Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Agorparcopresisaphobia ~ probably

I invented the title of this blog by combining two phobias from which I suffer greatly. They are very closely linked in nature, both dealing with irrational fears of public places.

I'm pretty sure that the symptoms only increase the longer I live in peaceful solitude on my farm. I've gotten used to it here. The quiet. The serenity. The ability to walk outside in whatever attire I may find myself in. The isolation/insulation from the big, mean outside world.

First of all, I'll address the "parcopresis". I know I'm not the only person who suffers from this and I'll try to be discrete in talking about it, but it needs to be talked about. Basically, this means, I can't go potty in public. I've had near death experiences because of this. It's not funny. I can need to go so badly that I think there is no way I'll ever make it home or I'll die, go to the bathroom, pray nobody is in there, sit down, someone walks in and my bowels shut all the way down.

I cry and want to go home.

Combining this fear with the fact that I've suffered somewhat over the past few years with IBS, I have found myself in this situation more than any person should have to endure in a lifetime. My IBS is very much stress-triggered and since I have a small case of agoraphobia as well, public places stress me out which sends my colon into spasm which makes me have to go potty and then this whole scenario plays out. The bigger problem now is that I'm getting older and so are my bowels and they tend to not shut down anymore.

So, yesterday Taylor and I were out shopping ALL DAY. She was driving which, I must say, is so nice not to have to add that stress to the puzzle. I didn't look where we were going, I just kept my head in my phone so I wouldn't be tempted to scream bloody murder or tell her to slow down or side-seat-drive in any fashion...although a few "helpful hints" just flew out of my mouth beyond my control.

I was doing pretty good, bowel-wise, until after we ate lunch and marched around the mall for an hour. Then, it started to hit me. All the noise and pedestrian traffic, the pressure of trying to find cute shoes to fit my hobbit-like feet, decisions about purses, the thought of having to try on clothes...my poor poor intestines were beginning to wince. When we got to Target, I knew there was no way I was leaving without visiting the ladies room. See, my head is messed up. I'm not even going to try and pretend that I'm normal. The ladies room at Target can be sparkling clean and in my head, this is what I see.

Also, I imagine this when I touch anything in a public bathroom...

It's pretty clear that we can add another phobia to my repertoire.

Anyway, I tell Taylor that I've got to go potty and make my way to the bathroom like a dead man walking to the electric chair and this thought occurs to me. Wouldn't it be nice if somebody would invent a sound-proof, smell-proof, germ-free, sparkling clean public bathroom stall for those of us suffering from this issue. It could be a pre-pay kind of thing where only members could go in. You could have a card or code to get into it. Or you could pay at the door. When I'm in that state, I'd be willing to pay a good chunk of change to have some privacy. I've heard Oprah ask this question of guests before when questioning them about overcoming great obstacles; "what space did you have to go to in your head to do that?" I don't think I have a space in my head to allow me to escape the gripping trauma of going to the bathroom in public. I mean, it's just not normal.

The first glimpse into my fear was about 20 years ago. Rodney and I were visiting the farm when an ice-storm hit. There was no running water as a result so, no working potty. I held it for days, praying the electricity would come back on and I could go like a normal person. But, nature overcame my will and I had to find a spot outside to go. It wasn't too bad until I noticed the dogs were watching me and then I panicked. I would gladly revisit this place rather than have to go at Target.

As the day pressed on yesterday, my tummy didn't settle down much. We had to make a trip to Sam's, where they were doing some major remodeling. And, guess what? Bathrooms were closed and a makeshift ladies room was set up outside in a mobile unit. Taylor went and scoped it out for me, came back and the following conversation ensued:

Me: well, how was the bathroom?

Taylor: it wasn't too bad.

Me: was it like a porta-potty?

Taylor: a what?

Me: you know, like those outhouse things that they have at the fair?

Taylor: no, it was more like, um, I'm not sure.

Me: was it clean???

Taylor: yes, it was pretty clean but there were a bunch of ladies in there. One stall wasn't working and one lady came in and started knocking on all the doors.

Me (internally): gasp, horror, heart failure...I want to go HOME!!

I thought maybe I was going to make it out of there without having to go. HECK NO! So, I walk out the big door where a loud generator is running and fans are blowing. I make my way up the wooden stairs to the mobile unit bathroom. There is a sign that says "Kohler Demo Bathroom". I started to feel a little more easy thinking perhaps it's not going to be so bad. The inside was pretty, not what I was expecting. It was kind of like a big mobile home bathroom. I opened the stall door to find one of those plastic toilets like the kind that would be in a camping trailer, you know, the kind with about 2 tablespoons of water in the bottom. I started taking off my overalls (a BIG mistake in wardrobe for this venture) sat down, looked around to find the flushing mechanism, saw a sign that said "flush" with an arrow pointing down. I looked down and the button-type flusher was clearly broken. LORD JESUS SAVE ME. I hadn't "turned loose" of anything yet so I pulled up my overalls and went to the next stall - out of order. Next stall...ok, flush button in tact, toilet paper, fairly clean looking - all systems are go for launch.

I've figured out a system when I have to relieve myself in public. See, it isn't just me that I'm worried about. It is the people that will come in after me, or come in while I'm in there, or see me walking out when I'm done. So, I've figured out that if I flush while I'm going, you know, like 5 or 8 times, it drowns out any deplorable noises plus diminishes the atmosphere of funky odor. Well, these particular toilets don't flush like regular ones. They spray water and, more or less, rinse the toilet. So, while I'm rinsing and rinsing the toilet, there is an abrupt knock at the door and a MALE voice shouts "maintenance, is anybody in here?" I squeak out a discreet "yes" and start to think that God is playing some kind of sick joke on me, or teaching me humility, or making me appreciate home like I've never appreciated home before.

I finally got myself buttoned back up, washed my hands, applied germ-x in excess, and left the facility. And, amazingly enough, I lived through it. There were many other awakening moments for me yesterday, not the least of which was shopping for an outfit to wear to Taylor's graduation. This topic will have to wait for another blog because my heart is racing just reliving the whole bathroom escapade.

Life is full of surprises, bowel-gripping stress, embarrassing moments, and crap (pun intended) that we've just got to get through. Those moments, I'm sure, are there to teach us, grow us, lead us, and help us become more of who we are. And, as for me, I'm comfortable letting you all know that I think it's ok for me to have an earnest desire to be in the privacy of my own home when nature calls. I hope that this helps any of you who suffer from this malady. There is nothing wrong with you. And, you're welcome for the flushing advice.

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