Join 3,558 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

Can't poop for the life of me. (Maybe NSFW)
August 6, 2012 7:06 PM   Subscribe

Can't bring myself to poop in public. Absolute brick. Need help on how to break this up (pun intended). May not be work safe, and sorry if it's a bit on the TMI territory.

I've got a, well, shitty problem. Pun intended.

For a long time now, I've had this really bad fear of going poop in public, and even with other people around at home. It's not a fear, per se, or anxiety-related, because my heart isn't beating every time I'm going poop. It's more of a psychological thing, I guess.

Let me backtrack. When I was in middle school, I lived in a dorm with other boys (went to a residential Deaf school). While I was in the bathroom, other residents would kick/pound hard on the door, startling me and even scaring me, causing my heart to beat and feeling in fear (because of the strong pounding sensation). That, combined with the chaotic environment, really influenced my ability to go poop with people around.

As I got older and moved on to high school, I could only go poop in private, secluded places, or late at night when I was sure everyone was asleep. This resulted in me sometimes having to hold in poop for 2 or 3 nights.

This 'fear' also remained with me at home, and even having my own family around did not allow or enable me to go poop when anyone was around, and I also had to wait until late at night.

This has carried on with me throughout college and now, and I'm very tired of it. I've tried therapy, suggestions that I imagine a barrier between me and others and an inability for people to cross that barrier, and breathing. None of those has helped. It's even came to the point that I can't text or email anyone a while before going poop, out of the 'fear' that they will text me back and it'll disrupt my 'quiet time' before going poop... and my iPhone must be in airplane mode when going poop. No expectations. As I can't go poop at home (roommates), I must find hotels or other isolated places where I can go poop... most preferably in a private bathroom, not a shared stall space. This delays my schedule, because after work, I have to find somewhere to go poop, and really interferes with the quality of my life in terms of texting and feeling comfortable. I go almost everyday now, but sometimes after eating, I have cramps and feel a "must" to go poop. In true emergency situations, I will be able to do a few poops in a 'public' space (such as a restaurant bathroom), but it's still uncomfortable.

Help me with ideas and solutions on how to overcome this problem. It's really gotten old and just downright unbearable. Please do not suggest therapy, as I have already tried that route. I hope my ruminating made sense, because in my head it all makes sense, but on 'paper' it probably makes no sense to any of you.

Thanks, hive minds!
posted by dubious_dude to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I used to have a very similar problem. I don't think that I actually did anything to get over it, other than be in the position where I have no option. I won't get into any ridiculous emergency poop related stories, but since it seems like you are in the same boat (emergency poops being ok, sometimes), I don't think you really have a problem.

As for me, since your situation seems to parallel mine, I got older and just naturally became less self conscious. I don't actually think that anyone really enjoys pooping in public, and I would assume that everyone actually finds it kind of uncomfortable, so what you are feeling isn't exactly strange or unnatural. Of course this is just one colon's opinion, and I can't speak for everyone.
posted by Literaryhero at 7:16 PM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had poop fright (what I called it) for years and years.

You'll have to spend some time figuring out what will work for you; there's no magic bullet that someone will suggest that will solve your problem. But I can tell you how I passed that problem, and inform you that I am now capable of pooping wherever, whenever, and with zero compunction. I hope that my suggestions can help you flush your problem.

For me, it was a matter of practicality. I worked loooong 9 hour days in a big mall that only had public bathrooms. Eating several meals while at work, without a sufficient break to get myself home (home was where I pooed, I was lucky not to suffer from poop fright at home) meant that I had to figure something out.

Also, I was well aware that holding your poop for 2 or 3 days (let alone any length of time) is seriously not healthy! Having this knowledge and heeding it helped a lot with generating a non-physiological need to go. It is not ok to hold for 2 or 3 days. Solidify that in your mind (heh) so you can reference it when you feel the need to go poop.

Now, the work situation meant that I had to find something that resembled my preferred pooping place (home). That meant privacy and seclusion, a significantly reduced chance to be interrupted. I found a well-maintained but almost never-used facility in the back of a department store. Choosing this toilet was an important step in my progress. Making it resemble home in other ways was important too. I started keeping a roll of my preferred-brand TP in my backpack/bag, another one in my truck, and usually one stashed in the desk at work.

Also I developed a system that had me confident in the sanitary cleanliness of the commode thanks to the intricate web of toilet paper (not the kind I brought, of course!) I'd lace over the seat. Putting this arrangement in place also had the effect of priming my body for the poop. By the time I'd have all the TP in place the urge would be so strong I'd have no choice but to turn around, drop trou, and sit down. This sort of preparation ritual can be key in getting your body on the same pooping page as your brain.

Another good public restroom feature to keep an eye out for are 'family bathrooms'. They'll be self-contained with their own commode, a sink, and plenty of space so you don't feel cramped and the door isn't right in your face. The little twinge of guilt I felt at temporarily preventing a family from changing a diaper while I used the facilities was greatly outweighed by the relief at being able to get my business done when it needed doing.
posted by carsonb at 7:30 PM on August 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Your post totally makes sense, and I imagine that you are going to have a lot of Mefites responding with similar stories. I used to have this same problem with peeing. I had a similar awful situation (at camp) as a kid and it subsequently became super difficult for me to pee when I felt like anyone could hear me. I finally trained myself out of it with baby steps, like peeing at home by myself with the door open, or when my mom was around.

I definitely think that creating ways to make the bathroom more comfortable for you would be a good first step. If there is not a privacy/vent fan in your bathroom, you could hack it by mounting a wall fan (did that in an apartment). Use the excuse "man it gets so hot in that bathroom after a shower." Maybe put music on your iPod with headphones?

FWIW, your problem is definitely anxiety-related, even if your heart isn't pounding or anything. Your problem has become an anxiety-feedback loop, where you are having anxiety about having anxiety. It totally sucks, but I just wanted to point out in case that data point is at all helpful. I was recently having constipation, and the anxiety of "do I need to go, or am I just going to have trouble going again?" made me more anxious, which plugged me up even more!

Actually I wonder if adding a bulk laxative (like Citrucel) would help. You have probably given yourself constipation from all the holding, and it's probably making your poops not feel, um, satisfying. A little Citrucel could bulk things up and make everything move better.
posted by radioamy at 7:40 PM on August 6, 2012


If you can, bring something to read in the bathroom. When you distract yourself from where you are, you aren't concentrating on what you're supposed to be doing, and you should relax your muscles a bit.

Also, if your feet are slightly higher than the floor when you're sitting on the toilet, that aids with the process. If you have a backpack or something you don't mind being on the floor of a restroom (odd, I know), that will help physically.
posted by xingcat at 7:57 PM on August 6, 2012


Oh yeah definitely have something to read (does anyone not read on the john?), and i agree that having your feet up helps (or rather, it's not fun when the seats are too high for me!).
posted by radioamy at 7:58 PM on August 6, 2012


I don't have suggestions for the anxiety, but there's plenty of healthy stuff you can do to get things done in the minimum amount of time and probably on your preferred schedule. Squatting helps you go faster with less exertion, and you can sort of lean over to approximate the better angle. Remaining well-hydrated and eating more fiber and less fat should make it pass more easily. And you can use caffeine to stimulate the bowel every day at a particular time of day when it's most convenient. The more routine your eating schedule, the better you should be able to plan how this works out.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:15 PM on August 6, 2012


My brother and I are complete opposites when it comes to this issue. I have been with him when he dropped a load at Madison Square Garden in between periods WITH NO DOOR ON THE STALL. Hundreds of drunks screaming heckling Ranger fans. I asked him how he did it. He replied simply, "when I gotta go, I gotta go, so I go." I would probably have gotten a hernia or something from squeezing so tight to hold that in.

I think you should try to develop a routine. To start, get up earlier than the rest of the dorm, and allocate 5 minutes for sitting and shitting. Then, as you get used to that, adjust the start time and the length of stay. If you go every morning (or afternoon or evening) in the same place at the same time, you will start to get comfortable both physically (regular movements) and mentally (know that there are really no major events going to happen to bother you).
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:18 PM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


It seems clear this is psychological, not to do with actual poop difficulties, so I think laxatives and defecatory techniques are unlikely to help. Sorry to hear that therapy didn't work for you but you could try self-help along these lines, suitably adapted. Basically gradually expose yourself more and more to increasingly public poops.

Apologies if you've already tried all that without success.
posted by Segundus at 1:57 AM on August 7, 2012


I would try meditation.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:52 AM on August 7, 2012


This is gonna sound silly, but for actual-factual phobias, a popular treatment is gradual exposure. In other words, if you were afraid of spiders, you'd start out by thinking of them for ten seconds, then thirty seconds, then looking at pictures of them, then looking at actual spiders, etc. Perhaps you could try something similar? Visualize the situation, visualize it for longer periods of time, then spend time sitting in a stall when you DON'T have to go (and therefore there's no pressure - no pun intended), then attempt the actual deed in a bathroom you KNOW is totally private, then keep moving forward until you're at a JohnnyGunn's-brother level of comfort with public poopin'.
posted by julthumbscrew at 6:14 AM on August 7, 2012


Man, the late night in the dorm thing sounds so familiar. Sorry to hear you're dealing with this. I would start by working on going at home - of all the places where you ought to be able to feel comfortable using the bathroom, roommates or not, your home should be it. For the time being, just to start getting used to it, I would do three things:

1. Start running the bathtub tap before you sit down. Yes, if you're not really going in for a shower people will probably know what this means (if they bother to think about you in there at all), but at least it drowns out all but the most trumpeting of noises. I suppose at first you could time your trips to coincide with when you're actually going to take a shower and just start the water early, if you like.

2. In addition to reading material for distraction, bring in a music player with headphones, and put on something loud. The goal here is to convince your brain that you've got the house all to yourself - if you can't hear anyone else, they must not be there, right? Moreover, if a chaotic environment has been a problem in the past, having music on might help drown out this possibility. Oh, and lock the door if you can - not that anybody is really likely to barge in on you, but this would all but guarantee it.

3. Have a book of matches on you, and light one when you're done (or better yet, use incense matches). This way you can eliminate the olfactory evidence without the telltale "PFSHHHH" of a can of room spray.

So that would take care of noises, intrusions, and lingering aromas, and hopefully enable you to get down to business. If this works, consider trying to reduce the number of 'aids' you need as time goes on. Especially if you can go in public in a true emergency, even if it's not comfortable, if you work on getting used to going at home, maybe not wanting to go in public will become less of an problem - this is my approach, at least. Good luck!
posted by DingoMutt at 8:43 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Perhaps you will find some inspiration in the words of the Shameless Shitting Manifesto.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:55 AM on August 7, 2012


I think my brother has reached shameless shitting enlightenment. See number 3, Freedom from Judgement.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:34 PM on August 7, 2012


Cover your ears with your hands. Seriously. Blocking out background noise helps your brain believe you're in a quiet, private place.

If you lose the urge to poop before you make it to the bathroom, perform a Valsalva manuver: take a deep breath, hold it in, squeeze your abdominal muscles, and bear down. Do not strain - just squeeze & bear down as you would during a normal poop. This move exerts pressure on your digestive tract and can help move things along. Try it 2 or 3 times in a row if you need to. Pause for awhile between breaths to avoid becoming lightheaded.
posted by pecanpies at 3:35 PM on August 7, 2012


You might also need to distract your mind. Try counting by doubling. 2. 4. 8. 16... etc.

It starts simple, but gets complicated pretty quick, which is distracting. While you're busy trying to figure out if it should be 5,248, your body will hopefully do the rest.
posted by tacodave at 3:48 PM on August 7, 2012


Can you go before you after turn on the shower but before you get in? That eliminates the noise, the smell, and the long bathroom trip, which are the three main OMG they'll know I'm pooping!! cues.
posted by that's how you get ants at 6:49 AM on August 11, 2012


« Older Keyboard trays for ergonomic j...   |  In the US, can you still forwa... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.