A woman has relived the horror of a rare condition which at its worst left her vomiting more than six times an hour.
Nicola Montague was hospitalised more than 30 times between the ages of five and 18 as a result of Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome.
Her horrific health problems eventually led to her developing agoraphobia, and she lost five years of her life through being housebound.
The 29-year-old, from Fintry Mains, said: “I would feel perfectly well and healthy, then out of the blue I would start vomiting to the point of six times or more an hour.
“I couldn’t keep down even a tiny sip of water and would eventually start bringing up bile, stomach acid and blood.
“This would led to dehydration and I would have to go to hospital for IV fluids and paracetamol through an IV line and a strong anti-emetic to stop the vomiting.”
“I would put on a brave face and joke about how, with the internet, there was no better time to be an agoraphobe, but really I was extremely isolated and lonely.”
She said: “During one attack when I was 10, I had to stop and vomit in public every 10 to 20 steps, all the way home, even being sick on the bus.
“I remember the terror of trying to get home, back to safety.”
It got so intense that Nicola had suicidal thoughts at the age of 18 and was given medication for depression and anxiety, which eased the severity of the attacks.
But the lasting impact was nerve damage in her stomach, gastroparesis, and a fear of leaving her home and being sick outside.
Although she was aware of what she was missing, Nicola says she was absolutely terrified of leaving the house.
Her agoraphobia was triggered by traumatic experiences she endured due to her vomiting condition.
Nicola became heavily dependent on her parents and sister, who she lives with, and online friendships. She spent most of her time alone in her bedroom.
One day she randomly bought an embroidery kit online and became hooked on having a task and “creating something beautiful”, improving her feeling of self-worth in the process.
Inspired, she was suddenly eager to take part in crafting sessions to learn more but could only manage a few steps outside the door.
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Nicola said: “Everyone was out living their lives and to me an achievement would be only napping once a day, instead of three times.
“When I first started going out again it was terrifying. I felt so shaky and unsure of everything.
“I’d been in the house so long that one of our downstairs neighbours who moved in four years earlier didn’t even know I lived there.
“I knew from research it was important not to push myself into things too fast, so I stopped at the end of the path.
“Turning around to go back inside was a huge relief and getting back into our flat was like being wrapped in a big safety blanket but I soon became aware of how confined I was inside.”
Nicola slowly began to attend crafting workshops with her parents also in attendance, the first of which was a puppet making class ran by How It Felt.
The social enterprise uses puppet-making and drama sessions to encourage people to talk about mental health issues, which Nicola says played a huge part in her recovery journey.
From there she got the confidence to join other crafting groups and started an online distance learning course with the Embroiderer’s Guild to ease back into studying.
Nicola says she still often feels unwell but the intensity has reduced to such an extent that she hopes to one day study at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.