A very long time ago when I was first married, my now-ex-husband used to like to sprinkle me with water.  Just a little bit.  Like at the sink when doing dishes or wiping off a counter.  He grew up in New Mexico where water is rationed and everything is very dry.  Having an abundance of water was a wonderful thing to him.  He liked cleaning when it involved water.  He liked having wet hands.  He liked touching me with his wet hands.  And it sent me through the roof every time.  I literally came unglued.  I couldn’t bear it.
I begged him to stop, told him how much it bothered me, even though I didn’t understand the reason why.  For the most part, he did refrain most of the time.  But it bugged me that I was bothered by such an innocent and harmless thing.  I wanted to understand why this was such a big deal to me, so over the years, I would think about my phobia and try to connect the dots.   There had to be a reason, even if I didn’t know what it was…yet.   I wanted to figure it out, so I pondered it fairly frequently.
I also noticed I had a very difficult time taking showers.  And baths were enough to completely freak me out.  My aversion to water didn’t extend to a swimming pool or lake or ocean.  But tubs or showers or sinks filled with drops of water were gross and made my skin crawl.  It was literally nauseating.
I did shower.  But not every day.  I had to pretty much mentally prepare myself and that usually meant there would be a day…or even two…between bathing.  Well, showering, actually.  I rarely took a bath.  Those long, hot soaks that are supposed to be so luxurious left me feeling sick and dirty.  I kept clean enough to make myself socially acceptable, but not squeaky clean like those who shower every day or even twice a day.  But considering my aversion to getting water splashed on me or sitting in a yucky tub, I rather thought I was achieving a great deal in doing what I was able to do.
I began to notice that when I stood in the shower, I curled my toes up, so that the bare minimum of my foot contacted the shower floor.  I also noticed I totally came undone if I happened to touch the wall of the shower with my shoulder or an arm or leg.  Even a quick touch with minimal contact made me feel ill.  And as I thought about this, I remembered years ago, as a child, how I would curl my toes up when walking on the wet concrete floor of the locker room of the community pool where my neighbor’s mother used to take me and her daughter swimming during the summer.  I remembered being totally repulsed at having to touch that wet concrete floor with any part of my body.  Swimming wasn’t gross…it was fun.  Being totally immersed in a big body of water didn’t bother me.  But sprinkles of water on my body, water running up my arm, having to touch wet surfaces, those kinds of things caused a serious repulsion and revulsion that deeply upset me.
Weird, right?
 So, one day as I was trying to deal with all the damage to my soul that resulted from being sexually abused by my father, I was telling my counselor about my water phobia.  Basically trying to avoid talking about other, heavier, darker things.  When I had a revelation.  And it ripped into me and sent me reeling.
Sperm is a lot like water.  It’s stickier, thicker.  But it’s wet and it runs and it is seriously gross when you get sprayed with it or it gets squirted on you and you wind up with wet splotches on your body. 
And being made to shower with ones father makes being wet, showering, touching the sides of the shower with any body part, an extremely unpleasant experience.    Unpleasant enough to cause a grown woman to have a phobia about touching the shower stall with any part of her body.  Enough to cause her (me) to curl her toes and dread taking showers altogether.  Because getting pushed against the tile wall of the bathroom shower while being raped or otherwise molested is a nightmare no child should have to endure.  And it does things to you…things that twist and destroy the soul in devastating ways.
How many things in my life…things I struggle with or that are weird aversions…are “me” only because I was sexually abused by my father?  How many more lasting “gifts” did he give me, beyond the obvious?  How many more land mines are buried just beneath the surface waiting to explode when I poke them as I’m trying to figure out how to put all the pieces of my psyche back together again?
The worst part is, knowing what was causing my strange “waterphobia” didn’t make it go away.  I still curl my toes in the shower stall and can’t tolerate water dripping down my arms or being sprinkled on my stomach.  I can’t even stand to touch the shower to clean it.  Which makes me wonder if knowing and understanding matters.  Which makes me doubt if healing is truly possible.  I thought the truth was supposed to set you free.  If it doesn’t, why am I torturing myself?  If it’s not possible to be healed, why do I keep setting myself up, hoping against hope that I will someday be better, feel joy, live life, only to be disappointed and destroyed over and over again?
If it is true that the idiosyncrasies that have been etched deeply into my soul by the abuse I suffered at the hands of my parents in my childhood are permanent, is there really any reason to hope or try to recover at all?  Was I doomed before I even got started on this journey?
I’m becoming increasingly fearful that this is, indeed, reality.  That there is no such thing as healing…that there is no hope.  And that terrifies me.

One thought on “Waterphobia”

  1. Wow, you had a real epiphany about taking a shower and how that brings back memories. I feel deeply for those negative images you endure. It is very hard to undo the past and it takes time. I can’t recall if you are in therapy but showering sounds like it would cause PTSD every time! If you have a therapist, talk this out. For now, please be kind and gentle with yourself. Making a new realization is BIG and SCARY shit. Just live with it for awhile. Sponge bath. Wash in the sink. Stay away from the walls of a shower! Be kind to yourself until you can enjoy a shower without the image of incest.

    You deserve to feel safe and in your own apartment/house and you can..That’s a start — listen to your inner voice and avoid feeling insecure.

    You are an amazingly strong woman to express yourself. I mean it. Stay strong!!! oxoxo–Daylily

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