For the first ten years of my life, I knew something was wrong with me, but I was pretty sure it was my fault. I didn’t seem to have the same control that other kids had over one of the most basic of human functions.
The nice way of putting it is that I had bladder control problems. The way that I remember it, though, is that I peed my pants. A lot.
I had friends with bedwetting problems; that wasn’t an issue for me, ever.
For me, it was something I couldn’t explain. One moment, I didn’t feel like I had to go to the bathroom at all, then the next moment, I’d realize I had to go. Then it was too late.
It usually happened in social, or public, situations, and usually when I was just starting to relax and enjoy myself. Forgetting, for a moment or two, what was wrong with me. At first, I’m sure my parents just figured I was young and not fully in control of my bladder. As time went on, though, I imagine they began to get frustrated. I don’t think my parents recall this happening, but I remember their anger at my accidents on several occasions. And really, who can blame them? I can’t imagine trying to deal with a 7-year-old who’s just peed her pants at a family dinner.
I can look back with sympathy at what my parents had to deal with now that I’m a parent myself. But when I think back to what I went through as a child, it was pure and crushing shame.
The older I got, without any sort of explanation for this way that my body kept failing me, the more ashamed I felt. I hated myself, every time it happened. Hate hardly covered what I truly felt.
I despised my body, for betraying me.
How horrible, how absolutely tragic, that a young girl would loathe herself so much. If I found out my own daughter felt this way, I would die a little inside.
My family moved from Winnipeg to Toronto when I was 10 years old. We were so lucky to stumble into the practice of an incredibly caring, intelligent and thoughtful family doctor. Somehow, perhaps when he was taking everyone’s medical history and asking a million questions, my “problem” came up.
He immediately referred me to a urologist at Sick Kids.
And so, one day I was pulled out of school for an appointment in downtown Toronto with some doctors. There were lots of questions, and some pretty scary tests for a young girl, but the man I remember as the specialist was kind and funny, and did everything he could to make me relaxed. He explained things to me in terms I could understand, throughout the procedures, and told me exactly what he thought was happening.
He told me that there were wires crossed in my brain, and that I wasn’t processing the signals my bladder was giving in time. So, wait, this wasn’t my fault? This was actually a condition that needed to be treated? This. Wasn’t. My. Fault.
Then he put me on a drug that completely changed my quality of life.
It took some time to work, and it wasn’t perfect, but it made my life bearable. It made social situations possible, more and more. And for that, I will be eternally grateful to the staff at Sick Kids.
This is the hardest thing I’ve ever written, and I have shared some pretty intimate stuff. I have so much shame surrounding this part of myself, despite my diagnosis. Even now, as an adult who has pretty much grown out of this condition, I have told a very small percentage of people in my life. It’s kind of ironic that I went and had kids and basically ended up with incontinence issues all over again. And isn’t it weird that this time, I feel like I have a “real” excuse? That is some kind of fucked up, and one of the many reasons I’m currently in therapy.
I’m sharing it for two reasons, though: the first is to tell the world how important the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto is for people like me, whose lives were completely changed because of the care of the doctors and nurses there.
The second reason is to tell a story that I have come to realize may be important for parents of young children to read. I have no idea how common my problems were, but I’m sure that my own parents struggled with figuring out how much of what was happening was psychological and how much was physiological. That process was hard on everyone, and I don’t wish it on any family.
If your child is struggling with bladder control during the day, and doesn’t seem to be improving as he or she gets older, you may want to speak with your doctor, before you get impatient or upset. If a child truly has no control over this element of their body, it can be absolutely devastating to experience. It haunts me to this day.
BLUNTmoms are participating this year in the The Canaccord Genuity Great Camp Adventure Walk 2015 #WalkForSickKids on September 26, 2015, to help raise money to fund the SickKids Foundation. You can support the BLUNTmoms team in meeting our $1,500 goal by visiting our team page. With your help, we can help sick kids like this mom grow up to live a normal life.