Toileting and hygiene with trauma and OCD

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?

18 thoughts on “Toileting and hygiene with trauma and OCD

  1. I wonder if it might help to reframe the swimsuit while bathing as an in-the-middle option. Full body acceptance is too big a step right now, but the swimsuit might be a workable in-the-middle option between where you are now and full acceptance.

    The toileting issues you described has some parallels to the condition vaginismus, where there’s an involuntary clenching of muscles, but also to urinary retention and frequent urination in the sense of not having good adaptive control over the pelvic floor muscles. So while your situation and specific mental context is unique, I think you’re definitely not alone in terms of what’s going on in the body. ❤️

    Liked by 5 people

    1. “I think you’re definitely not alone in terms of what’s going on in the body.”

      Helpful normalization 💕

      If we lived alone, we might experiment with swimsuit. Thank you for the encouragement. This was difficult to post about

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow, great insight. Unfortunately, as a foster parent I saw many of these issues in kids who had been abused. Very sad and hard to deal with, especially as they get older and are embarrassed more by these problems.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Such a brave, refreshingly candid, informative post. Wow. I don’t know if I would have the courage to write about peeing and pooping. I am truly impressed (and I don’t mean that in a patronizing way at all).

    I do have anxiety around peeing, specifically needing to be “sure” that all the pee came out, and then feeling the phantom need to pee if I think about it too hard.

    But this is not related to the same source you described — I’m not a survivor of sexual or physical childhood trauma.

    So I’m not sure if me sharing is helpful or not, but I wanted to meet you in the space of openness and honesty and conversation you created. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for meeting us. We understand the “convince ourself” phantom aspect for sure. You’re sharing is a gift. We feel loved. And we have compassion for you

      That is the power of the mind. Imagine all the energy we would have for compassion, love, if we didn’t spin our wheels on our pee, what silverware to use, whether or not we deserve to wash our own laundry as an equal to our family members’ laundry, etc.

      To meet here, raw and vulnerable, and connect in safe ways gives us respite. Like we can cry together in the storm

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I don’t have trauma of this form so I have no useful advice. But I remember a long ago thread on Reddit’s r/raisedbynarcissists where a survivor found wearing a swimsuit helpful. I wonder if r/DID would have some advise around this.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This post really hits home. I hate my hygiene issues, it is very embarrassing. Hate having to go to the toilet with an ice pack to stop me freaking out. I often shower/bathe in my underwear too. Thank you for writing this ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We are grateful for the connection with you ❤️. You are not alone in how you feel and neither are we! Thank you!

      People had suggested we bathe with a swimsuit, but we mostly just close our eyes to cope

      We see you and accept you

      Liked by 1 person

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