I think it is so important for you to understand just why I have dedicated most of my waking hours to helping others with that which I could never get help for myself or for my children.
I was a bedwetter until I was 19 years old. I can still remember so many things about living through this and to my amazement, have heard my story echoed over and over by so many of you. But, it wasn’t until I began to work with bedwetters, that I realized the vastness of this problem and the similarities that we all share.
I was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1946. I don’t remember much about the bedwetting in the early years except for awakening in the morning feeling cold and wet and rather smelly. I remember having to bathe every morning. I remember some of the funny stories that my parents would tell about the ridiculous things I would say when they would attempt to wake me and take me to the bathroom each night before they went to bed. And, I remember thinking they were making up these stories…because I never remembered any of the night time “adventures”.
As I got a little older, I remember other things that had to do with the bedwetting. I was a very active child, a tomboy, and I remember going to bed thirsty every night. I knew why I wasn’t supposed to drink anything after dinner but it didn’t make it any easier for me. I would, most often, awaken wet anyway. I remember not being able to go to sleepovers and feeling as though I was “missing out” on the things that all of my friends were doing. I also recall having a difficult time falling asleep at night, and being extremely irritable and slow in the morning.
Finally, when I was 9 years old, there was an opportunity to go to an over night camp for two weeks. I don’t remember the circumstances that prompted my parents letting me go, but I do remember going and having a wonderful time until… the fateful night I wet my bed and the counselors hung my sheet out to dry. There it was, a huge yellowish bulls eye…right next to my cabin. I was mortified!
What was interesting was that I stayed dry the whole time except for that night. I now understand that it’s because when one (whether they are a bedwetter or not), is not sleeping in a familiar place, the subconscious mind will often take over, and you just don’t sleep like you normally do when you’re at home, in your own bed, in a familiar “safe place”.
I felt different. I was certain that none of my friends had this problem but my brothers did. So, I thought there was something wrong with our family. No one in the family made a big deal out of it, so other than it being an embarrassing family secret, it really didn’t affect my home life.
Fifth grade…school camp…It was March, the beginning of spring, maple syrup, hiking and bunking with my school friends. By this time, I can remember always having to go to the bathroom at the most inopportune times. And I would think that I’d never make it to the bathroom. On the last day of school camp, (it was raining, well drizzling, a heavy drizzle), we were out taking our last hike around the camp…checking the buckets on the maple trees to see how much sap had collected in the buckets, when I had this sudden urge to go to the bathroom and had absolutely no control. I was soaked…Our suitcases were already packed and on the bus…I had no choice…I pretended to trip (right by a huge puddle) and fell in. They weren’t too happy with me but I didn’t care…The counselors had to go through the bus and find my suitcase to get me a change of clothes.
Another significant change began to take place while I was in fifth grade. My grades began to suffer. For the first time, the work began to challenge me and I was having a lot of trouble concentrating on schoolwork. I can remember becoming a bit disruptive in class. I became the class clown, always coming up with a wise crack at inappropriate times. The kids loved it but I guess I was a handful for the teachers. Looking back, it must have been my defense mechanism for feeling like I was stupid. The teachers would say, “She’s so smart, she just doesn’t apply herself”. To this day, I don’t know what they meant by applying myself! Maybe that was the “catch all” phrase of the 50’s like ADD./ADHD is today!
Sixth grade…my last year of elementary school, and my grades were still falling. I was really struggling. Still wetting the bed every night and not being able to spend the night with friends…hearing about what wonderful times they all had at the various “pajama parties” that I was missing out on. I was getting in trouble with my teachers because of the class clown thing, and nothing was going right. My self esteem was going down hill, quickly.
I can remember one particular day when my Mother asked me to stop at her friend Gilda’s house, which was on the way home from school. Gilda had just had some surgery and my Mom thought it would be a nice gesture if I stopped in to say hello. So, I did. Gilda had a cot in her dining room and I can still remember standing in the kitchen talking to her when suddenly I just urinated all over the floor. Thank heavens I was not standing on the carpeting! I did the best I could to clean it up and I remember Gilda, meaning well, saying not to worry about it, she would just say that the dog did it. So, now I felt like an almost twelve year old dog who still wasn’t house broken.
That was my last major public incident, as far as I can recall, but all of those incidents are still with me today as if they had just happened.
As I got older, there were more dry nights. I was only wetting the bed once or twice a week. That lasted until I was 19, and then for no apparent reason, I stopped wetting. We all experience some of the same symptoms and some different. One thing seems to be universal, however, we have all heard, “Don’t worry, you’ll outgrow it”. Today, I understand that waiting to outgrow bedwetting is bad advice. Without the wetting episodes, there is no way to change the sleep disorder, and I, like almost everyone else who outgrows the physical symptom (the bedwetting), still have a very unhealthy sleep disorder.
I never did recover academically, even in college. It always took me much longer to study than it did most of my friends. I had a high IQ but my concentration and focus are still challenging. Reading is especially difficult for me. I read several pages and it’s fine, but then I catch myself 10 pages later, realizing that I have read nothing but words because my head drifted off somewhere else. Pleasure reading is difficult but reading “have to” things are really challenging.
And so, here I am today. I still have the sleep disorder, wake up like I never slept, crabby and withdrawn in the morning, and never feeling well rested. But, my experiences with this problem have helped me to help others. I sincerely understand what you are experiencing and I can help you. I will not set you up for another failure. I will tell you the truth!
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