while*. Late last summer and over the fall it seemed to be under control. Traditional therapy, along with acupuncture, seemed to do the trick.
I thought, “Maybe I am cured.”
But in the darkest, coldest days of January it came back. The fact that the media was hyping a terrible flu season didn’t help…nor did the warnings about the “stomach bug” making the rounds.
My panic peaked in the couple of weeks leading up to February 8, which was the day I was scheduled to fly to Florida so my sister and I could be among and go through our father’s belongings. It’s been over two years since he died, and while my siblings and I spent a couple of days at his house right afterwards, we were in shock and not ready to really deal with it. His wife told us we could come back any time.
I was terrified about that flight (not because I thought the plane would crash, but because I thought someone might throw up). I tried to coach myself. Could it be as easy as just changing my thoughts? I even asked a fellow Life Coach School student to help me. But I wouldn’t let myself go there. I was tenaciously holding on to a belief that keeps this anxiety inside me.
“You don’t experience anxiety unless you’re attached to a thought that isn’t true for you. It’s that simple.” ~ Byron Katie
Jo Pillmore, a life coach I met last year, had posted this quote on her Facebook page. And I knew immediately that I wanted Jo’s help.
Even though the thoughts I have around my anxiety aren’t true, I recognized that I was seriously attached to them. And perhaps this is why nothing has “worked” in the past.
On February 6, I had a two-hour session with Jo in which she lead me through a powerful neurolinguistic programming (NLP) visualization process in which all the pieces and parts of myself, as well as all my former selves, gathered together with me and told me that it was okay to let it go.
I also told her about a dream** I had, about six months after my Dad (who also struggled with anxiety and the same “puke phobia”) died. At the time I thought the dream meant something completely different, but Jo suggested that perhaps, now that he knows better, he was trying to let me know that I didn’t have to stay attached to my untrue thoughts.
She also suggested that perhaps I had created a “contract of love” with him, probably way back before I can remember.
The contract went something like this: “Dear Dad: Because I love you so much, I will continue to feel afraid that people will be ill and throw up when I’m near. Because I love you so much, I will keep feeling this – whatever form ‘this’ may take. I love you. Karen.”
Afterwards, she sent me a summary of our session and said that I could break the contract.
She wrote: “Some time when you are alone and in a place of calm and peace, maybe on a walk or in your favorite room, pick up an object like a pencil, a flower, a leaf, and in that moment, in your own words, say to your Dad something like, ‘You know Dad, I love you. Thank you for giving me life. I want you to know we’re okay now. I know now that I’m fine just the way I am. In fact, it’s a fun wonderful thing to do, living this life on my own terms. I’m happy now. I have a wonderful relationship, beautiful family and home, a great life, and I’ve found my life’s work helping others. We’re okay now Dad. There’s nothing to fear. I’m just fine.’ Then take a slight bow of honor with the head as a sign of respect to the man who gave you life. Going only as low as you feel comfortable doing. Then take a deep breath from all the way in the bottom of your feet up to your heart and hands and as you finish the statement gently drop the object you are holding.”
She told me that I would know when the time was right to do this…that it didn’t have to happen right away.
Now, as it turns out, there was a blizzard also scheduled for February 8 so I didn’t fly to Florida. I postponed the trip to March 8. That said, following my session with Jo I noticed that my anxiety had decreased significantly. NLP is sneaky that way…you reset the issue and it heals on its own.
I was eager to break the contract but didn’t want to rush it. I figured when the time was right, I’d know it.
The right time was yesterday. I woke up, got dressed, and walked to the beach. On the way I saw a pinecone in the road and started kicking it as I walked…something my father and I would do when I was little. I picked it up and put it in my pocket.
When I got to the beach parking lot, I walked along the edge where there are telephone poles lying on their sides. I walked along them as if they were balance beams…something else I would have done with my Dad when I was little.
I walked down to the water.
I said what I needed to say to my Dad, dropped the pinecone into the water, and bowed my head.
I’m not one to look for “signs,” but as I walked away, this is what I saw.
I am hesitant to say “I’m cured!” but the quality of my thoughts around this whole issue have changed quite a bit. I am choosing to detach from thoughts that are not true.
**In the dream, my Dad and I were at a car dealership where all the cars were antiques (he loved old cars) and there was a band playing Dixieland jazz on gigantic slide trombones (he loved Dixieland jazz). My Dad, however, felt sick to his stomach. He kept telling me that it would be okay. He was almost giddy about it. At one point, he said he was going to be sick and he ran around the side of the building and within seconds he was back, saying he hadn’t been sick, that he still felt sick, but that everything was going to be okay. I thought the dream was a warning that I, or someone one close to me, was about to get a stomach bug. And it made me more anxious.
*If want to read more about it: