My counsellor asked me a few weeks back to state the outcome I was looking for regarding my toilet phobia. I told him that I wanted to be able to urinate freely in any and every situation.
Then he asked me if I would be prepared to settle for anything less; for example, would being able to urinate in a cubicle in any situation improve the quality of my life to a large extent? And of course, it would. My ultimate outcome is still to find that cure, but in the interim period I feel content to focus on taking any action that will improve my quality of life.
Until August of last year I had never admitted to myself how much this condition has blighted my adult life. But a particularly nightmarish coach journey around that time kicked me into touch about it. I had mentioned to various people (brother, father, friends) that I had difficulty urinating when others were nearby but they weren't much help (in fact one friend was particularly dismissive). Looking back I realise now that since I didn't take the problem seriously, neither did they.
However when I finally admitted to myself how much it was limiting my life, I realised that the first thing I needed to do was to tell other people, starting with my family. I came back from working abroad and visited my folks. That very first night I told them that I needed to talk to them about something serious. I sat them down and began to relate my situation. I'd gone over in my mind what I might tell them including a description of the coach journey.
As I began talking, all the pain and grief that I'd carried around for twelve long years came pouring out. I had to stop a whole lot of times just to weep. My body began to shiver involuntarily, perhaps from relief. They saw this pain streaming down my face and they understood it, even though they might not have fully grasped the diabolical nature of the phobia itself.
Since then it has become clear to me that at least half of my pain had been the invisibility of my condition. I felt like I'd been dragging this great burden around for all those years and no one else could even see it: this invisible affliction that had ground me down in so many different ways.
After I'd told my folks, I told the rest of my family, and then friends. With each person I told, it became easier to talk about it. Some were more sympathetic than others. But all took it seriously once they realised that I myself was taking it seriously. Since then I've talked to anybody and everybody about it: in casual conversations with virtual strangers; in job interviews; even when people ask me what I do, it sometimes comes up since dealing with the problem has become my main priority.
So where am I at now? I still have the phobia and there's not been too much improvement with it so far. But my quality of life? It's improved dramatically. People know about my situation and we can work with it. If we're deciding which nightclub to go to, I can voice my needs, and people understand. If I go for another job interview for work abroad I'll be able to bring up my concerns and we can deal with them.
In essence then, silence about this condition brings vast pain and misery. But on the up side, breaking the silence brings with it comparable levels of joy and relief.