There are some problems that seem to be uniquely childhood specific. Malcolm in the Middle not being on TV at the right time. Your parents not buying you a Club Penguin VIP membership. Peeing your pants. Except, one of these things is not like the other. One of these things can, as I recently found out, also be an adult problem. I really wish I was talking about Malcolm in the Middle, but, yeah, you guessed it from the title, it’s the pee problem. The Pee Problem, as I have come to call it with my (close) friends. The “yeah hey guys can we leave please I’m about to fucking PEE my PANTS Problem”.
It’s pretty funny, until you’re racing through Albert Park to the public toilets thinking you’re about to pee your pants in front of the general public.
Poo girl: (I can vouch for this, she looked like death had become her. I had to carry her backpack as she dashed over the flower pots and wafts of weed to do a wee).
Is this what it’s like to be elderly, except with more speed? I sure hope not, because it’s not fun. I’m not sure how many other people have this issue, but it’s called overactive bladder, and manifested thanks to stress. Apparently, my brain is re-wired (my doc dumbing it down for me, thanks) and it seems to have changed to a fully physical issue. It’s to the point where I actively try not to drink liquid during the day, especially when I know I won’t be near a toilet.
It’s affected my university work, as I a) couldn’t take the long commute to uni, and b) couldn’t sit through my two-hour lectures. It became hard to sit through one hour even. Thankfully I was given pills by my doctor (oxybutynin) which relax the muscles, though leave me feeling slightly drowsy and with a dry mouth.
A day in the life of a Pee Problem sufferer (pre-pills): Wake up. Eat breakfast, but don’t drink even though you’re thirsty; you’ll regret it on the bus. Arrive at uni. Pee. Go study. Drink, but stop drinking at least an hour before lecture. Pee before lecture, pee after lecture, pee before you leave university.
It’s a strange feeling, to not be in control of a bodily function you always took for granted. Not to sound too serious here, because things could be worse. But things could also be better.
For now, the Pee Problem persists.
Poo girl: I remember laughing at first when she told me. Because it was absurd. But she stopped coming to class, meetings, brunches. I’d get frantic messages of her accidentally locking herself in the Ranui train station toilets.
Pee girl: “Like yeah I’m stressed, but I don’t think it’s related to anxiety…I’ll try some breathing techniques I guess.”
Poo girl: “I dunno is it like some deep flight or fight response? Childhood trauma? Again, not a qualified medical professional… Maybe it’s a UTI?”
Pee girl: “But how could I have a UTI when I am like Mary the virgin: not a virgin but may as well be? God this is so embarrassing! I felt like I actually did need to pee and honest to god felt like I wouldn’t be able to hold it and was freaking out.”
Poo girl: “If it makes you feel better, I fully peed during sex once. I didn’t know I was so relaxed? But that was embarrassing.”
Pee girl: “Yeah that’s actually pretty bad.”
My friendship with Pee girl didn’t start because we both had no control of our bodily functions. It started because we talked on the first few days of law school, never turned up, and then watched “copyright university of Auckland” on double speed together.
My poo problem started young. As an angsty teenager. I was lucky enough to be at my High school to have a semi-working mental health system, and spent three years in and out of counselling. I felt a lot, had a lot of hormones coursing through my body, and had unhealthy coping mechanisms. Classic maccas combo deal of depression and anxiety. Mental illness, panic attacks and anxiety can be so in your head (which doesn’t make it any less real) and also manifest in the physical body. It turns out constantly having adrenaline and heart palpitations constantly running through can fuck up other parts of your body!!
For me, it meant I’d get insane stomach aches. For no apparent reason it would wake me up in the middle of sleep or zip me out of class to sit on the loo. I stopped going to the sick bay, because they’d just give me Panadol and send me back to class.
And I get it. It probably seemed like I was using a piss poor excuse to ditch class. My attendance was piss poor because of these issues. I have Asian parents who believe in hot and cold qi, herbal medicine and tea. They attributed my stomach pains to eating too much junk food and tv watching. I wasn’t comfortable telling my parents about my struggle with mental health as they weren’t equipped with the skills to understand.
It wasn’t taken seriously until after I’d gone through a really dark anxious episode to which the after effects included the god damn world’s worst stomach pain in the world. But I’d still take the physical pain over being in such a dark head space again. At least it felt real. I ended up in starship, spent the night, got all the checks… which showed nothing? I got referred to my GP.
At this point, their theory was that I had something with my bowels. That I was super constipated and filled with poop. But when they x-ray my stomach, there was nothing. Okay not nothing, but it was all gas. Air. Completely bloated.
Ya girl just needed a really good fart. Imagine the look on everyone’s faces. But it wasn’t just have a pro-biotic yoghurt bloated, but damn girl you got a balloon baby bloated and it’s going to kick every other time you freak out.
Swinging between constipated and diarrhoea was also not normal for the human body, I just dealt with it for so long it felt normal. I was diagnosed with IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, which is extremely common with women and highly prevalent in sufferers of anxiety and depression. It frustrated me to know that there is no cure. All I could do was try heal my gut. I got put on colofac, these white pills which I never knew were placebo or actually worked. But I’d take them after each meal. I was put on a low fodmap diet which felt like everything was a no but chicken and water.…Anything could set me off. Brussel sprouts, milk, apples, the lunar cycle.
I really struggled with this diet.
After a few more trial and error messy incidences, I’d narrowed down my intolerances a year after. Garlic at the top, which I have still a huge amount of food trauma with as it reminds me of pain anytime I smell it. My mother is also allergic to silver, so we have a vampire and werewolf in the family. Next were onions, artificial sugar, popcorn. Hare krishna restaurants became my best friend.
And 4 years on it’s gotten better. I’ll eat things I shouldn’t and just deal with the consequences later. I still get stressed like any Uni student, peppermint tea is my holy water, my IBS is constant, it has good days and it has days like today where I literally had the runs in kate edgar toilet before writing this piece. Probably the garlic in the Ramen. Whoops. But that’s all in the day’s work of managing mental and physical health.