After years and years of torturing myself when it came to my toilet anxiety, I have finally started having more confidence in making myself feel secure when using the toilet facilities when on a plane, train or boat. I am not saying I am cured because that is far from the truth; I just had a routine that I go through in my head to make the situation run more smoothly and to reduce my anxiety.
For those that do not know what toilet anxiety is, it could be one or more of the following:
- Fear of using a public toilet
- Fear of being too far from a toilet
- Fear of having an accident in public
- Fear of being unable to urinate or defecate
- Fear of other people being able to hear you.
- Fear of cleanliness of public toilets
- Fear of being confined in a small toilet
I suffer greatly from 2, 3, 5 and 7 – Quite a combination but it is totally normal to be effected by more than one trigger. I have suffered with anxiety and OCD since I was 13 years old and I developed toilet anxiety when I was about 16 years old. I already suffer with IBS, due to my high anxiety and many times I have had accidents in public, so this has increased my toilet anxiety greatly.
I do not normally share stories so personal but after the day I have had, I felt like this is a topic that I do not find is often spoken about. At least not from some of my favourite bloggers since I started this tiny biz.
Let me knuckle something down – just because I travel a lot, does not mean that I haven’t got the right to suffer from any type of travel anxiety. I have been told many times that I have a cheek to say I suffer with toilet anxiety when I am constantly out and about. Anyone can have mental health and mental health does not define who you are as a person, yes it’s a part of you, but it does not define you. So just because you are comfortable doing one thing, doesn’t mean you cant be uncomfortable doing something else. Everyone is different.
Please read this one more time: I t d o e s n o t d e f i n e y o u .
Right, back to the first paragraph where I stated that I carried out a little routine for before and during travelling. Disclaimer, this routine is what works for me and may or may not be useful for you and your anxiety. I just feel like this is something I really need to talk about and to get off my chest, so what better way to do that then to talk about it on my blog?
If so, awesome. If not, please don’t lose hope.
If every pork chop was perfect, we wouldn’t have hotdogs.
I would always suggest to get professional advice as medical treatment is always developing and there could be new suggestions since the last time I went to the GP about toilet anxiety. I was unable to be prescribed any more anxiety medication due to what I was already on at the time and since my IBS only really flared up in high anxiety-moments like travelling, they suggested to take diarrhoea-relief tablets to bung me up before I start a long-haul travel.
I of course, listened to the GP and took the diarrhoea-relief tablets before travelling but I ended up with severe stomach pain and being severely constipated. Why couldn’t I get a happy medium? Yes, I didn’t have to fear about having a bowel movement but the cramps felt like I was on a heavy period – No win for Lydia that day, I assure you!
This was when I decided that I had enough and I needed to do something to help relax myself before travelling without doing anything unlawful or causing agonising pain to my stomach.
I practised and came up with a routine that has ended up working well for me. Please do not get me wrong, it took me a lot of sweat and tears to get myself to the state where I am able to deal with my toilet anxiety.
I am far from cured.
Unwanted thoughts of negativity
I love to say I am a spontaneous traveller but as you can guess from the title of this blog, I am not. This is not a bad thing, especially for someone with anxiety. This means that I can plan well as I ensure I know every step I am taking in order to avoid any state of panic, including where all toilet facilities are. By me knowing where I am going and what I am meant to be doing, this helps calm me.
As soon as I let my mind take control, I am a scared mess, but I refuse to let my mental health to rule my life, so pushing away unhelpful thoughts help massively. The more I worry about what could go wrong, the more likely I am gonna be to need to go toilet and then I panic that I am going to soil myself in public, even more so if I know that I do not know where the toilet is. I just end up being a horrible clammy mess with the desperate need to go toilet.
Before I go away, like literally the last few hours or while I’m on my way to the airport or train station I listen to soft music; mainly piano or ASMR. This helps to relax my nerves and help with disposing of negative thoughts, I have found the more relaxed I am prior to travelling, the calmer I am when I lead into a situation. I suggest trying to make yourself as calm as possible, I understand that this is hard but all you can do is try your best – That’s what I try to tell myself. Listening to similar music when on the plane or train really helps relax me.
When the urge calls, take a deep breath
Getting up from my designated seat and to the toilet makes me feel like I am going down a catwalk, everyone watching me and giving me direct eye contact – it makes my skin crawl. I honestly feel like all these strangers on the plane are undressing my mind and laughing at me, knowing I need to go poop.
As odd as that sounds, it literally makes me want to claw my throat out. Thus, turning my worsen worries into frantic cramps to my stomach and increase desperation to go toilet. Before I attempt to get up from my seat and walk down the aisle to the super tiny toilet. I analyze the environment.
- Is anyone currently standing up?
- If so, will there be enough room for the both of us to squeeze past each other without me putting my butt near someone’s face?
- Is there a que?
- Will people notice me if i’m at the top of the plan, waiting in line for the toilet?
- Will they know that I am going for a poop?
- Do they think IBS is just rubbish?
- Will they call out on me if I am a while in the toilet?
- What will I do if I get locked or trapped in the toilet?
- Will there be enough toilet roll?
- Will the toilet smell?
- Is there air freshener?
- If I fart, will they hear me?
The list could go on for ever and ever. There are a million different reasons why someone may ask themselves these questions.
While I have all these questions in my mind, I quickly take a sharp breath that allows my mind to pause for a second. I then take a deep breath and force myself up out of that seat. I promise you, I do this every time and it has worked for me so far. Once I stand up, I worry people are looking at me so I have to keep moving and walk. Nine times out of ten I end up holding my breath from my seat to the toilet, this has turned into a bit of bad habit. So while I’m walking I distract myself by trying to breath in and out, making me get to the toilet quickly and smoothly.
As long as no one decides to get up and cut in front of me because then panic breaks loose in my head. When this happens I start to count in the theme tune of Mambo Number 5. I can’t help this, my mind has always done this 😂 Hopefully I haven’t weirded you out from this post…Yet.
I also use an App called Headspace that helps teach me how to manage my anxiety and breathing exercises. I’ve been using this app for over a year now! if I’m travelling and i need to use the toilet, I take five minute sto listen to a headspace tape and to carry out the exercises. I feel so calm and relaxed after, this honestly helps take the edge off! Especially if you’re already in a routine of using the app every day. I also find this app great for helping me get to sleep!
There are loads of similar apps if you feel that Headspace Isn’t for you! Calm is also an popular app for meditation, sleep and relaxation. I also know some of my friends and other bloggers just use meditation music they find on Youtube. You just got to find one that works and suits you. If I am honest, it has took me a while to figure this out but due to my increase of need to travel, I knew that I needed to do something. Anything.
That is all for now. I feel like I have lifted a massive weight off my shoulders, I have spent so long keeping this to myself but it feels right to open up and talk to you guys about it.
If you have made it this far without falling asleep, thank you for taking the time to read this! This is such a personal issue and I do not thnk mental health and travel is incorporated enough.
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