a personal style blog by Lauren Pfieffer

Monday, June 19, 2023

Living with Emetophobia

I was 12 when my emetophobia spiraled out of control, but it had existed internally long before that.

If you're not familiar with emetophobia, it's the extreme fear of vomiting. I'll reference it as "getting sick," for the rest of this post because even saying or typing it feels like a bad omen (I'll explain).

The Beginning 

I can remember every instance where I've been sick. My first memory isn't playing with toys or an interaction with my parents. It's when I was sick in the middle of the night around age three.

I've always remembered the instances in vivid detail. Where I was. What I was wearing. The intense fear I felt. Not only have I always remembered every time it happened to me, but any time it happened to others. 

School buses. Playgrounds. Cafeterias. I could recite every kid in my grade, above and below it had happened to. It even happened to me in first grade at lunch. I felt shame for so many years.

But 12 was really when my emetophobia escalated. My sister was two years old and woke up in the middle of the night sick. My mother and myself woke up not too long after -- all of us sick with the stomach flu.

Will I be ok?

Something in me shifted after we were all sick and I started developing strange coping behaviors. I would take the long way in our house to avoid the bathroom I'd been sick in. I felt like if I saw the place again, I might somehow be re-contaminated.

Although not super religious, every night before bedtime I had to say exactly three Hail Mary's to completion, or my brain convinced me I could wake up sick again. If I started to doze off before finishing, I had to start over again. All three had to be fully complete or it wouldn't "count" to mark myself safe. One of the rituals that came out of this period of time is still one I use today. If I am anxious that I'm going to be sick, I ask a love one: "Will I be ok?" They have to tell me, usually promise me, that I'll be ok. Their words are like a manifestation of my fate. Only this affirming phrase quiets my mind.

While all of this was going on, I wasn't eating and was starting to wash my hands obsessively after touching anything. I became afraid to go to school and be exposed to potential sickness again. After months of this, my parents took me to a therapist and she diagnosed me with OCD. It was years later another therapist determined the OCD stemmed from emetophobia.

I started therapy and have continued to seek counseling for my emetophobia and OCD on-and-off for the last 18 years. Although it's a topic I've written about a few times, rarely will I ever discuss it with someone in person.

I usually feel a lot of shame, to be honest.

Day by Day

I cringe thinking of people I know reading about (what feels like) the most vulnerable secret I have about myself. I often feel shame because it feels so silly, of all the things to fear, to be scared of being sick. 

Emetophobia has shaped my life deeply. I didn't drink until I was 21 and even after my first, I was sober for years. I couldn't even swallow a sip of alcohol without panicking over how it was somehow going to make me sick. It took a long time, but I slowly worked my way up to one drink and now I can drink two and relax. I like to have a drink now and then, but sometimes even one drink will cause a panic attack. Sometimes people heckled me about having a drink when I was sober, or even now, push me to drink more. My reasoning feels too intimate to explain, so I prefer to politely shake my head and decline.

For a long time I wouldn't eat out at restaurants because I was scared of getting food poisoning. 

Boats are a big cause of anxiety that someone could be sea sick. Amusement parks are off-limits. 

Flying is what I really struggle with most. I have a very specific flying ritual.

I must hide the paper waste bag in the seat pocket from my sight.

I must take two dramamine for motion sickness. Even thought I don't get motion sick on planes.

I must wear a sea band (a recent pre-caution I've implemented).

I must close my eyes and circle the pressure point on my wrist over and over at take-off and landing.

I must have music playing at full volume during take off and landing in case someone gets sick, I can't hear it.

I used to not eat or even drink water before or during my flight. Thankfully I've been able to overcome that. 

Performing these rituals on a recent flight to San Francisco is what inspired me to write this post. I was reflecting on how often I feel the need to hide these in-flight rituals and the other day-to-day ones I do. 

Healing through sharing

I hide my emetophobia because yes; I feel shame. But if I look deeper beyond the feeling of shame, I can see that the cause of it is that I feel "other." Sometimes I wonder if those with phobias feel shame and otherness because the condition isn't as widely discussed as other mental health conditions -- so it feels like you're in it alone. Earlier this year I read this post from Emily on her emetophobia, and made me feel so seen. It was reassuring to read about someone's similar experience with this awful phobia. It inspired me to be more open about my own. 

I'm coming up on two decades of managing the OCD and anxiety that stem from emetophobia. There have been ebbs and flows in managing it, and I know new challenges are inevitable. I'm hoping that through opening up my struggles, it continues to help me shed some of that shame. 

With much love, Lauren

Sunday, March 26, 2023

New Yorker Recommendations for Things to Do | A Week in NYC with My Sister

Living in NYC the last seven years, it's sometimes easy to forget all of the fun things to do, see and eat that are right here. I definitely have my favorite tried-and-true spots I love going to, but I'm always inspired when someone comes to visit me to try something new.

It's been six years since my sister visited me in New York City, so I was excited for her to finally come again for a week on her spring break. She's a pretty low-key person, so we spent a lot of time at my apartment making food and hanging out, but I wanted to put together a list of other things we did in case it could be helpful for someone else visiting! So, let's get into it: my recommendations for visiting New York City! 


Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Were the 2010s all that or am I just nostalgic?

Hi there,

Long time no chat. Time slipped away again. I remember when I used to come home and write a blog post every evening after high school like clockwork. It became a part of my routine, just like exercising or brushing my teeth.

Creating content for Instagram and TikTok has taken the space that used to be for this blog. It's hard to believe when I started this back in 2009, Instagram didn't even exist yet. Facebook was just gaining traction, Tumblr was taking off after its inception in 2007. TikTok wouldn't be a thing for another seven years. Everyone blogged: it's just what you did.

Tonight I watched this video on 2010s Tumblr aesthetics. It was so fascinating to watch the trends I lived through and embraced now become dissected in Youtube videos. Is this how the older generations have always felt about the younger ones wearing vintage? I get the anguish now.

Watching the video threw me down a rabbit hole of nostalgia. So many internet friends (many I still follow) and internet-famous bloggers I worshiped at the time (still kinda do) popped up as examples for  ten of the definable aesthetics to come out of the Tumblr era. 

If I could go back to any time, it would be then. Not necessarily for where I was in life (college wasn't anything to write home about) but the way we dressed and consumed fashion. Although fast fashion existed and there were trends, there weren't so many moving so fast like now. I also miss the style tribes that helped you feel like you belonged. Trends would exist within so many sub-aesthetics, each being tailored and trimmed to fit the individuals within their own tribe. The items themselves, whether infinity scarves or hi-lo skirts were simply the building blocks in which personal style and expression were launched.

Maybe I'm romanticizing it all too much. That's what our brain does, anyway. It takes all the bad and pushes it to the corners of our mind so it can remember the good. But it all just feels...so far away now.  With how social media has taken off, it feels like the road of no return. How do we ever go back to the way it was? To even before what that was. Millennials are nostalgia gluttons because we had some of the last childhoods before the internet. Even that feels out of touch from this lifetime.

Maybe it's all too personal for me. I peaked in this time period of the internet, I'll be the first to admit that. They were my glory days of Modcloth Style gallery and Chictopia; skater skirts and Peter Pan collars; blunt bangs and MAC's Rebel. A long, but not so long, time ago.

Maybe I'm just burnt out. Longing for a slower pace of...everything. The trends, the social platforms, the fashion, the ins and the outs. I do this to myself, creating little videos for the internet, like it's important and not a made up world on a little screen that doesn't even really exist. If I'm being honest with myself, this burn out goes so much deeper than the clothes, but how I'm existing in this life. That's what bothers me. How I used to be able to sit down and concentrate on one thing at a time with full intention, like a blog post, and now I can hardly stand to not watch YouTube while I'm creating a TikTok video and texting my boyfriend all at once. 

This need for something slower, the reason I came back to the blog last year, still exists. I haven't found my stride in it yet. I'm still in the system, this system of constant input and output. Sometimes, I forget what it's like to just sit in the silence of my thoughts. I feel my hand twitch, yearning to reach for the phone I just put down. Maybe something happened. Maybe something changed. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Maybe I need to learn how to be still again.

With much love,


Blogger Template by pipdig