This is not an easy post to write, because it feels embarrassing and triggering. And we feel isolated around these issues and wonder if other survivors and those with OCD might also share some of these struggles. If not, it was worth a try.
Urinating is highly triggering for us because of sexual trauma. There is more to it than just pee coming out of our body, but the memories are too private and shame-inducing to elaborate. Plus, it might trigger others.
Our specific barriers with peeing are (1) having to pee itself is a major, major trigger. Consequently, we do not like to “hold it.” The sensation of having to pee takes us right back to memories that are very, very painful. Also, (2) the act of peeing is triggering because we are not comfortable with our private parts. So, because we don’t like to delay peeing (1), we wind up peeing sometimes multiple times per hour, which triggers us anyway (2).
And this recurs every day, obviously. We have not slept a night through in our entire sentient life. We get up to pee every single night (between 1-3 times). No exceptions. Ever. Not even once. We have anxiety about it, too, and perfectionism. Last night we tried to hold it, and when we finally got up to pee, we felt defeated.
We have to try to be conscious when we urinate. Otherwise, we will want to rush through the process and we won’t void our bladder enough, which leads to more frequent peeing. Also, we think that sometimes when we pee, only some of our me’s are peeing so that someone else might have to pee right after we get done peeing. Consequently, we have to think about the pee coming out of us, which is a trigger.
This is not fun to think or write about. Does anyone else have this trigger?
Pooping is triggering of trauma to a lesser degree than peeing (though we pee when we poop, so there is that to deal with). It is still a trigger because the idea of being “unclean” after pooping makes us think of being a “dirty little kid”–which is how we think of ourselves because we were sexually abused. Damaged goods. Disgusting. That sort of thing.
On the OCD side, pooping is a major challenge, also with the “unclean” theme. The compulsion to keep wiping in order to get cleaner can take over. Wiping until we bleed has occurred about 50% of the time. We have been working on that so that it is becoming less frequent. Maybe down to 20% of the time in the past month. Yay!
This requires experiencing the anxiety of not being clean enough. In OCD treatment, this is considered exposure therapy or ERP (Exposure/Response Prevention). The problem with that is that it creates a lot of anxiety–intentionally. This feels like violence to some of our me’s. We do not want to commit any violence against our Littles. Bigs find it challenging to help Littles understand that some anxiety intentionally in the present is experienced in order to lessen anxiety in the long term. Children do not always thrive naturally with the idea of delayed gratification (the link is to the famous Marshmallow Study in children).
Showering/bathing is an additional challenge because of discomfort with our body that is a direct result of the childhood sexual abuse. We have shame about our body. We have some mixed/fluid gender identification so that our body can be a source of confusion for some of our me’s.
It helps that we wear glasses because in the shower, without corrective lenses, we cannot see very well. Still, we know what the plumbing is in our body, and so the tendency is to rush through the shower. We are a safe family member to take a shower immediately after because we will not use much hot water: OCD conserves hot water (hoarding, environmental guilt), and we rush through having to touch our body.
In showering, because we do not have full body acceptance, we tend to be rough with our body. We slap soap onto it and try to get done quickly. There is not the nurturing touch. We have tried to be more gently and nurturing. That rarely feels safe, though it does happen on occasion.
We have eczema and so showering less frequently than every other day is quite uncomfortable. We get itchy, rashy forehead and nose, and our scalp itches and flakes. We exfoliate in the shower, and that is apparently more valuable to us in reducing suffering than not showering for longer periods of time.
We have thought about wearing swimwear. That seems like a step away from acceptance. Then again, we are probably doing very little to address this issue, unlike with pooping. We are not taking longer showers very often or touching our body longer for ERP.
Do other survivors struggle with bathing?