Friday, November 9, 2012

Safety on the Toilet

When I was a kid, I would wake up in the middle of the night and suddenly be convinced that I was about about to die. The reason for my certain and imminent demise would often change, but I do remember often jolting from sleep and being CONVINCED that a spider had bitten me and the poison was coursing through my veins and all I had to do was go back to sleep and BOOM, I'd be dead.

Obviously, I had it together even as a child.

My method of dealing with my predicament (imminent death) was this: I'd hang out in the bathroom. Namely, the toilet. To you, that probably makes no sense whatsoever. At the time though, I didn't think of "GO TO THE BATHROOM" as anything less than a perfectly sane thought process/safety plan.

Firstly, throughout most of my childhood I shared a room with my little brother. Even in my state of panic and anxiety I didn't want to wake him up with my ridiculous anxieties, so I'd bail from our bedroom. Basically, I was being a good sister by fleeing to the bathroom to make sure I didn't die. Bro, don't ever say I don't do anything for you.

Secondly (and more importantly), I had somehow convinced myself that if I was in the bathroom, I could not die. I'm about 70% sure this is how that particular episode of my life played out:

I vaguely remember being in the bathroom, and for some reason I was freaking about something or other. Who knows what. Something. I was freaking out about something. Next thing I remember is a responsible adult in the vicinity reassuring me that I wasn't about to die and that there was no reason for me to be freaking out so, for "you're not going to die there in the bathroom, kiddo!"

"Have you heard of anyone dying on the toilet, Rebby? You'll be fine. Now, calm down and come on out of there."

That's not the kind of thing you tell a kid with as many weird-ass idiosyncrasies as I. To me, that instantly equated to:


Which of course, is laughable.

But! I was a kid. So whenever I woke up in the middle of the night with the nagging feeling that my short life might be over very soon, I'd grab the book I'd always read to stave off imminent demise (Sense and Sensibility, weirdly enough) and I'd head to the bathroom, because I felt like I'd be safe while leaning against the bathtub, or sitting on the toilet, or lying on the floor. After an hour or so, I'd inevitably stayed alive for long enough to be convinced that I could return to bed, and sleep the rest of the night safe in the knowledge that I'd wake up in the morning.

Look, I never said I was a normal kid.

So anyway, that went on for a while, through a myriad of bathrooms through a number of years, to and fro over the border of Victoria and South Australia. Eventually, I stopped waking up in the middle night, terrified that particular night would be my last. Which was just as well, because I eventually learned how many people have in fact died on the toilet. Do you know who's died on the john? Lenny Bruce! Edmund II of England! And of course, my dearest beloved Elvis Presley. It wasn't quite as traumatic as when I learned John Lennon had been dead the entire time I'd been alive, but the mental image of Elvis Presley dying on the loo was almost too much for my still quite young mind to bear.

And you know what else I soon learned? Bathrooms are dangerous places in popular culture. Watch a few horror movie, and you're BOUND to realise very quickly that all bad things happen in the bathroom. Shit son, don't ever open a cabinet behind a mirror, because after you close it I GUARANTEE that some long-dead ghoul or monster WILL be behind you. Thinking of having a bath? BAD MOVE. As soon as you close your eyes, the bath WILL fill up with blood. Just look at Black Swan. Bad bathroom vibes all over.

Like this.
There's just something about how blood looks on clean (or dirty) bathroom tiles, and the vulnerability of a naked body about to get into a shower that has made the humble bathroom one of the more popular death locations in the horror/thriller/murder mystery genres. But for the ten-year-old Reb, it was my weird sanctuary. Sometimes I'd take a little radio in while I made sure I didn't die. Oh, and just for the record, I'm not entirely sure how I made sure I didn't die. Maybe I thought if I concentrated hard enough on being alive, I'd make it through the night.

Anyway! So it was just as well that I'd realised that there are much, much safer places than the bathroom, and it was just as well I'd grown accustomed to sleeping through a full night. Because obviously bathrooms are dangerous, dangerous places.

I continued in this way, sleeping well and only occasionally sending myself into the throes of anxiety. I kind of forgot about my nightly bubble of bathroom safety, until one slightly delirious afternoon of salmonella-induced violent vomiting.

I was in Peru, and even if it hadn't clicked in my head that I should take myself to a medical professional after a week and a half of nary a solid emerging from either end of my person, after this particular incident I immediately dragged my sorry ass to the nearest hospital.

I was sitting on the toilet, while vomiting into the shower. On a side note, you haven't hit rock bottom until you're vomiting into the shower while sitting on the toilet. I hadn't eaten a full meal in almost a week, and after barely having the strength to stagger up the hill to the Spanish school I was attending the past few days, I'd woken up that morning thinking something was about to eat its way out of my stomach. I lurched into the bathroom, and as I vomited into the shower from my vantage point on the loo, I began to giggle hysterically. In between violent chunks, I laughed and laughed and laughed and thought about bathrooms.



I found myself longing for any of the bathrooms from my childhood, as well as my copy of Sense and Sensibility. I wondered if I'd be found like Elvis Presley, found dead on the bathroom floor. And I cackled even harder. That would've been a ridiculous sound coming from my room. Hysterical laughter in between the "EEEUUUURGHHHHHHHHH" of epic vomiting.

But you know what? I'm pretty sure the Power of the Bathroom saved me once more, because obviously I DID NOT DIE. No horrid toilet ghoul appeared from behind me to cut my throat, no murderer jumped out of the shower, and no malevolent force that had plagued me as a kid had me convinced that I was about to cark it. Instead, I staggered to school and declared,


And that's how I dealt with my nightly anxieties as a kid. Pro-tip: don't tell your kid that no one ever dies on the toilet. They might just think it's true, and spend the next few years spending far too much time in there.


1 comment:

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