I’ve been away from this blog for a few days because of travel to see friends and family before the fall busy season begins. During my travels, I used airplanes as a means to go from Costa Rica to Panama, and also from Costa Rica to the USA.
This entry is much like my listing of strange, self-competitive habits that produce negative feelings if I don’t feel I achieve the “goal” or aim of the habit I am obsessing over.
When I travel by plane, I have this strange obsession about holding my bladder until it is utterly painful and probably damaging to my organs. For some reason, I feel “trapped” on an airplane: There’s no where to go but to stay in one’s seat, and this makes me feel as if I have no other alternative but to remain absolutely still throughout the entire journey.
Basically, my obsessive need to hold my bladder is due to a feeling that I am somehow less of a man, wimpy, or like a girl for having to get up during a flight to use the restroom. This fear is compounded if I have a window seat, since I will have to disturb others in my row in order for me to get to the restroom. As a result, I choose to simply “hold it” until landing.
The result is a painful abdomen and a really long urinary discharge, but emotionally I feel as if I’ve climbed Mount Everest or completed a marathon. As a result if I DON’T hold my bladder and “give in” during the flight, I feel like a pussy, a wimp, and hopeless that I’ll ever be able to face challenges in the future.
Usually, this feeling gives rise to “catastrophe” thinking, ie. What if I was kidnapped and unable to use a bathroom? Would I simply wet myself? What if I was stuck in a van or bus without a toilet, and I really had to go? Would I stop the whole bus and demand to “use the woods” – how embarassed would I feel?
For some reason, I’ve come to equate holding one’s bladder with social, physical, and emotional confidence or prowess.
Speaking scientifically, this is a horrible habit. I forget that I am diabetic, and that my blood sugar tends to run high when I travel by plane, because one is imobile for hours on end while in the air. As a result, the higher blood sugar and its byproducts spill into my bladder, waiting to be expelled because they are dangerous to my body. Under “normal” circumstances, the body signals the brain to go to the bathroom when one’s renal tolerance is being exceeded. Put another way, the body signals the brain to go number one when the bladder can no longer accept waste from the body without first making more room.
As a diabetic, I should give myself credit for being able to hold my bladder for even the smallest of time periods, because of the stress diabetes places on the kidneys, liver, and bodily waste removal systems. Instead, however, being diabetic feeds my habit of holding my bladder psychologically by making it “more of a challenge”. If I can hold my bladder as a diabetic for 3 hours, when I’m finally in the airport and get to the restroom, I truly feel like a man.
Sometimes during longer flights I’ll count the number of times I see people get up and go to the toilet. Once in a while, I’ll count one or two people going to the bathroom 3 times within a 4 hour flight. Usually these people are older, female, or are children. Most of the time, young men in their 20-30’s (my age) are not the “multiple goers”, but instead line up with me after the flight in the airport restroom, or go just once during a longer flight.
I really don’t understand why I feel the need to hold my bladder excessively. On one hand, it feels like a rewarding challenge, but on the other, it surely must hurt my body.
Moreover, if I can hold my bladder for a long time, I feel like I’m in “bladder holding training”, so that I can teach my body to hold it longer and longer. The result is an image of being able to hold my bladder under the most extreme circumstances, or during social situations where going to the bathroom would be awkward.
Ultimately, I don’t really think the body works this way physiologically. It’s one thing to lift weights and build muscle everyday (because that is how muscle is nourished and increased), but to hold one’s bladder to the point of excrutiating pain on a consistent basis must hurt the body, not “build it up”.
Again, this is just another strange habit I have that feeds my Borderline Personality need to feel whole, to feel worthy, to feel like everyone else. I can’t explain how this developed: perhaps when I was travelling during long car rides as a youngster my parents ignored my requests to use a restroom, or when I was in grammar school I had anxieties about asking a school bus to pull over during class field trips.
Either way, it boils down to a feeling of personal embarassment or social weakness if I have to go to the bathroom “in front of” a plane, bus, train, or car load of people.
I am going to make a promise to myself: the next time I take a trip that involves air or bus travel, I will make it a point to go to the restroom ON THE PLANE OR BUS as soon as I feel the need to go, instead of holding it until I feel like I’m going to burst.
I think this is not only better for the body, but less stress on the mind. It will also stop feeding my Borderline Personality machine that seems to never be satisfied with self critical challenges no matter what I do.