For my first post here and, as I welcome you to this blog, I’d like to try and go back to my childhood to talk about something that plagued me for several years; eating away at my social confidence while possibly giving birth to the anxieties that would later go on to plague my every day life.
This post concerns a form of ‘Toilet Phobia‘.
I’m not really sure how to write this or where to start because, there isn’t one moment in my mind of when the first event of its kind occurred.
I do remember very well, being in a nativity play at the local church, dressed as a shepherd. I must’ve been about five-years-old at the time. It’s certain that I was nervous about being up infront of all those people (including family and friends). There weren’t any spoken lines to my role, or anything like that. For all I can think of now, I basically had to stand to one side while Mary and Joseph and co. took centre stage… Anyway, I wasn’t up in the spotlight for very long before my bladder finally gave way, a warm but wet feeling passed down both of my legs and I was dragged away to reveal a large, dark stain on the holy(?) blue church carpet!
Whoever attended to me was very good though. I can vaguely recall passing through another room of younger kids (one was even a friend); my face flooded with tears, as we hurried to the toilet to change. I was used to wearing underpants from the lost property department at school but, as the church probably didn’t have such an available supply of spare clothes, I had to walk home with nothing to keep my dark, nylon trousers away from my soft skin (not to mention the threat of ‘the zip’ – women may not get this!).
There were many other occasions at school and, even, while spending times at a friend’s house, where I would fight to hold everything in, with a terrifying fear of standing in front of or sitting on the loo. I really don’t remember what I was afraid of and, while I could frequently wet myself in any social situation, it’s fair to say that I had my share of ‘other accidents’ in my early years as well.
Sometimes, I would take a potty in to the front room so that I didn’t have to miss anything on TV. Other times, I would literally go behind a settee and pee on the back of it (like a drunk, trying to write his name on the wall). What was the message that I was trying to write? I even did this once when a friend was with me. He saw me, alerted my parents and I think that was the last such occasion. I can vaguely remember weeing on my train set, possibly inside or over some of the trains and, rather bizarrely, inside (it was blocked) the chimney of my sister’s doll house!
I hated using the toilets at school and, in fact, any in a public place where I could be ‘seen’ and ‘exposed’ (not that there’s ever been anything physically wrong below my waistline). I’m not sure why I couldn’t go at home or, how and why I eventually got past this.
My problems urinating did seem to almost disappear by the time I was halfway through primary school. But, I lived with my other phobia (number twos!) right up until and including the duration of Year 5; between the ages of 9 and 10).
Again, I would regularly mess myself in class and that is how I would come to familiarise myself with the lost property bin and all those pairs of new-old underpants that soon ended up in my bedroom sock drawer! I think there was the odd pair of worn trousers, too.
I’m still not sure how other people reacted. I was bullied and called names for unrelated things (perhaps I’ll explain that in a future post) but no-one ever seemed to pick on me for this. I guess they were as afraid as I was. Thinking back, I would’ve been an easy target to the eyes of some but, the worst I ever received were jokes about my uncontrollable, audible roars of broken wind during school assemblies! Again, due to holding everything in. This all lead to complications and issues of constipation, for which I received medication (which did help, when I wanted to go) but also, I had the fear of explaining to my friends why I was consuming several spoonfuls of Manevac (Ha! I still remember the name!) at frequent times during the day. “Tummy ache medicine“, was the best I could conjure up but still, no-one really commented (was it in my mind? – Anxiety; the Fear!).
There’s one occasion at a friend’s house that I’ve always remembered. I think it was close to the ‘turning point’ where, in my mind, I realised that I needed to force a change of my habits. I’d spent the day quite happy with my friends and my mum was there, ready to take me home. My stomach must’ve been grumbling for some time because I can remember, as she was chatting away when I was ready to leave (shoes on and everything), something ‘gave’ and, well, let’s just say I suddenly felt something poking in to the back of my trousers! Someone else must’ve noticed?! But, I sat on it (literally!) for the short drive home.
I never really suffered from diarrhea (why isn’t this word recognised by Google Chrome’s spellchecker???). It was always ‘solid’, without wishing to go in to detail!!
There’s another story from a few years prior to this, which actually has a little humour to it! I can’t recall the event but, apparently, I was staying with my Grandma down in Weymouth one summer. She noticed I was walking awkwardly; as if I’d injured my hip or something and phoned my mum as she was quite concerned. A few hours later, I was walking and running freely again, as if I had been ‘cured’, miraculously… Then, grandma found my potty outside, with an enormous log sitting up out of it!! Apparently, it was half the length of one of my arms or something. These days, I imagine it’s the sort of thing that some techno-savvy grandparents may wish to share on Facebook! 😛
I feel like I’m finally coming to the end of this post and I’m grateful to anyone who’s stayed with me the whole way. I’m a lot better these days, even though I do have the common fears of using a public loo (can someone hear me? Will they see me? etc.). There’s nothing these days that stops me from going although, I sometimes wish we had more than two cubicles between us at work.
I do wish I could recall how I got through all of this… Maybe the medication and a slight change of diet (switching white bread for brown and eating more fibre) did help with my constipation. Apparently, my fears were quite common at a young age; something to do with a fear of ‘letting go from within‘. My mum used to work in a children’s hospital and she says they had a ward especially for people like this. It’s only since I began counselling though, that I remembered all of this. I think that goes to show that, however much you’re suffering now, you will get through it. 🙂
Counselling sessions have been interested recently… We’ve realised, through looking at childhood photographs, that I was happy, confident and almost fearless at times. What happened to that boy? Maybe I was stronger then than I may now care to realise? Though, I also understand many of the anxieties and fears we face so early on don’t always hit us before we reach adulthood.
Thank you for reading this first post and I hope you’ll stick around for future thoughts and experiences. If you’ve found this interesting then, I’d like to recommend that you take a look at Maxi’s blog, Me and Anxiety, where she blogs about her regular struggles with a similar condition; how it affects her life and the inspirational steps she takes to overcome her worst fears.