*Sarah came to see me in the grip of terrible anxiety which she had suffered for as long as she could remember.
In Sarah’s case her anxiety was very specific. She had a debilitating fear of not being able to find a toilet when she was away from home. If she needed to leave the house, even for short trips, she would plan her route around the locations of the nearest public toilets.
Even before she left the house she would start to feel a sense of panic and dread about not being near a toilet. She would go through a routine of making sure she used the bathroom before she left the house even if she didn’t really need to, and having an emergency kit with her at all times, consisting of toilet paper and an empty bottle “just in case”.
While short journeys were somewhat manageable, long journeys in the car or on a plane or having days out with the family were incredibly difficult. Consumed by anxious thoughts of not being able to find a toilet, Sarah could never relax and enjoy herself. Long trips were punctuated by frequent stops at public restrooms. Traffic delays, getting lost or delayed sent Sarah into a panic, so much so that she would sometimes ask whoever was driving to stop suddenly so she could dash out to find a place to go to the toilet wherever she was.
Needless to say anxiety was ruining her life. She couldn’t enjoy days out with her husband and children. She felt limited by her anxiety to the extent that it was controlling her and her entire life. There was also a deep sense of shame about the anxiety and it was not something she felt safe talking about to many people.
The first thing I knew I needed to do was find out how Sarah’s mind was trying to help her by keeping her in a constant state of anxiety about needing to be near a toilet.
It sounds bizarre to suggest that Sarah’s anxiety may have been trying to help her. But one of the absolute rules of the mind is that our minds are always trying to protect us from harm – but sometimes they do this in really odd and unhelpful ways.
I suspected the roots of Sarah’s issue lay in childhood, most likely related to an incident where she was made to feel shame or guilt about natural bodily functions. So Sarah agreed to have a Rapid Transformational Therapy session with me to see if we could help her break free from the toilet anxiety once and for all.
Even though Sarah was keen to have RTT she was also sceptical. The only incident she could remember regarding being anxious about needing to use the toilet was in her late teens in the car with her boyfriend , when she had to ask him to pull over urgently so she could find somewhere to use the toilet. She remembered a feeling of blind panic and dread crashing down on her. But that was her only memory,
During her RTT session, however, she started to remember scenes from her childhood where she had experienced terrible shame about herself associated with needing to go to the toilet.
The most significant of these was as a four-year old girl, waking up in the middle of the night and needing to use the toilet. To get to the bathroom however she had to walk through a dark house, down a series of corridors, through several doors, past the kitchen. The corridors were dark and, to a four-old’s mind, very scary. She was terrified.
So instead, her little four year old mind came up with a solution. She shared a bedroom with her two younger sisters, one of whom had a potty which sat in the corner of the bedroom. She could use that. Problem solved.
The next day when her mum found that she had used her sister’s potty, she was angry. She screamed: “Why did you do this? That’s disgusting. You dirty girl. I’m so disappointed with you”.
It’s worth stating at this point that Sarah never felt loved by her mother. Her mother was often angry and took it out on Sarah. In a situation where Sarah should have been treated with love and compassion, she was made to feel dirty, disgusting and worthless.
From these scenes it was clear that there was already fear and anxiety associated with using the toilet (having to walk through dark and scary corridors to get to the toilet); and then, added to this, the shame at being called dirty and disgusting about not being able to get to a toilet, but using her sister’s potty instead.
In that moment, Sarah’s mind made a decision, to never put herself in a position where she was made to feel those same terrible feelings of shame and self-disgust ever again. Her mind decided in no uncertain terms: “You have to protect yourself, Sarah. So make sure you are near a toilet at all times. Never let yourself get caught out .”
Now that we knew where the root of the issue was, I helped Sarah change her belief about herself and to see that little four-year old girl through adult eyes. Rather than being dirty and disgusting, she was just a scared little girl, but also incredibly smart and resourceful to find a way to protect herself from being scared of going to the toilet.
We talked about how children have toilet accidents all the time – it’s part of growing up. And how if that had happened to one of her own children she would have responded in a completely different way to her own mother – she would have been understanding and loving. I worked with Sarah to help her feel incredible love and compassion for that little four-year old – and to understand that the event was not her fault.
We changed the belief Sarah had about herself. She is not dirty, nor disgusting, No one would ever tell her so, even if she did have a toilet accident. I also encouraged her to see that unless there is a physical condition present, adults are pretty good at being able to control their bladders. I helped her realise that she is in control of her body including her bladder at all times.
Following the session Sarah listened to her transformation recording for 21 days as instructed. During this time I coached her in specific techniquesto develop new ways of coping with anxious thoughts so that they became less and less troubling.
One week later, I checked in with her to see how she was getting on. There were already signs of improvement. When she was out with her children she felt more relaxed and was no longer thinking about where the nearest toilet was.
Then came a long car journey when the family went on holiday, after which I checked in with her again. And this is what she wrote:
“I never ever thought I would get to this stage! You have truly helped give me a new lease of life. I have broken free from those chains. I was so sceptical about RTT, thinking that it’s something that works for other people but not for me. How I smile at this not being the case. I’ve learnt also to trust in the process. I can’t thank you enough for providing such a safe, non judgemental space for me to dig deep and be totally honest and open about some of my darkest experiences and memories. Not worrying every time I walk out of the door is so refreshing and I know things will only get better and improve even more as time goes by.
What a miracle you have worked on me Dawn. This is something I never thought I would be free of. I can’t thank you enough”.