Have you ever lost control of your bowel or bladder during a high stress situation? Well I have. It seems to be something that is not talked about much, but can easily be explained.
I was 7 years old and visiting a nephew, he said to me, let´s go and ring the neighbors doorbell and hide in the ally.. well we did just that.. but this neighbor apparently had been a victim before, so, as soon as we rang his bell, he snuck out the back-door into the alleyway.. I was sitting on my knees totally oblivious of the impending danger coming from behind.. He grabbed me by the neck and shouted ´Now I’ve got you!´ and that was the moment my body said ´We don´t need bladder control anymore..´
Of course, at that age I could not explain what happened.. I was ashamed and felt not very manly at all. And throughout my civilian life and career in the Armed Forces, I encountered all kinds of automatic responses from my body, that I could not explain. Things like: Auditory exclusion, black out, no immediate pain-response and taking a battle crap are among my personal experiences in high stress situations.
Only after reading the great book ´On Combat´ (which Robin also mentions in this article) last year, at the age of 41, did I connect all kinds of dots from my childhood, civilian and military life. Of course I did do some thinking about the subject, before reading this book, but it will make you think back and realize a lot of other stuff that happened to you..
‘But what is happening?’
You are probably thinking now.. well, simply put, your body will decide for itself what it needs at that moment of intense stress and it will make sure you are protected in all kind of incredible ways. In his book LT. COL. Grossman describes many cases of Law Enforcement officers who had audible exclusion during gunfights. Some officers reacted normal and said: ‘All of a sudden my shotgun went pop, pop, pop, and I had no ringing in my ears what so ever, afterwards’. But in some cases it did not go so good, because of this audible exclusion, some officers thought their weapons were malfunctioning and stopped shooting! This of course, because they never heard of these possible effects.. So, your body will protect itself and will do anything to SURVIVE.. and yes, you have guessed it.. bowel and bladder control are not considered as essential survival skills by your body during a high stress situation!
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Good question, why does it happen to some and not to others? Well, one story of an officer who was rescuing victims during 9/11 said that many of his colleagues had crapped themselves, but he didn’t. He never understood why, until he went to a seminar of LT. COL. Grossman. Afterwards he approached Grossman and said that he finally understood why his colleagues did lose control, but he hadn’t.. just before the first plane hit.. he had taken a big dump! So, that means when your bladder and bowel are empty, you will not lose control? Well, if they are empty on that moment of high stress, then yes, or at least nothing will come out.. Don’t you have that feeling before you go in to a rugby match, about to board the plane for a night jump, or before starting an operation, that you have to take a crap or piss? That’s what I meant with a ‘battle crap’, you know the feeling.
It was around 0530 when I woke up to a strange sound, not from nature. It was summertime in the Netherlands, so it was starting to get light already. I sat up in bed, looked at the front bedroom-window and noticed that it was a bit open. I got out of bed, looked outside the window and noticed the morning glow, closed the window and went back to bed. As I got in to bed, I noticed our cat sitting like a statue in front of the bed, staring at the window I just closed. Not thinking much of it, I lay down and just at that moment I heard a new sound, above my head, coming from the roof-window. I was fully awake now, this sound was HUMAN. I stood up in bed, opened the window, looked to my left and I was completely stunned, to see a guy creeping in my gutter as he just went around the corner towards the bedroom of my son. I closed the window and tried not to scream at my wife to wake up.. My Adrenalin went from zero to 200% in a millisecond. I sneaked to my sons room to check if his windows were closed, they were, luckily. I scrambled for some clothes and was cursing myself that I did not prepare for this.. I could not find anything because of my Adrenalin level.. a pair of pants and some dress-shoes would have to do. I got my phone out and rang the police, I was lucky, they had a unit close by and they connected me with them (at that moment I was working for Special Security-Assignments, but had no gun in the house, Dutch regulations..) I guided them to the back of the house, because I knew there was no other way for him to escape, once I would confront him. The police unit was within 5 minutes in position (awesome job by the way). I threw my phone to the side and opened the window, the guy was just coming back through the gutter.. he froze as I called out to him: ‘Police stay were you are!‘ He didn’t need time to think about it, he jumped to a building-roof two meters lower..
After this sequence of events, my mind went blank. My wife had to tell me afterwards what I did. Apparently as soon as the guy jumped, I also jumped and with that cutting my right hand open on a piece of iron. I chased the guy down, He jumped to another lower roof, and another one, going exactly to the one exit.. too bad mother^%$er.. Boxed in between the police and me, and that was the moment I was ‘awake’ again. As soon as my body realized the threat was neutralized, it went back to a normal state, only then I saw my bleeding hand, but still not feeling anything. And guess what..? The guy pissed himself.
My lessons learned
Prepare, prepare, prepare.. yourself, but also you buddies, your team-mates, the new guy. Because when you know this stuff and talk about it, before it happens, you and your team will be better fighters.
Thanks for reading,
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