Sh!t or get off the pot - Pooping in the presence of others
December 1, 2013 5:53 PM   Subscribe

I, female age 35, cannot poop when others are in the house or when other people are in a public bathroom. (And I loathe even going in a public bathroom.) This means that when there are houseguests, I end up constipated. I have recently been in travel situations with one other person and I end up spending the whole trip constipated. It is even worse with a newer dating partner. What can I do to relax and poop?

My only idea so far is to tell myself how much harder it is for me to orgasm when I am constipated.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
First, everyone poops, so it isn't like you're doing something awful that no one else, ever, has done. I know, clich├ęd statement.

Second, you could try that (rather silly, is it even a real thing?) product pooporie - and I probably just misspelled that - if the smell issue is what worries you.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 6:10 PM on December 1, 2013

Make a mistake in front of your date - something really embarrassing. If he's still ok with it, maybe it will help you relax.

Also, try chia seeds, soak a tablespoon or two in water over night and add to a blender smoothie drink and you will have no choice but to go.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:14 PM on December 1, 2013

This is just a weird sentence to type, but I think it might help answerers to know whether it's potential sounds or smells or duration or what that you think might bother you most?
posted by lauranesson at 6:16 PM on December 1, 2013

Could it be that you're worried about the possibility of other people hearing you? If so, and you don't already have one, many bathrooms have a really noisy fan in the ceiling that you can turn on when you go in, to provide acoustic camouflage.
posted by XMLicious at 6:17 PM on December 1, 2013

One travel solution: use the bathroom in the lobby of the hotel.
posted by estlin at 6:18 PM on December 1, 2013 [7 favorites]

Toilet deodorizing drops might help you relax since you can cover up odors.
In Japan and Korea, a lot of public restrooms have "privacy bells" that make the sound of flushing water so you can cover up the noises of pooping.
Basically, am nth-ing folks who suggest ways of masking the sounds and smells of number 2.

Also I find that getting up early before my travel partner is awake (or waiting til she is wandering around by herself and thus I can get some alone time in the room) helps me with travel constipation. Chug a big glass of water and enjoy the feeling of privacy when everyone is still asleep...
posted by spamandkimchi at 6:19 PM on December 1, 2013

There's a site called Poop Report ("Your #1 source for #2") and it has an incredible wealth of crapping narratives. You are what the site would call a "shameful shitter." Perhaps reading stories of others' experiences with crapping might help to normalise your own?

The admission that one is capable of making terrible smells and sounds is an intimate act; consider it an overall contribution to a healthy sex life to excuse oneself to take a dump. Freeing oneself from this sort of hang-up is very liberating and that helps with all sorts of personal and relationship what-not.

Fibre is a great stool normaliser, and might step up your crapping game to a point where you'd at least be confident that it wasn't going to be a splattery mess or an agonising rock.
posted by kmennie at 6:20 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

(also, depending on how it's set up, the aforementioned sort of fans can help with untoward odors.)
posted by XMLicious at 6:20 PM on December 1, 2013

I think the easiest way would be just to talk to a good therapist about this. You have a phobia. I just don't know that telling yourself it doesn't make sense or just trying to physically force yourself to do it is going to be effective for you.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:24 PM on December 1, 2013 [10 favorites]

Any way you can learn how to relax when you need to go will solve the problem. There are many ways you can learn to elicit a "relaxation response" from your body. There are many books and cds on Amazon with good ratings, whether on breathwork, guided imagery, meditation, etc. All these things will teach you how to relax deeply precisely when you need to, anywhere (you don't need to sit on the toilet and meditate for 10 minutes before you go, you'll already be more in tune with how to relax immediately). Some of these books/cds are directly for pain management but I assume it's pretty much the same procedure.

Also, you could see a therapist who works with phobias. They can try an get at why it's such an issue for you, and probably also teach you the above mentioned techniques.
posted by Blitz at 6:31 PM on December 1, 2013

For occasional constipation, try a disposable enema. The drugstore ones contain a bit of medication that will give you the urge to "go" and the water helps everything come out all right. Not something you'd want to use on the regular but for occasional use it's fine.

Giving yourself an enema is not hard, and it doesn't hurt. The tip of the enema comes pre-lubed but it helps even more if you put a blob of vaseline on your anus before inserting it. Stay in the bathroom as it should work within a few minutes.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:31 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is definitely a thing. It's called parcopresis. I wonder if reading about it online a bit might help. There's even an online support group!

If you're dealing with this at age 35, I think it's worth considering talking to a therapist. In fact, I wonder if talking to someone who won't judge you in that kind of situation might in and of itself start to help.
posted by bluedaisy at 6:34 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I too dislike moving my bowels in public restrooms or while a guest in someone's house. What helps me past it is thinking about how great I feel after a fantastic BM. Truly. One of the joys of living.

I'm pregnant right now and suffering from constipation as a side effect. I miss pooping well. Enjoy it.
posted by trunk muffins at 6:39 PM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Go and spend some time in a cubicle in a public or well-frequented bathroom. Play some Candy Crush (on silent!) and listen to everyone else do their thing and you'll realise how disgusting everyone is and how normal it is to be that disgusting.
posted by ddd at 6:40 PM on December 1, 2013

There isn't a great way to phrase this, but everybody poops. It can be awkward, but its one of those things that everybody does. It isn't uncommon for people to to feel anxiety even at a very young age about it. Maybe this song from dinosaur train can express a sentiment that you need to hear.

A little bit of a longer clip from the episode... really, its natural.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:41 PM on December 1, 2013

I would try operant conditioning. That is, create triggers for pooping under normal circumstances, and then let them help you under these more difficult circumstances.

It's possible you already have such triggers and just need to be a bit more aware of them. For example, I go like clockwork every day after the second coffee of the morning, around 10am. In your context this would mean that I would at the normal time consciously say to myself, ok, time for coffee number two, and then it's time for number twos!

Otherwise, I'd create a little poop ritual whenever I'm alone -- maybe a cup of tea, maybe thinking of a memorable phrase -- try to associate that ritual with a movement, and then use that ritual when there are people around and let it help you.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:59 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

GF and I bought a white noise machine from amazon to address this situation (compounded by the fact that in our old apartment the bathroom was RIGHT NEXT TO the bedroom).

Just because everybody poops doesn't mean someone is doing anything wrong by wishing a little discretion, or at least the option of discretion.

I would imagine your houseguests would appreciate the machine for their own shame/privacy/whatever as well.
posted by softlord at 7:02 PM on December 1, 2013

So this is a horrible waste of water, but have you tried turning on the facet full blast while you go? It took me years to notice that an ex did this and then later on I realized another guy I was dating did the same thing. I never heard anything other than the water from the facet even in very close quarters.
posted by whoaali at 7:22 PM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes, run the faucet. Also, if it's smell that worries you, carry a book of matches and burn a match afterwards.
posted by Sara C. at 7:31 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

some laxatives can transform an optional pooping moment into a mandatory pooping moment where the embarrassment factor is off the table. the trick is timing, you don't want this happening during your important presentation to the board.
posted by bruce at 7:33 PM on December 1, 2013

What helped me initially was the knowledge that... it gets better. You can make progress, slowly but surely, and nothing about you is intrinsically broken. You can do it. What takes you out of your head? Is it a podcast, pretending you are someone else, fiddling with your phone? All of those helped me at various times.

Also, while I appreciate people who are giving you advice on forcing yourself to go, we both know that this is about making the rest of your life happy and manageable without this "shameful" secret (it's really not shameful or probably a secret, which is totally fine). This is an anxiety problem. You can totally beat it! I could tell you some hilariously embarrassing stories about lengths I used to go to if that'd help!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 7:46 PM on December 1, 2013

So! I have parcopresis, too. And here's the weird thing: my metafilter history (and my husband) will attest to the fact that I have no problem talking about poop or acknowledging the fact that I poop. I've been able to trace the phobia back to a bathroom I had to use on a high school camping trip (which was both very exposed and right next to a social space). Realizing that was enlightening, but didn't really help address it. I've been in therapy for other, anxiety-related things, but never brought up the poop thing. It is an option, though.

Anyway, here are several things that have helped me:
  • Set and setting. This is really more of a band-aid than a cure. In college, I ran the tap while pooping or pooped just before a shower while I waited for the water to warm. This wasn't so much about covering sounds as creating an illusion of privacy. Psychologically, this illusion of privacy is helpful. I can use a public bathroom to poop, for example, if I'm not in a hurry and if I have something to read. The distraction of reading helps me relax enough to be able to get things moving.
  • Talking with my partner about poop and making bodily stuff a normal part of the household. Having no shame helps.
  • Reading about Ina May Gaskin's "sphincter law" in her Guide to Childbirth. I'm currently expecting (birth should be a trip, in light of this phobia) and found this chapter from this hippy-dippy birthing book really helpful. If you're like me, trying various psychological tricks focused around getting yourself to relax won't really help, because once the phobia is triggered, your butt hole closes up like a fist and there's not much you can do to unclench it. Any thought process centered around getting it to open is just paradoxically focusing more on it, and likely to make it worse. You need to create a situation where you're generally calm and comfortable and move on from there. If you're feeling anxious or easily startled, your inability to poop is pretty natural. I've likewise found other tips about relaxing during childbirth to be helpful. For example, clenching your jaw causes other orifices to clench. Shake yourself out first; poop with your mouth open and relaxed. It sounds dopey, but it works.
Hope this helps--if it's any reassurance, I've made some progress myself, though I swear, someday I will own a house with a nice private halfbath tucked off into a basement somewhere and I'll never have to dread strange house guests again.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:49 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here is a commercial for Poopourri (honest, it's a real product). It may help with some of your pooping anxiety. You are certainly not alone.
posted by BoscosMom at 2:54 AM on December 2, 2013

Try reading Mary Roach's Gulp. It'll help bring home the "everyone poops" message, the importance of pooping, and maybe reading about just what's going on will help you figure out how to relax.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:24 AM on December 2, 2013

What you need to find is bathrooms with noisy fans. In your own house, you will install it. The this-is-private-time hum and woosh helps you to retire mentally into that space where nothing matters and you just can go ahead.
The type of fan I mean also masks possible soundtracks from during the act.
In public toilets, wait until you're either alone, or until someone uses the hand drier. Be calm, confident and relaxed about having to wait in between. Take your time. Have a library of fun-reads at hand.
posted by Namlit at 7:47 AM on December 2, 2013

I plug my ears. The silence makes it feel like I'm alone.
posted by agregoli at 7:53 AM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

burning a wooden match afterwards is the best thing to eliminate the smell without having the bathroom smell like shit on Clean Linen. Running the faucet is ok for doing at a guest's house on occasion and in teh hotel, but if you are renting with someone, don't do it. I had to have a come to jesus talk with a former roommate because that habit of hers tripled our utilities. It was not fun saying "hey, the faucet runs for 20 minutes every morning. It's expensive. I know you're pooping Just poop."
posted by WeekendJen at 8:48 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

It will help if you are in the habit of pooping at the same time every day. Drink plenty of water, eat apricots and/or bran (cereal, muffin), have a cup of coffee in the morning and it's unavoidable. Run water, a fan and/or the radio, spray something and light a match. Blow the match out - the smoke does the trick. Operant conditioning is also a good plan. Also, reward yourself for pooping at work, maybe starting by using the loo at the end of the day when no one is around, or before others arrive. Practice using public bathrooms when you're out shopping. My grocery store, McDonalds, and Panera all have reliably clean bathrooms.
posted by theora55 at 10:15 AM on December 2, 2013

So this is a horrible waste of water, but have you tried turning on the facet full blast while you go?

My husband takes this one step further, so when we all run out of water - blame him. He can ONLY poop if the shower is running. He hates all reminders of being a biological creature and he can only void his bowels by creating plausible deniability and the illusion that he would never do such a thing.

It took me months into our relationship to figure this out. "He's never in the bathroom for more than five seconds. When does he poop?! He also really takes long showers..."

Certainly a solution that has allowed him to continue both pooping and cohabitating with another person, albeit one that also means he can only poop first thing in the morning or sometime after dinner.
posted by sonika at 1:09 PM on December 2, 2013

(Also, as another pregnant lady, oh boy do I miss pooping. I'd never been constipated before this pregnancy and boy do I feel for you - it's AWFUL. Only 26 more weeks... )
posted by sonika at 1:10 PM on December 2, 2013

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