IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Haven’t Used a Public Bathroom in 4 Years Due to OCD

With the exception of hand-washing, this aspect of my OCD has led to by far the most painful and uncomfortable situations in my life.
Publish date:
November 24, 2015
mental health, OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder

I've had severe OCD (other things too, although they're largely irrelevant to my four-year abstinence from communal toilets) since I was a child.

I'm not sure that the kind of debilitating OCD I have is hugely relatable to the masses, but I've always found that the more I go on about it, the more people surprise me with their own weird mental stories, and it has strangely evolved into a pretty neat talking point.

In essence, my bladder hasn't found relief outside my house in four years.

For those uninitiated to the whole psychiatric scene, OCD is way, way different from the whole standardized "Ugh I'm So OCD I Just Always Have To Organize My Closet Properly Or Else I Can't Function!" It's far more fucked up than that, and I have the stories to prove it.

I don’t want to waste too much time here explaining what OCD is and isn’t. There’s tons of good information out there on the web that’s both interesting and informative.

Much of what I know about OCD was taken from Google and not my own psychiatrists or therapists. Surprisingly, unless you see a specialist, OCD is often pretty unknown territory even in the professional world. I’ve found myself explaining in detail to more than two psychiatrists that my OCD extends far beyond the stereotypical "neat and clean" routine.

While I’m sure my mother would be delighted if my only problems were being fetishistically cleanly and overly organized, OCD is far more overwhelming and debilitating than the stereotypes suggest.

Picture this: You’re wandering around Target because that’s your favorite hobby (it’s mine, so I’m projecting here), and as you walk through the adult diaper aisle you notice a sobbing, disheveled girl crouching in front of Target’s No. 1 Recommended Brand of Adult Diapers. (Target doesn’t actually have these, but in case you’re in the market, Dry Care ConfiDry 24/7 are pretty top notch at the low, low price of $45 for a pack of 18). That’s me, and I’m currently having a mental breakdown.

While you slowly back away and swear to yourself you’ll never take a trip through the adult absorbency aisle ever again, I’m contemplating my entire existence and recognizing for the first time just how low I’ve sunk.

OK, so a little background: I had a 14-hour drive to a vacation coming up, and in my public bathroom panic, the only thing I could come up with to avoid the inevitable squat on a communal toilet was wearing adult diapers. That’s right: I was ready to piss and possibly shit myself just to avoid using a public bathroom. I was totally and righteously fucked.

In case you’re wondering, I ended up saying No Thanks to urinating and defecating myself on purpose and just fasted for two days, and managed to suck it up for a painful 14 hours straight. I do not recommend.

With the exception of hand-washing, this aspect of my OCD has led to by far the most painful and uncomfortable situations in my life. For a time during my last year of college, I had a job, classes, and an internship all in the same day throughout the week. I often left home by 10 in the morning or earlier, and I usually wouldn’t get back until 8 or 9 at night.

I’m the reckless type of mentally ill and so I often perused the vending machines at break time to try and fill up on some empty calories, and even occasionally just got totally loose with a small chai latte or two. I have OCD and poor impulse control, what can I say?

It took two expired Lil Debbie oatmeal cream pies to ruin my snacking streak. I knew then that all those times playing fast and loose with my sphincter would end up biting me in the ass and, speaking of asses, I couldn’t keep mine clenched for much longer.

I ended up cramping so bad that I seriously considered quitting my job just to go home and take my punishment in my own bathroom. I literally could not force myself, even while doubling over in excruciating gut pain, to place my bare butt on one of the toilets just down the hall. It was inconceivable to me, and even worse was the panic attack about to strike just even thinking about pooping in public.

It was the worst 25 minutes I’ve ever driven, just barely nudging out the aforementioned 14-hour road trip dry spell I placed my bladder under. I made it just in time and still managed to keep my job.

This is obviously all very embarrassing stuff, but one of the things you learn to live with when you have OCD is embarrassment. Whether it’s people shooting me weird looks whenever I perform any of my rituals in public, to exasperating my family with my irrational obsessions and compulsions, to freaking out cashiers with my mangled hands that legitimately look like they were in some Fight Club scenario (washing your hands 200x a day gives them a very fashionable "I just got mauled by a bear look"), I’m used to feeling like an outsider even in my own home.

I am inexplicable, even to my therapists, even to myself. OCD is inexplicable, it’s hard, and it’s exhausting.

Not being able to use public restrooms is actually only about 5% of my OCD. It’s a long road, but I’m getting help and I’m not ashamed to admit that my medication is a godsend.

If you’re anything like me, you’re not alone, and I’d love to hear any OCD anecdotes you’ve got (they don’t have to be bowel-related).

I've always found it oddly therapeutic to read about others freaky cerebral happenings. I dig peeking into other people's fucked-up narratives because, on some level, it'd be nice to have someone look into mine and get a feel for what it's like to be Really, Truly, Totally Mentally Ill. Sometimes it’s hard to live this narrative all alone.