“Pee-Shy”: A Memoir by Victim of Childhood Sex Abuse

Pee-Shy. We’ve heard the term—though not necessarily its clinical equivalent, paruresis.

The International Paruresis Association (IPA) provides the following info: “YOU ARE NOT ALONE. In fact, recent studies show that about seven percent (7%) of the public, or 21 million people, may suffer from this social anxiety disorder. Often referred to as Pee-Shy, Shy-Bladder, Bashful Bladder, etc., avoidant paruresis is nothing to be ashamed of, and you have made an important step simply by coming to this website.”

Physician Frank Spinelli traces his own condition to his troubled and traumatic childhood. At the age of 11 Spinelli was molested by a Boy Scout leader, a guy who was also a respected cop in the community.

Below is a brief intro to his memoir, Pee-Shy, a book that began for him as a type of journalling therapy:

In more of his own words, an excerpt from his op-ed in The Advocate: “It wasn’t until I began therapy with Olga that I learned sexually abused children often start wetting the bed again as a call for help. Even though the bed-wetting stopped on its own when I became a teenager, I became profoundly pee shy (in medical terms, paruretic).”

Spinelli wants others to be aware of his own experience in order to be of help to those similarly afflicted:

Paruretic for nearly three quarters of my life, I’ve become something of an expert in the field. It affects the urinary systems of nearly 17 million adults, many of whom were molested as children. Typically, paruretics are unable to urinate in public places. As an adult, I was resigned to the fact that I could not use a public urinal. Even in the confines of a public stall, there was always the possibility that my bladder might hold me hostage, negotiating with my brain to relax so that I could simply pee.

Publishers Weekly capsulizes the book in its review: “…(E)arly chapters document the daily life of a driven, lonely, extremely neurotic gay doctor in upscale Chelsea….Yet Spinelli remains very much the child of working-class Italian parents, and as he begins his quest, and falls in love with a fellow doctor, his prose gains depth and grows less mannered. Spinelli deftly portrays his years as a chubby, awkward adolescent and the complexity of his reaction to the molestation. Spinelli’s refreshing honesty as a protagonist make this memoir an important testament to a reality that is too often concealed by shame or fear.”

Adds Adrian Brooks, Lambda Literary, about this important memoir: “It’s part therapy, part rescue mission, for, as he confronts his past, old guilts are exposed and his relationship with his partner undergoes strain as he faces his demons and grapples with his need to heal.”

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