I was a bed wetter. I wet the bed until I was in high school. Of all the experiences I have talked about in my life, this is one of the most embarrassing ones for me to admit. Even at the age of Fifty-four years old, it is still uncomfortable to confess publicly.
There are many reasons for my embarrassment. First, of the five kids in our household, I was the only bed wetter. Even my two younger brothers, who were nine and twelve years younger than me, stopped wetting the bed before I did. Yeah, I never heard the last of that. My parents and older siblings reminded me often.
This made me very different in my family and socially unacceptable.
My bed wetting disorder automatically put me in a lower, child-like status within my family and directly impacted my self-confidence.
The bladder skill is the one thing that moves a child from the toddler to a big boy or girl status. It’s a big accomplishment. My lack thereof made me subject to punitive words, punishment, jokes, and ridicule. For about 15 years, I dealt with this on a weekly, almost daily basis. Not to mention my own embarrassment of waking up another morning in a wet bed.
My bed wetting really set off my step-father and siblings at times.
My sister and I shared a room. She was probably my worst tormentor. We were very close. But she also knew how to hurt me. She laughed at me, called me names, told me she wanted her own room because I made the room stink from my pee-filled bed. Her words would seep into my mind and remind me often that I was faulty.
My step-father, who gave me the nick-name, Squirt, also hated this uncontrollable trait about me. I think at first he thought it was a passing phase. I was five years old when he and my mother began to date.
I remember him telling me that he would call me, Squirt, until I stopped wetting the bed. Of course, he never did stop calling me this. And after he realized my bed wetting days were here to stay, he began to hate it. So much so that my mother would try and hide my wet sheets from him so another bed wetting night would not set him off.
My step dad wouldn’t beat me. But it was his eyes, his facial expression of disappointment, and at times disgust that seemed to prevent him from even looking at my face. And then, there were his words that cut me deeper than any whooping. This feeling would haunt me daily and for years to come. Sometimes he blamed my mother for babying me too much as the reason for my bed wetting. Other times, he blamed me. In his mind, someone had to be the blame! And it certainly wasn’t him. It surely could not have been a medical condition. In his mind (and others as well), it was psychological.
I was just acting out. Too spoiled. Too lazy to wake up. Too scared to go to the bathroom. Too immature. None of which were true, by the way.
The truth is I was a very sound sleeper. Mostly because of being mildly deaf in one ear and moderately deaf in my other ear. I never felt the peeing sensation or my wet clothes or bed sheets until I woke up in the morning. I woke up cold and wet.
My family believed that I could willfully choose to wet or not wet my bed. They held onto this mistaken belief, making me feel as if I was doing this on purpose, like an attention getter. Oh, ‘feel sorry for Karen,’ something they felt and cynically said without hesitation. Trust me, the last thing a child wants to get is attention or ridicule for wetting their bed. That’s common sense, 101!
While my bed wetting kept me from going over to a friend’s house once in awhile, when I was allowed, it was not without anxiety. It was a gamble. And most bets would have been against me. We didn’t have pull-ups or adult diapers back then. And while using those can be embarrassing too, waking up over a friend’s house in wet sheets or sleeping bag is far greater of an embarrassment. Trust me. I know!
When I did go for an overnight, whether it was at a friend’s or a relatives, I got the same talk, “Don’t wet the bed!” Sometimes it was a pleading, “PLEASE, don’t wet the bed!” Sometimes it was a threat, “You BETTER not wet the bed or you will NOT be allowed to go again!” Or I was reminded that I may not be invited back because of my bed wetting. The first question when I got in the car or got home was, “Did you wet the bed?” All of which caused additional stress and anxiety.
I had wished many times it was that easy. My childhood would have been much simpler without that one burden. Think about it, what child in their right mind would want to wake up at a friend’s house or a slumber party among elementary, middle, or high school peers in wet sheets? Anybody? I didn’t think so. But that was a reality for me. I had “accidents” at all those places.
This is something that my parents or my family just did not get. They thought by belittling me, embarrassing me, or making fun of me, that I would get tired of their daily antics and stop wetting the bed. They just wanted me to stop wetting the bed! What they didn’t realize is that I too wanted to stop wetting the bed but just didn’t know how.
Can you imagine waking up at slumber party with all your girlfriends and you realize your pajamas are wet. The sheer fear sets in. You start to scheme on how you can hide your wet bed from your friends. You hope that you can go home without anyone noticing. You quickly gather your bedding and take it to their parents in hopes they will keep your secret. Then your mind quickly tries to create a reasonable story or excuse you can tell. You explain why this happened as if this was an unusual circumstance. It must have been all the sodas and snacks and lack of sleep that caused this accident and HOPE that they buy it. Otherwise, Monday morning at school is going to be hell. You will now be labeled as the girl who wets the bed. And then your secret is out so not only your family can make fun of you but now you may become a joke at school too. Then, paranoia sets in. Isn’t that every pre-teenage girls dream?
I remember one time waking up from an overnight stay. My friend’s mother realized I wet the bed. She was calm while speaking with me. She ask me if I wet the bed. I told her I did. She said that she had wished I would have told her about my bed wetting condition the previous night so she could have prepared. What she didn’t understand is that bed wetting is a deep dark secret that families try to keep hidden from the general public. There is shame associated with bed wetters and not just for the bed wetter themselves. Parents and siblings don’t want relatives and friends to know they have a bed wetter in the family.
This mother was trying to be as compassionate as possible. I could tell she was treading her words gingerly so as not to offend or hurt me deliberately. I told her that I was hoping I wouldn’t wet the bed and that sometimes I don’t. Then she said, “You’re mother should have told me.” I think my mother was as embarrassed about it as I was. Maybe even ashamed.
I have to say I have had some wonderful friends who knew about my bed wetting condition and still sincerely loved me. And some of their parents were equally supportive. I sometimes wished I could have switch parents back then.
My bed wetting would create arguments among my parents. So literally, I was the reason my parents fought. Not just my bed wetting but so many other things that were unique to me, unlike my siblings, caused my parents to erupt. I will say my mother was the least to make fun of me. Though, she did join in the laughter from time to time when my siblings made fun of my bed wetting. I would look at her with hurtful eyes. She would scoff it off.
My mother also took a lot of heat from my step dad, which my siblings and I felt bad about. We were loyal to our mother. Back then, I am sure my siblings may have even blamed me on some level, unconsciously or consciously, for the discord in our household. But I no longer feel sorry for my mother. She was an adult. I was a child. She had a choice and the power to be in a relationship. I had no choice or power to stay or leave. She was my parent. I was her daughter. She had a responsibility to protect me. She could have stopped the torment but she chose not to do so.
Yes, of course! I wet my bed for all this wonderful attention from my family and my friends. Who wouldn’t?
The truth is, I wanted to be normal. Or at the very least, treated like I was normal with support and understanding. I couldn’t help that I was a bed wetter.
Maybe I had a week bladder.
Maybe I had primary nocturnal enuresis.
Maybe I experienced some trauma as an infant or as a child. Soldiers have been known to come home from war and start wetting their bed, due to PTSD, who had no previous history of bed wetting.
There was a medical reason for my bed wetting but I may never know what it was.
Maybe that’s why I get it when others make fun of people or ridicule them or belittle or punish or judge or exclude them or kill them for standing up for something that has happened, beyond their control.
Maybe they are considered socially unacceptable.
Maybe their beliefs are considered different.
Maybe their clothes or skin color or disability make them different.
Maybe their neighborhood or economic status or both are tattered.
Maybe their story, their historical lineage comes with tainted fabric.
Maybe they were abandoned by their family, their people, or their country, or maybe all three.
Maybe they’re reminded daily of the troubled past and injustices and hate.
Maybe they’re blamed for something that was out of their control.
Maybe no one protected them.
Maybe no one helped them.
Maybe no one understood.
Maybe they never received credit for all they accomplished.
Maybe others believed in the lies instead of the truth.
Maybe all they ever wanted was a chance.
Maybe…just maybe…there is more to the story…