A woman spent more than 30 years suffering from a crippling phobia of overflowing toilets caused by childhood trauma, causing her to have monthly panic attacks.
Darcey Croft, 48, was just four when she witnessed the ceiling collapse on her mother while she was in the bath, causing the water to overflow.
The mother of four feared the house would collapse, killing her entire family, and the trauma has stayed with her.
Then, in her early teens, she passed out in a bathroom and hit her head on the faucet, sustaining a head injury.
This has led her to develop a strong “irrational” fear of toilets and large bodies of water that lap and overflow.
It has plagued Darcey, of Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, for more than 30 years, causing panic attacks and nausea.
Earlier this year Darcey, who is a mental health midwife trained in hypnotherapy, started trying self-hypnosis to kick her phobia.
Now Darcey has said she is “at least 80% cured” and some days she has no fear at all.
Darcey, who also has a granddaughter, said: “I remember being about four years old and seeing a torrent of water come at my mother.
“I thought the whole house was going to collapse, in my little four year old head I really thought my mother was dead and I was going to die.
“My mom was perfectly fine and probably didn’t realize the trauma for me, but I never processed those emotions.
“Then there were two more incidents involving water when I was a teenager and suddenly bathrooms were considered a place of trauma for me.
“It wasn’t a fear of water — I love swimming and I actually like bathing.
“But the fear of overflowing or sloshing: blocked toilets, full sinks, overflowing bathtubs, any bathroom scenario.
“I was having panic attacks, my heart was pounding, I felt weak, dizzy and nauseous, all the blood was pouring out of my head.
“I never dealt with it until recently, but I took action and did some self-hypnosis. She seems to have worked.”
Darcey, who lives with partner David Bryans, 46, and two of their four children, Madeline, 20, and Soloman, 17, said the fear she developed was “irrational”.
She said when she was four she remembered the ceiling collapsing above her mother in the bathtub and feared her mother was dead.
Darcey recalled, “I ran downstairs and out the front door. I stood in my driveway thinking the world was over.
Another incident occurred at the age of 13 in which she was held underwater by another classmate to the point where she “felt peaceful and elated – on the verge of drowning”.
And a third incident a year later saw her get up too fast to get out of the tub, pass out, and hit her head on the faucet.
She “woke up in a bath full of blood” – cementing her fear.
Since then she has been plagued by a strong fear of taking a bath and having the water overflow, although she likes to relax in a bath once it’s done.
Darcey, owner of her business, ISO Mum, which sells electrolyte drinks to pregnant women, said: ‘Despite all these events, I have never had any therapy or faced any.
“But your subconscious holds the fear: I used to see the toilets as a risk and considered them a place of trauma.
“My rational mind would never consider these things, but that’s how phobias work. It’s irrational.
“I would be triggered by imagining a situation or seeing an image of lapping water.
“Or if a toilet has been running, that’s fine, but I venture to wonder how long it’s been running, and then convince myself that’s long enough for it to overflow.”
She said until recently, when her phobia was triggered, it could lead her to have panic attacks, a racing heart, and hyperventilation.
Darcey may even start to feel weak, dizzy and physically ill.
She experienced anxiety whenever she left the room with the toilet running for 30 years and ended up having a panic attack at least once a month.
Ironically, he’s always loved baths and swimming, but the idea of overflowing water would have triggered his “fight or flight response.”
Darcey said: “I actually love bathing, a candlelit bath is great for relaxation.
“But sometimes I’d put the tub on, then go do something downstairs, and when I realized I’d left the tub open, it panicked.
“I felt like I couldn’t go back to the room in case the bathroom level went up.”
Recalling one of his lowest moments of not keeping track of the toilet running, Darcey said, “I was the only one in the house.
“When I remembered about the bath, I stopped dead and the blood drained from my head.
“I was home alone so I had no choice but to go fix everything myself so I took a deep breath and ran to the bathroom.
“The water was right near the edge and when I saw it, I was so close to completely passing out.
“I felt sheer terror – there wasn’t a single rational thought in my head at the time.”
She explained that she would experience “animal panic” whenever she was faced with such a situation, because it took her back in time to when she was four years old and thought her house was falling apart.
Darcey said, “That childhood fear, and thinking my mother was dead — when I panic about the bathroom level, it brings those emotions back.”
In January of this year she decided to do something about the decades-old phobia – by using self-hypnosis.
Darcey, who has a medical degree in clinical hypnotherapy, has started using techniques on herself.
She said this involved recording herself reading a “script” she had written to hypnotize herself.
This, she said, would put her into a “trance” where she could “drive through the overflowing toilet”.
But he used hypnosis to associate positive feelings with that visualization, to replace the negative ones.
He said: “I recorded it and played it every night for a week before I went to sleep – it was enough to really reduce the phobia.
“Then I’d do self-hypnosis every now and then if I felt the need to.”
She said that since starting these self-hypnosis sessions, she has been “about 80 percent normal.”
But she said there were times when she felt “100 percent okay” after more than three decades of the phobia.
Reflecting on the trip, she said: “The difficult thing with phobias is that it’s unconscious – you have to detach whatever emotion you’ve given to that thing.
“You talk to the subconscious mind and detach yourself from the fear response.
“Anyone with a phobia, it’s a horrible state to feel mentally and physically. Not a nice place to stay.
“It’s great to be free from all of that.”