Best of Board
These two messages were posted by "math-man" on 26th May 2006.
I must admit I am amazed at how much paruresis and parcopresis are alike. The particulars of the bodily function are different, but so much is the same. We both used to think we were "freaks" because of this disorder, we both know what it's like to be always looking for a "safe" bathroom so we'll be able to go, we both feel embarassed/ashamed by it, we both worry about what other people will think, we are both too self-conscious, we both tend to be concerned about inconveniencing other people and put their convenience above even our most basic bodily needs. Because of this I think we may have a lot to gain by supporting and talking to one another. Let's face it, the subject of bodily functions is still taboo and the more people like ourselves we can get in touch with and get help and support from, the better. I don't mean to step on anyone's toes by posting on this forum and I totally understand if anyone doesn't want me posting on it. If requested to leave I will respect that request. I don't want to hurt anyone else's feelings or be inconsiderate. I just think that in some ways I can relate to parcopresis, even though my disorder (paruresis) isn't quite exactly the same.
That being said, I feel I have learned SO MUCH about the psychology of social phobias and how to work towards recovery from them by attending an IPA workshop, and especially listening to what Carl Robbins had to say. The particularly annoying thing about voiding disfunctions is that it is both a social phobia coupled with a physical symptom (we can't go). I think the most important thing to realise is that this is NOT a reflection on yourself. You wouldn't blame yourself for having a physical illness, so why do we blame ourselves for having a mental one? It is not your fault! IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT! IT ... IS ... NOT ... YOUR ... FAULT!!! I cannot say this enough times! It's OK to feel embarassed about this. Embarassment is an emotion like any other, and all human beings have emotions. But DO NOT be ashamed of it. Shame is not an emotion, but a choice. Shame is telling myself "I did something wrong." Don't believe the lie. This for me was step #1 in recovery. You really have to work on this in order to change it. Your mind comes up with all sorts of reasons why it's your fault and you have to confront them and ask "Why do I feel that way?". Don't be satisfied until you figure out what irrational belief is at the root of your feelings and confronting it. If a person doesn't learn to STOP BEING ASHAMED of something like this, I really don't think they're going to have much success at recovery.
The second thing I had to realise was I CAN'T OVERCOME THIS ON MY OWN. The harder I try to overcome it, the worse it gets. It's like one of those Chinese finger traps. The harder you try to pull your fingers out of them, the tighter they pull back. It was the hardest thing in the world for me to start telling people, but I had to ask myself: Which is better, to suffer a lot of embarassment right now (which is temporary and will eventually pass), or continue to suffer with this disorder and let it keep getting worse and worse for the entire rest of my life? Life is short. Suffering in silence just isn't worth it. By telling my friends I took a big risk. What will they think of me? What if they try to use this information against me? (I still have hangups about that from Junior High School). I had to be willing to let myself be vulnerable. I believe that mankind is essentially good, and we can't let the fact that we've been hurt in the past keep us from getting help from other people, most of whom DO CARE and DO want to help. If you construct a shell around yourself because you've been hurt by other people in the past then THEY HAVE WON. Don't let them win, they don't deserve to! Although getting help from people online is good, those of you who've kept it a secret simply cannot understand what a difference it makes to have someone help you __IN PERSON__. I really don't think it's possible to make significant recovery from parcopresis/paruresis without getting this kind of support. It will just keep coming back to haunt you.
In the end I had to ask myself "How serious am I about recovering from this disorder? Do I honestly want to recover, or do I like the way that I'm living? If I really do want to recover, then I'll prove it by taking the first step and telling someone." Parcopresis/paruresis's #1 weapon is secrecy. Refuse to put up with it! It's the hardest thing in the world to do but believe me you will not regret it.
Hmmm.... I notice this message is getting kind of long. I think I will post a second message about what else I have found helpful in recovery.
So I've told someone. What next? Well, the thing I have found most helpful is what is called graduated exposure. Your body has been trained to react to certain situations with fear, and so you have to re-teach it that it's "safe". It took me a little while to figure out exactly where I was at in terms of my comfort zone, and when I first started working on it the symptoms did initially get worse before they got better, but they DID get better, and are now better than they were before.
The first thing to do is figure out what situation you know you'll always be able to go. That way you'll always have a "safe" place to retreat to if you have only misfires. Maybe that means driving to your home or having a camper to retreat to. Maybe that means taking a laxative. Maybe there are certain rituals you need to do in order to poop (I have all kinds of rituals I do in order to make me be able to pee). From the occasional times I've been nervous and couldn't poop (yes, it happens to almost everyone, including non-parcopretics), I've found a way of "tricking" my body into thinking it has an urge to go. I take some vaseline and put it on my finger (if you're concerned about your hands smelling bad you could always put on a latex glove - keep in mind most people's hands do come in contact with a little poop every single day when they wipe their butt, so it's really no big deal so long as you wash your hands afterwards.) Then I slowly insert one or two fingers into my anus. This will feel a little weird at first. It's actually possible to feel both sphincters with your finger and be able to tell when the internal sphincter is relaxed/contracted. Even if the internal sphincter is too contracted to get any fecal matter through, you can usually manage to get a finger through if you have the patience. With your finger up your anus, your body is "tricked" into thinking there's a turd halfway out, and it wants to try to push it out. I have found that once this happens I can feel the internal sphincter relax with my finger and as I "poop" out my finger, any actual poop that was in there ends up coming out after it. I don't know if I'm just weird or if anyone else's body works that way. (If anyone tries it and it works, I'd love to know! Then I'll know it's not just me.)
OK, so once you have a fail-safe "out" that you can retreat to, the next time you get the urge, use it as an opportunity to practice. I know it's harder to plan exactly when you'll have to go with poop, but I do know that eating more fiber along with drinking more water does make you poop more often. (Of course, don't do this unless you know you'll have your fail-safe "out", since having to go more often but still not being able to would not be much fun.) I've learned that having a moderately full bladder is unpleasent but not physically dangerous, and I'm sure the same is true with the colon. Holding it until the end of the day or till the next day is unpleasant sure, but you can learn to accept the discomfort and not obsess over it. Holding it for a week or two is a different story (hence the importance of the guaranteed "out".
With paruresis we start with a situation where we feel fairly confident we'll be able to go, but don't go all the way (only peeing for 3 seconds). I know there is a point with a turd partway out where it's still possible to let it back in, or only pinch off a small piece of it and let the rest back in. (Yeah, I know, I don't like to have to stop peeing and you probably won't like to have to stop pooping either.) The reason for us doing this is so we can get several practice sessions in at a time. We slowly keep increasing the difficulty level (bringing the other person closer, having them in the room with the TV turned way up, having them in the room with the TV on but not so loud, etc...) until we reach a point where we start having misfires. Since the goal is to have a misfire, don't think of a misfire as a failure. You were deliberately trying to have a misfire! Practice a few more times at the level where you had the misfire, and if you start having "fires" (the opposite of a misfire), the idea is to have two in a row before upping the difficulty some more. At some point I will decide to finish up (either by taking a "fire" and going all the way with it or if that doesn't work stepping down the level of difficulty (but not too much) until a "fire" is acheived.) Of course if you notice you're having nothing but misfires, you probably are practicing at too high a level of difficulty. Remember you always have your "out" as a last resort. Don't be surprised or dissapointed if you have a LOT of misfires in the first practice session(s). It gets worse before it gets better. It is very important that the person you practice with understands that IT DOES NOT MATTER whether you misfire or not, the important thing is that you're practicing. They should refrain from asking you "did you go?", as this is counterproductive.
Eventually this even becomes "fun", if you can believe that. If I need to go to the bathroom and I see someone else go into it, I'll think "Good! Another opportunity to practice." I deliberately seek out challenges when I need to go, rather than running away from them. If I'm at home and I need to go, I deliberately go looking for a public bathroom rather than go at home. If I have a misfire, SO WHAT? It's not the end of the world.
Also, the wonderful thing about having it be no secret is that I can be assertive and ask people if they can accomodate my needs. I tell them exactly why I need them to leave, and if I have a fire, I deliberately stop and bring them back so I can practice some more!
I hope this is helpful. I know personally I thought there was NO HOPE of my paruresis ever improving. Boy was I wrong!