Anxiety and the Need to Pee
I have had a wee problem (wee, get it) for many years, which co-incides with me developing debilitating anxiety and panic attacks. I’m sharing this embarrassing information because my Psychologist told me this is a very common symptom of anxiety. I guess I will find out if she is right.
I have always done a ‘just in case’ wee when leaving the house which I think is pretty normal, rather than need to go five minutes down the road. But this normal behaviour escalated into something else when severe anxiety came to town. I started to stress out in situations where I couldn’t go to the toilet immediately. Car rides were a special kind of hell, especially if they involved motorways and traffic jams. The supermarket checkout (and queues of any description) became a jail for my anxious mind. All I could think about was how I was trapped and could pee myself. I would stand in Coles, with my full trolley, imagining pee running down my leg – all because the old duck in front of me decided to count out coins to pay for her weekly shopping. I would run through how mortified (and wet!?) I would be and think about how I would never, ever be able to leave the house again unless perhaps I was wearing one of those giant, adult nappy things.
I stumbled across avoidance and have since orchestrated my life to be free of any situation where I feel trapped. I won’t travel on public transport and do most of my shopping/banking/everything possible online. I research the toilet situation for any outings like a determined detective. I experience great anxiety until I know the ‘lay of the land’ after arriving somewhere new. My first question is always ‘Where is your toilet, please?’ My use of ‘just in case’ wees has reached the point of ridiculous and I have been known to go every fifteen minutes at my worst. “Where’s Shell?…….In the loo. Again”.
I think back to myself as someone who travelled overseas years ago and feel like these experiences belong to a different person. I guess they do because she didn’t suffer as I do now. Although, the anxiety had escalated somewhat on one trip and I do remember being in New York – horrified at their unhospitable nature when it comes to the loo. Public toilets don’t appear to exist unless you count Starbucks. I would use their loo, buy coffee, walk for a bit….stop to wee again, have to purchase more coffee to use their facilities, and so on. Then I had a massive panic attack at the Statue of Liberty. Unbeknownst to me, the only toilet there is back where you come in on the ferry. Due to the stringent nature of security at landmarks, I couldn’t take my water bottle into the actual Statue and therefore, sculled it. I then went up into the Lady (via the stairs because the lift was broken), thinking there would be a toilet somewhere inside if I needed one. There wasn’t. I was up the top, it was blowing a gale and desperately needed to pee. There is a video out there somewhere of me saying as much.
I went to my Psychologist today to try to work on this issue as, although there are many more, this one is a doozy. My anxiety about the toilet has made the problem worse, as my frequency has effectively taught my bladder that it can’t hold on for any length of time. Read – I feel like I need to pee more. Add to this the physiological effects of anxiety (making me feel like I need to pee more) and I am surprised I can leave the house at all. Actually, I often don’t because it is all too hard.
So my first lesson is underway right now. The Psychologist’s idea is that I will challenge myself to hold on for increasing amounts of time and in a variety of situations. I am starting with at home. As someone who has been known to panic if someone else is using the only toilet available, it is an achievement to hold on at all. The Psychologist said something about considering drinking two litres of water and holding on for five hours. I think I then heard the words ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘won’t wee yourself’ – but I may have been in shock. If I hold on FOR AN HOUR, it is a miracle. She wants me to do what?
Yet, here I am, typing in uncomfortable, chair-dancing awkwardness – challenging myself not to pee. I have been holding on for nearly four hours – the longest time I haven’t gone to the toilet in years. I am very uncomfortable. But I haven’t peed myself and I am starting to realise I (probably) won’t.
Do you have symptoms of anxiety?