I am currently 53 years old.
I have experienced a condition, I have only recently come to know as “paruresis” for as long as I can recall.
Paruresis is more commonly known as “shy bladder” and it is a condition which I link to my lack of confidence and anxious nature.
It means that if I visit a public convenience to relieve my bladder, I cannot do so if there is another man stood alongside me.
It can be very embarrassing because as I enter a public convenience, be it in the workplace or a pub etc, then I run the risk of having to stand there, looking into space with absolutely no chance that the flow will commence.
I had no choice but to tell my wife, years ago about it because, quite often after coming out of the facilities, unrelieved, I will have to go back in a few moments later and see if the coast is clear – nightmare!
I want to tell you that the origins of this condition are as a result of the school bullies who had a great opportunity to corner less strong boys and hit them in the relatively quiet and private space of the school toilets, but this is not the cause for me.
The truth is, that although I did get an occasional thump in the toilets as a young boy, I believe that my anxiety is innate within my personality and it was this lack of confidence which made it difficult for me to make friends with boys of my own age as a child and drew me to the attention of the bullies.
As I got older, the threats of violence were gone, but the difficulty in passing urine in a public space has never left me.
In recent years, I have noticed improvements, so for example, if the flow has started and a man enters the urinals I can continue, at one time it would have stopped immediately mid-flow.
Also, if I enter a public urinal and a man is stood a few places away and there is a porcelain barrier to each urinal stall then I can get the flow started.
If a man, turns on the tap to wash his hands, then if I concentrate hard on the water splashing into the basin, I can sometimes establish my own flow.
The sound of the noisy hand dryers which continue after the person has stopped using them is also a help for distracting me from my embarrassment and helps me to establish the flow.
The water and hand dryer noise makes me think of my paruresis condition a bit like that of a person who suffers with a speech impediment – a stutter.
In the film “The Kings Speech” the King George VI (may he rest in peace great and noble man) is able to speak fluently when music is played into his ears through headphones – yes indeed, my problems at the urinal are very very similar and have, I believe, the same origins in a nature which lacks confidence or is anxious.
Paruresis is for me a daily problem, but one which on the whole, I can manage – and manage it I do by having a strategy to help me:
Never following another man into a urinal
Going into a cubicle rather than standing at the urinal, if either a man is already stood at the urinal, or if there are only a small number of urinals situated in close proximity.
Never going into the urinal with friends – this can be awkward because quite often at the end of the evening before leaving a party etc, I can find myself having to pretend that I don’t want to urinate when of course I do.
Washing my hands when entering the urinals and coming out without urinating – quite embarrassing.
Seeking out quieter facilities if I know that there is a choice of facilities in the building e.g if I am at work.
These are the methods I engage to manage this emotional difficulty and I wanted to share them with you, because I believe that to accept self, is to love self and it is through my writing about my joys and hopes and successes and difficulties that I am able to feel fulfilled.
My next blog will be: Lacking Precision