I've always been a nervous person who likes to have everything under control and perfect. When situations begin to slip from my grasp, my brain's response is to send me into a panic with a cold sweat, weak knees, hyperventilation and heart palpitations.
Well many years ago now; I was living in the middle of Ireland with my then boyfriend who worked three to four days in Dublin before returning home to me. I hated being so isolated living at the edge of a very small village.
Anyway, several things happened that I inadvertently made connective associations with that still play a major part in my life. I was still grieving the death of my father, I developed cystitis that led to a rather embarrassing episode of night incontinence while sleeping at my friend's house and there was a crazed murderer running loose in the vicinity killing some and kidnapping others.
Suddenly I couldn't make the same journeys as I had been able to previously. I would begin to panic that I couldn't hold in my need to go to the bathroom so I would stop quite often, and it didn't matter where. This soon developed into a full blown phobia of urinating on myself in public and not being able to control my life. It got to the stage where I couldn't leave the house without thinking that I would die, if I managed to go out, I would panic because there were too many people around and/or because the outdoor space was too big. I couldn't go out for walks with other people, I couldn't take public transport, and I couldn’t get into a car that wasn't driven by my boyfriend. So long as he drove I had control of when and where we could stop.
I became a hermit and I began to think that people were talking about me and staring.
I decided to tackle this because my life spiralled into depression and I knew that the only way out was to try and help myself. I did this by pushing myself to go a little further each day, learning to visualize myself having gotten through an episode, drinking lots of 'Rescue Remedy' and unfortunately, leaving my boyfriend because I realized that I had associated him with my problems.
At present, I lead a life where I know exactly where every available toilet is so that when I begin to feel panicked, I can go there. This for sure is not a great way to live because it prevents my living a full life. I am still not in control and there are days when some little thought from nowhere will bring on anxiety and the need to go to the bathroom.
At work, I can't stay in meetings that go on without structure, I can't sit in the middle of an isle at the theatre, the cinema etc, I can't fly, I can't go for walks, I can't go to concerts because of the number of people there, I can't go to large shopping centres and I still can't let someone who is not family drive me anywhere.
I'm not exactly sure which is the phobia- not being able to control each situation, wetting myself in public and everyone staring and pointing or a large gathering of people.
Wherever I am there are certain things I need to know before I feel relaxed. 1 - where the toilet is, 2 - where the exit/door is, 3- can I leave anytime without permission, because if I feel trapped it brings on panic and 4 - will there be many people there?