A woman with her head resting on her hand looks off wistfully. Functioning plumbing is in the background.

The Perfect Flush

I’m an extremely anxious person. As someone with IBS, that anxiety is aggravated by one of my biggest fears: lack of access to a good bathroom. Not being able to get that perfect flush in a comfortable and private bathroom gives me an even more upset stomach.

Bathroom plumbing at work

My work has multiple bathrooms but only one located in an area primarily closed off to my coworkers and members of the public. I learned of this private little sanctuary a few months into the job. Before that, I was barely eating at work and living in fear of the bathroom in a much more accessible area. Learning how to control my flare-ups while in a public-facing job wasn’t easy. But finally, a private place with a very flushable toilet!

Until the winter, the toilet decided it was time to fight back. Years of people flushing non-flushable items had created a massive clog deep within the pipe. Since I work in a building over 100 years old, with very old plumbing, this wasn’t a quick fix, leaving us with one less bathroom. My eating habits changed and I began trying to find ways to be sure I wouldn’t have any bathroom emergencies on the job.

IBS and bathroom anxiety

One particular afternoon, those familiar IBS cramps started up around 4 pm. I knew I was going to need a bathroom soon. It was our busiest time of day and I felt helpless. The thought of using a less private, less flushable bathroom created more anxiety. I couldn’t just leave – my husband had the car. I sat at my desk, panicked as my stomach got louder and louder, trying to pretend everything was normal and fine.

Eventually, I gave in and asked my boss if I could leave at 5 pm. I just really wasn’t feeling well. Luckily my husband was working from home so he was able to come to get me exactly then. The 5-minute drive home was one of the most stressful of my life, not knowing if I was going to make it from work to the car to my apartment’s parking lot to my apartment’s safe bathroom. I barely made it after a very awkward run.

I was safe at home, with my stomach calming down and as many flushes as I needed.

Limited flushes at home

Currently, my apartment is undergoing some plumbing issues related to our toilet and water flow. Luckily, repairs are on the horizon! In the meantime? Limited flushes. Normally, at home, bathroom anxiety isn’t an issue. I’ve been with my husband for 10 years and he is far too familiar with my IBS flare-ups. He knows the deal. Still, even with his understanding, the last week has been stressful. I’ve found myself trying to limit my diet to the foods I know won’t cause any flare-ups.

I sure can’t wait for many happy flushes in the future.

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