A panicked-looking woman on a train frantically searches her mind for where she will find the nearest bathroom in the city.

Knowing Where the Nearest Loo is Has Always Been My Superpower

My IBS superpower has always been knowing where the nearest toilet is at all times. It’s like I can sniff them out. Or I have X-ray vision which allows me to scan shopping centers, train stations and pubs on the high street, knowing which ones would be a safe and comfortable bet if I need to use them urgently. It feels crucial to know this with the incredibly unpredictable nature of IBS-D.

Researching bathrooms to prepare for the worst

By knowing this trivial information it felt like I was preparing myself for the worst, and I was of the belief that this was a good idea. Better to be safe than sorry, right?

What you have to understand here is that if I felt my body give that twinge before an urgent bowel opening, like a two-minute warning, I’d be so consumed by panic that I’d either freeze or wander aimlessly. I thought if I researched toilets beforehand, I’d feel calmer as I’d know my options, should I need to go.

When I used to commute into London daily for work, I knew that there was a station 20 minutes into my journey with toilets. Or that if I could make 50 minutes I could go at the end destination. Both of which I’ve utilized over my eight years of commuting.

A moment of panic when no bathrooms were to be found

Perhaps it all stems back to that moment I had on one commute home where I nearly lost control. Picture the scene, it was post rush hour, so I was able to get a seat. I’d popped my top jean button as I could feel my stomach swelling. Within minutes the cramping pains had started and weren’t showing any signs of easing. I felt the dreaded gurgle warning from deep inside my gut and immediately panic flooded through me. I felt clammy and my heart rate quickened. There were no toilets on the train and I still had a way left on my journey. I called both my husband and mum in a blind panic to see if either of them could pick me up from my final station. I then spent the remainder of the journey in a fit of tears, doubled over in agony, trying to not lose control of my bowels.

I can laugh at that particular tale now because humor is my default setting on dealing with IBS. And I know I made it home to the safety of my own loo before breaking. So there's that.

Breaking my toilet-searching habit

Since having CBT, I've found that I've relaxed when it comes to my IBS. It doesn't control my every waking thought so I no longer think ahead. This means I’m trying to break out of my toilet-searching habit. Because for me, stressing about where the nearest toilet is, does not help my case. In fact, it sometimes makes me think I need it more. I could do without those thoughts.

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