I’ve had chronic urinary tract infections since I can remember, meaning I am perpetually in a state of bladder induced agony. If you have never had an acute bladder infection, and you want to understand how it feels, light your genitals on fire. When I was young, I had this weird, chauvinistic doctor who, when I showed up in his office with yet another urinary tract infection, told me in no uncertain terms that if I kept it up (as if I were rebelliously choosing to live in interminable fiery genital hell), I might end up with a scarred bladder, which would lead to incontinence problems when I was older.
Well, I kept it up. And I’m older. I don’t have incontinence problems, per se, except I have to pee every 20 minutes, and the second my brain announces, “Hey, we are heading toward a toilet,” my poor little, scarred, disoriented bladder thinks it’s time to let go. I can’t blame her. She’s been through a lot. She has bladder PTSD.
I’ve learned to combat this disorder by talking to my bladder gently. You know, like people do. As I’m walking toward a bathroom, especially if I’m in a public place, I keep a little inner monologue going, designed to trick my bladder into believing we are nowhere near a toilet. I think, “Man, I wish there were a toilet in this store. Too bad there isn’t. I think the closest toilet is like an hour away. We’re just walking to the freezer to grab an ice cream cone.” I walk quickly while I’m talking to my bladder, but I don’t run, because if I run, she knows there is something for me to be running toward (namely, a nearby toilet), and she lets go. File all of this under FML.
If I’m alone, or with family, and I have to pee really badly, I talk to my bladder out loud. Which is weird and probably slightly psychotic. My kids don’t bat an eye if they see me rushing toward the bathroom saying, “There is no toilet for miles. Too bad we don’t own a toilet. I’m just casually walking to get a book from my bedroom.” Sometimes, they shout encouragement. “There isn’t a toilet anywhere in the state!” my beloved daughter Desi will cheer, glancing up from the canvas she’s painting, sounding very much like a soccer mom trying giving a pep talk to a particularly inept 6-year-old. “Yeah, we haven’t seen a toilet in years!” my lovely son Tim will agree without every looking away from his video game.
Believe it or not, it works. In addition to having PTSD, my bladder is inordinately gullible. But when I get to the bathroom, I have to drop my pants really fast, because the second I see the toilet, my bladder is onto my tricks, and she lets go. I’ve been this way for years, so I’m really good at tricking my bladder, and also really good at getting my pants down quickly when the jig is up.
I’ve only ever wet my pants once, and that was during a road trip. Desi and I were driving across an endless New Mexico desert, and I’d had one of those trough sized sodas they sell at truck stops. I had to pee really, really badly. We drove for like an hour, but there was no bathroom anywhere. Just cactus and sand as far as the eye could see.
At first, conversing with my bladder out loud worked, but then, it stopped working, even when Desi tried to help. My bladder didn’t care if Desi said we were in a desert, and there really wasn’t a toilet for miles. My bladder was going to let go.
“Pull over!” I screamed. Knowing how wily and unpredictable my bladder can be, and not wanting to mar the seats of her brand new charcoal gray Charger, Desi slammed on the breaks and screeched to a halt on the shoulder. I hopped out of the car, dropped my pants, squatted, and started to pee by the road in broad daylight, hoping against hope no other cars would come along. Because God is sadistic, when I was halfway through the peeing session, a cop drove over the hill.
I pictured myself on the stand in some courtroom, trying to combat my public indecency charge. I pictured trying to explain it to my employers, my readers, my friends. I ordered my bladder to stop peeing and whipped up my pants, only my bladder thought there was no reason to stop peeing, as I had proven conclusively to her that there was a toilet in the vicinity. So she kept going, and while the cop drove by, I stood there peeing my pants, saying, “I’m peeing, Desi! I can’t stop peeing!” Desi just pointed and laughed.
But that was years ago. Ok, maybe a year. Anyway, since then, I’ve been accident free. (I feel like I need one of those little boards they have in factories that says, “This facility has been accident free for 376 days.”)
Which brings me to tonight. I’d had a long day, so I decided to have a little me time. I grabbed a glass of pinot and filled the tub with water and bubbles. I stepped in and was preparing to sit when my bladder saw the toilet that was two feet away and announced that she had to pee NOW. (She can go from zero to Niagra Falls in three seconds flat.) I know better than to disbelieve her when she says she has to go, so I jumped out of the tub and lunged for the toilet. But my feet were wet. And the tile was slick. My feet made that weird little “whoop whoop whoop” motion cartoon character feet make after they slip on a banana peel, and then, I fell in slow motion, dumping my wine all over myself as I went. “There is no toilet for miles!” I yelled as I plunged toward the tile. “I was just getting out of the tub to get some bath salts!”
But my poor traumatized bladder had already seen the toilet, and no way in hell was she going to put the brakes on just because I was tumbling ass over tea kettle. So she let go. I wrote all this to announce that I just had the distinction of being the first woman in history to fall on her face, spill her wine, scream “There is no toilet for miles!” and pee herself simultaneously, all while completely sober.
After I’d mopped up the wine and urine, I texted my son and said, “I went to get in the tub, realized I had to pee, started to get out, slipped, spilled my wine, and fell on my face while peeing myself. Classy.” His reply? “Des says go to bed.” No shock. No, “Wait. What? How did this happen?” Just another day in the life of Freaky Bladder Mom. Go to bed. That’s all my sweet children could muster.
I questioned the prudence of sharing my story with the world at large, but it was funny, and I am almost always willing to humiliate myself for a laugh. My bladder isn’t the only one with issues.
This facility has been accident free for 0 days. And counting.