What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
When I was in 7th grade I was a really anxious kid.
I got my period, I didn't know how to handle it, and I was a little bit "stinky". Combine that with being the only not church-affiliated kid in my VERY churchy school, and most of my days revolved around the silent question, "How am I doing this wrong?"
Around this time I also started avoiding peeing at school. While at the height of my "I DON'T KNOW HOW TO CONTROL ALL THE BLOOOOOOOOOOD!" stage, I heard two older girls talking about me while I hid in a bathroom stall (tiny school, everybody knew about everybody). From then on I decided the bathrooms were not safe. The thought of having to look someone in the eye at the sinks when we both knew about my hygiene issues struck all the fear into me.
Would they smell me? Would they snicker about me when I left the bathroom? I decided I wouldn't give them the chance.
And more than that, I just wanted to pretend that I didn't exist below my below my belly button.
Let me tell you, avoiding the bathroom was not the best plan.
I'd be fine for most of the day, sitting in a classroom taking notes or failing tests (my grades went from good to terrible in 7th grade too), saving up all my pee. I actually got really used to the feeling of needing to pee; I could easily ignore it.
But P.E. was another story.
By the time I got to P.E., which was at the very end of the day three days a week, my bladder would be screaming. Changing into my navy blue gym uniform in the bathroom with my classmates (unable to pee in peace), I'd pray to the God that my family didn't pray to that I'd make it through P.E. without embarrassing myself.
I never realized how close "P.E." is to "pee".
At first I always made it through – if barely. But as the year wore on, I started having accidents.
At first it was a little leak. Then a little more. By the end of the school year, I'd full on peed my pants three times. I still remember the horrible relief of losing control of my bladder in my navy blue cotton shorts.
Even then I thought, "I'm ruining my bladder, aren't I?"
Things got better in 8th grade, and I actually made a resolution to pee at least once every school day – preferably in the random single bathroom I found outside the lunch room. I stopped wetting my pants, I got my period mostly under control, and while I still had little accidents here and there (of both the pee and blood variety), nobody knew. Also, I think I shed my stink.
(If anybody from my middle school days is reading this, please don't tell me if I'm wrong – I just don't want to know.)
Life progressed pretty normally after 8th grade, I think. I made it through high school largely unnoticed (the way I liked it), did the college and grad school thing, and went on to become the magnificent adult you see before you today. All without leaving a pee trail...that anyone knew about.
I'm coming clean, y'all. My bladder has never been quite right since the 8th grade.
It didn't help that a few years ago I fell off a horse and crushed/tore a bunch of shit in my pelvis. That little accident was the cherry on top of my incontinence.
Incontinence. I know I should "own" that word, but I'd rather just say, "Sometimes I pee a little."
If you ever seeing me coughing up a lung (like I often am during the winter months), you'll notice my legs are crossed tight. Laughing is a crapshoot (bad choice of words in my world); making me "laugh so hard that I piss my pants" isn't that big of an achievement. I can't tell you how many times I've scurried off to the bathroom after a good, hard sneeze.
I've found my bladder has to be totally empty when I go running, and dancing too furiously is not wise.
And no, I'm not whizzing all over the place willy-nilly. I'm pretty sure I don't smell like pee, and most of my pants do not know the warm caress of urine.
Most of them.
I'm just always aware of how my bladder is doing. I don't know what the issue is exactly. Is it my pelvic floor muscles? My urethra?
Does anyone else hear Hank Hill in their head when they say "urethra"?
Is it my actual bladder that's messed up? Have I put more mileage on my bladder than most? Do I have the bladder of an octogenarian in the body of a 30-something?
I've read that damage to the nerves in the urinary tract can cause bladder control issues. The fall off the horse definitely damaged some nerves. I wonder if they were the right nerves?
I'm not asking any of you to be my substitute doctor. I'm just curious if anybody else out there has this problem at a relatively young age?
Do any of you have bladder control issues? When did it start? Do you know why?
If nothing else, it would be nice to know that I'm not alone. I'm not...right?