Thrive in Scotlands very own Katie Gow, former emetophobia sufferer, decided to really challenge herself and overcome a lifelong fear…

When I was 11 years old, at school camp, we were made to climb a very tall totem pole which had a platform at the top with the intension to leap off with a harness on and hit a ball that was suspended from the air. All I remember from that moment was getting about three steps up and freezing whilst the teacher tried to nudge me up and the whole class laughing at me. I gave up, climbed down feeling humiliated.

I’d always avoided physical challenges like that – not feeling strong enough or capable enough, not wanting to make a mistake and embarrass myself. I had built this picture in my head of myself being the type of person who just couldn’t do these types of challenges. Always worried, I’d freak out, panic, cry and embarrass myself. So, in order to avoid that feeling entirely, I always declined when opportunities arose.

When I developed emetophobia (a fear of being sick) as a teenager I had even more reason to avoid challenging myself. With challenges comes nerves, with nerves comes butterflies and nausea and it wasn’t a risk I was willing to take.
Nearly 20 years on from that school camp experience I find myself strapped into a harness once more, suspended five stories high in an indoor climbing centre ready and willing to do a free decent abseil. I was no longer that scared, helpless person because I had chosen to break down those beliefs about myself and build new ones. I was now tackling challenges head on with excitement, not bothered about the butterflies in my tummy.

Katie Gow

Feeling the exhilaration of quite literally stepping out of my comfort zone. The person I am today is in no way influenced by the experiences I had as a child or the way I used to see myself, because I choose to see things differently now.

Having done The Thrive Programme, the changes have been visible to me and to those around me. When I told people I was doing the abseil they were surprised and most people said “You wouldn’t find me doing that…good luck!” Instead of letting people’s opinions and comments scare me, I saw how impressive this challenge was actually going to be and that I would feel really proud of myself when I did it.

There were some nerves, as expected, but without the nerves really all it would be is lowering yourself on a rope, where’s the fun in that?! The big difference was that the nerves were exciting to me now – I could cope with them, I was no longer emetophobic so feeling a little queasy on my way to the climbing centre wasn’t an issue. I think my husband was feeling more nervous for me, he had done this exact same abseil before when he was a youth group worker and he didn’t like it one bit.

In the car on the way there we spoke about it and that was when I learnt that the abseil would not be walking down a wall like I had imagined, it would be suspended in mid air. This took me by surprise and after the initial “Why didn’t you tell me that!?” rant, I took a deep breath and just decided to go with it.

At the centre I met my instructor Glen Gordon, who was really great – really supportive and patient. Looking up at where I would do the abseil from was pretty scary but we did a practice on a smaller wall to get me used to the ropes and the lowering process. I really enjoyed the wall climbing, which surprised me a lot. It gave me the boost of confidence I needed to tackle the abseil.

I was so much calmer than I expected and actually really excited when I was getting set up. I just got on with it without any fuss. When I started the descent I found it surprisingly calming, it was so relaxing and I felt more in control than I thought I would. I did the abseil twice more, the last from a slightly trickier spot. Even when the rope was spinning round as I was descending it didn’t bother me at all. This experience had been amazing and I was keen to do it again in the future.

So what did The Thrive Programme do that helped turn this once helpless, frightened, shy girl into the woman I was today? First and foremost, it built up my confidence and self esteem. I started to see myself in a totally different way, and because I was feeling better about myself I felt able to take on challenges and break down those unkind beliefs I held about myself and my abilities.

A belief is really just a thought you keep thinking, so once I was able to be kinder to myself and respect myself more I no longer spoke to myself in such a harsh way. I am now able to support myself through life’s ups and downs and be more resilient.


The Thrive Programme and Cure Your Emetophobia & Thrive teaches people to achieve great mental health and overall happiness, leaving limiting beliefs and habits that negatively affect their ability to enjoy life and Thrive. The programme is available as a book or one-to-one via a Thrive Consultant. If Katie’s story sounds familiar, either from your perspective or a friend’s, get in touch today. 

Katie now works as a Thrive Consultant, using her experience and training to help people with mental health challenges, such as emetophobia.