Wakin' up in the morning, thinkin’ about so many things…
I begged my brain to let it be a dream. Trying to figure a way through the damp feeling of incessant mortification that loomed ahead of me, and now trickled down my legs. Though it was impossible. I had made my puddle and now I had to play in it.
Ever since I can remember myself, I’ve had the pelvic floor muscles similar to those of my grandma. Triggered by excessive laughter as a young girl, I would always find myself with urine coursing down my lower limbs no matter where I was situated and with the inability to make it stop. School being a prominent one, if a friend or classmate ever made me laugh uncontrollably, it would result in a wet patch on my shorts and that dreaded phone call to my mum. Asking her to bring me spare underwear while I took a trip to the office to rummage through the spare uniform box filled with moist bucket hats and polos that reeked of old sunscreen and sweat. School, parties, supermarkets, friends houses, you name it, I've peed there. It wasn't as if I couldn't control my bladder at all, it functioned normally at other times. But when it came to the giggles, it was out of my jurisdiction.
It was embarrassing for the most part. I remember one time in grade 6 wetting myself during our school concert practice. I stood with sticky inner thighs in my soaked trackies for the next hour before the bell rang too anxious to ask to be excused in case they asked why and heads would turn. I can still feel the immense mortification gushing through my body as I scanned everyones faces to see if they had noticed. I don't think they did, luckily, but I do wonder if they smelt it. From choir practice to lunch time shenanigans, my 12th birthday party and more, the issue seemed to never cease. I was pee girl.
Despite my colossal discomfiture, it created a humorous compatibility test for friends that came in and out of my life growing up. Could they handle my weak bladder? Would their mums help mop up the puddles I left on their bedroom floor or was I the weird disgustful friend they were told not to invite over? Lucky for me, I only had positive experiences with my friends. They quickly became aware of my issue after a few accidents and it eventually became a part of my magnetism. If an incident happened around others at school, my friends would escort me to the bathroom with a jumper around my bum, ushering any curious toms away. Although the profuse sense of dread every time I felt some wetness escape never fully went away, I tried to own it. I was Grace, the girl that peed when she laughed, and I never let it bother me too forcefully. My mum told me she had the same issue as a young girl, and when my sister reached a certain age she too joined the club. I was comforted knowing I was not alone in this embarrassment and that it was marginally normal for girls my age to have this problem. I believed it was something I would grow out of when my pelvic muscles strengthened with age.
But alas, it followed me to high school, where the embarrassment surged. I was a pre teen/teen now, how was I supposed to explain my feeble bladder problem to budding new friends? It was hell. I began bringing 10 extra pairs of underwear to sleepovers (I still do this) Or sometimes I’d wear maxi pads on days I pre-empted a giggle fit. I did manage to gain more control over my bladder than earlier years, but I found myself in much more embarrassing situations when it did happen.
Every year at our school’s annual saint day celebration, I whizzed myself on the carnival rides. I mean, like, EVERY year. From year 7 to year 12. This was one of those particular days I usually wore a maxi pad. On wet rainy days, I had a fool proof plan of action if I happened to accidentally leak through my uniform. I’d run to the toilets before class, fill the sink with a small amount of water, propping my backside up into the bowl and sit my bum inside it. I’d then rush into class late, exclaiming to my friends comically and with confidence “Guyyyyyys! I slipped in a PUDDLE!” pointing to my dampened buttocks. They would laugh and roll their eyes. Genius. It worked every time.
As I stated above, I survived ok. I had beautiful friends that would run to my aid and laugh it off with me whenever there was an episode. Even some that had the same issue as me. Actually, many. It was more popular for me to meet girls that shared my bladder weakness as a teen than it was as a young girl. Which was all the more comforting for all of us. Turns out, its a real disorder, and it has a name. Its called ‘Giggle Incontinence’, look it up. I promise its real.
Now I wish this story could end here. That I didn't have to tell this next part. The part where I was met with my liquid foe in a situation that truly trumped all others. But here it is.
It was a Wednesday night, 7pm I’ll say. My year 10 drama class were presenting our end of term performances we had put together in groups. My group was on second. We were prepared, ready, feeling confident. We’d had fun putting it together. The group of us were not particularly friends outside of class but had a comedic dynamic on stage and we were excited to translate it to the audience filled with our parents & friends. My mum and dad were there, 2nd row, their eager faces stuck out at me from a swarm of around 40 people packed into our old dingy drama room. It’s important to note that I did drink almost an entire 750ML bottle of water before I went on stage. I was nervous and dehydrated. So whatever happens next, know it wasn't purely due my incontinence issue.
We marched ourselves up and began performing. Its all quite a blur from thenceforth to be quite honest. My classmate and I stood left to the front of the heightened stage, where my drama teachers nimble head sat behind a desk looking upwards towards us from about a metre and a half distance away. I don't exactly remember what the dialogue or scene was -I had detached myself from my physical being the minute I preempted what was about to happen- but my classmate ultimately made me laugh, and the flood gates opened. I mean, they SWUNG open. The insurgence of urine that had been waiting behind said gates from the water I drank minutes prior was forced out all at once. I was in hysterics. If you happen to deal with urine incontinence, then you'll know what its like. Its inescapable. The more you laugh, the more you pee. And the more you pee, the more you laugh. My body swarmed with embarrassment and disbelief. The urine streamed down my theatre blacks and onto the stage floor. I couldn't stop it. It was puddling. I begged my brain to let it be a dream. I looked out at the sea of shadows ahead. My parents faces in complete shock with what I swear was a hint of horrification. My drama teacher was tomato red with laughter while bewildered tears rolled down his cheeks. Sweat pooled beneath my arm pits and a sick feeling arranged itself in my stomach. Pure self revulsion began to make its way into my frontal lobe as my soul exited my body mercilessly. I had to address it. I couldn't just keep going in silence. I looked out at the crowd, and then down at the puddle beneath me.
“Uhhm… I just peed myself.” I said, red faced and sheepish. “Yeah. Uhm, I’m so sorry. I just wet myself on stage.”
I do not remember hearing a thing. The embarrassment was deafening. I looked towards the back of the room where my friends stood, laughing while trying to communicate their best sympathetic looks. My friend ran up and ushered me off stage. I ran through the centre aisle and straight into the bathroom next door. My brain ran a muck. OH. MY. GOD. The ENTIRE school is going to hear about this tomorrow. Think of the boys reaction! Think of the girls! This is LIFE ENDING. This is how I GO OUT. This is nightmare fuel. My brain goes dark here. Literally.
This was a good 6 years ago now, so I really don't remember much of the details. I changed my pants, debriefed with my friends, had a cry, refused to go back in though was pep talked and encouraged to eventually return myself to the scene of the crime. Despite my stupendous shame and chagrin, I decided to approach the situation with confidence and humour. It seemed as though that was the general consensus on the matter with the rest of the room as well. One of my friends had mopped up the mess I had left and the last group was able to perform without the fear of slipping in secretion. As the night wrapped up and the lights were switched back on, I met with fellow onlookers including friends and other classmates. They assured me it was incredibly humorous and nothing to sweat about. Which felt like a lie. My parents laughed at me, this was nothing new to them, but I could tell they shared a bit of my embarrassment. A year 12 girl found me and told me that it it would go down as one of the “greatest moments to happen in our schools drama department.” and “Seriously, don't be embarrassed! It was just so funny!” which was a little comfort to me, who was still plotting how to convince my dad to let me transfer schools.
It turned out, none of my fears came true. No one approached me the next day at school asking about it. No one yelled “pee girl!” off the top balcony while I was walking to class. My pleas to classmates and bystanders to keep it relatively under wraps had been heard. I think we ended up getting a B for our cut short performance. After a night of no sleep and a few weeks to digest the incident I decided it again was something I needed to own.
There is no real moral of the story or climactic character redemption here. No ending monologue where I get back up onto the stage and finish what I started after my great dismay. Just me and my silly little bladder. But perhaps I will use this conclusion to tell you to own your embarrassing stories. Love your little mistakes. Unlock them from the cellar deep in your brain and let them breathe. I am 22 now and I still wet myself when I laugh a little too hard. I still pack an extra 10 pairs of underwear no matter where I go. I’m still put in embarrassing situations and still find myself red faced even when I’m sat in a pool of my urine in front of my own boyfriend. But I let myself laugh, and I let myself breathe. Because really, what else can I do? If I cant laugh at myself, who will mop up my puddles?