I have seen two stories today about different situations where institutions have put rules in place regarding toilet breaks and it really got me thinking about how distressing this can be for those who can’t just hold it.
The first was regarding comedian Frankie Boyle and how his shows have put restrictions on people leaving the auditorium during his 70 minute show. Security staff at the King’s Theatre in Glasgow were ordered to escort fans to another part of the building until the performance was over if they left to use the bathroom. According to the Mirror, the general manager James Howarth said “The show is only 70 minutes long so it’s not an unreasonable request.”
The second story was about St Teilo’s Church in Wales High School in Cardiff that sent out text messages telling parents their children must have a doctor’s note if they want to go to the toilet regularly during lessons. It said: ‘If your child needs to be allowed out of lessons to go to the toilet then please provide a medical note in the next week so they can be issued with a pass.’
Now I understand that disruption of shows or classes can be annoying to others, but as a person who regularly has to use the toilet and can’t always hold it, believe me, it is more annoying to me than anyone else! I have two different view points on the two stories though.
Regarding the show, it is just so disheartening to know that these rules are in place, though it isn’t great to disturb a show, it is sometimes a necessity. There is nothing that sets more fear into my heart than the idea of being unable to get to a loo in time. Take off and landing during flights make me sweat because as soon as I hear the words that the toilets are out of bounds, my stomach churns, my guts cramp and my body panics!
Rules like this exclude people with bowel or bladder conditions from these social occasions. They increase anxiety and add to isolation. If you struggle with toilet issues and need to go regularly, then it can be very difficult to mentally deal with being out in public and if you cannot access toilets with ease then it can rule out certain events altogether. The quote from the manager REALLY pissed me off. It IS an unreasonable request to expect some people to not be able to use the loos for over an hour. Every theatre/comedy/music show I have been to also tend to have huge queues so leaving it as long as possible just isn’t an option when you know you could end up in a 20 minute queue afterwards.
Invisible disability is everywhere and there are many people with needs and issues that can’t be seen easily and these people shouldn’t have to explain to a theatre attendant their complex medical needs. Places need to be more inclusive not be excluding people based on disability.
The school story initially upset me a lot more. The idea of kids having toilet access restricted was quite disturbing as children with bowel or bladder issues have a hard enough time as it is let alone having to produce a doctor’s note. But in reading the story I think it was just a badly worded text with a genuinely caring message at heart.
The school appears to be putting into place a system where those who have genuine medical issues can have the ability to go to the toilet unchallenged as the school will know which kids have a need to go. It must be very difficult for teachers to know who is really needing to go and who is doing it to waste time/mess about. I remember when I was at school that a toilet break was often used to go for a wander/grab a drink/raid the chocolate machine/chat to my boyfriend… (Don’t tell on me!!!)
I suppose the problem with this is that some kids may develop symptoms of illness and need to suddenly go often and without a doctors note they may not be believed. Children, especially teens tend to hide symptoms of what they deem as embarrassing illnesses. They may have not even told their parents, let alone been to the doctors yet!
The other problem is that sometimes it takes a long time for doctors to correctly diagnose these illnesses, I speak to so many people with IBD who were initially fobbed off with a diagnoses’ of everything from piles to anxiety. Perhaps we just need to trust that some students will sometimes need to go to the toilet more often than others in order to not isolate, embarrass and upset those who have a genuine need.
If you have ever soiled yourself in public you will know that this isn’t a joke. It is mortifying and can make you feel that you should stay home forever, it can make you feel embarrassed, humiliated and inhuman. It can make you feel life isn’t worth living.
Are these things worth it to stop some minor disruption to classes and social events?
I think not.