Here at Lily Bird, we feature personal stories written by smarty pants women from our community. That’s because telling your bladder who’s boss is better as a team sport. These women get you. They’re in your corner. And they’re here to remind you that your body isn’t broken. Hey, bodies age, bladders leak, and movie sequels bomb. Right?
This week Rebecca’s here to tell us about all the weird places she’s peed during a lifetime of frequent urination issues, stemming from trauma and exacerbated by substance abuse (she’s now sober).
It is a rare occurrence when I don’t have to pee. I’ve never worried about frequent urination as an effect of aging; it’s always been a problem. It started, as far as I know, when I was three. I say as far as I know because I can’t rule out the idea that I’ve carried a full bladder through many lives. It was summer on the shoreline of Connecticut. I was wearing my favorite purple swimsuit and a tutu. A well meaning relative picked me up and lifted me over his head by my privates. In his defense, it was the eighties. I got away by screaming that I had to go to the bathroom. And then I just never stopped having to go.
On stage for nursery school graduation, I lifted my dress, stared out at the audience, and projected my voice into the crowd: “I HAVE TO GO POTTY.” It was an hour’s drive from our house to our beach cottage and we usually stopped at Taco Bell halfway through, but it wasn’t enough. My parents had to put a portable potty in the wood- paneled van. Most summer days you would find me chasing my sister with seaweed on the sand, squatting in the ocean, or hanging my bum off the back of the boat while my Dad drove. He usually didn’t stop. Why bother?
I got away by screaming that I had to go to the bathroom. And then I just never stopped having to go.
When I began comedy, my stepsister sent me a photo of me at 13, my back against a Maine lighthouse, pants pulled down, peeing between Doc Martens (it was the nineties). In the foreground is a tiny version of her, laughing. Now you do stand up, she texted, but see? I was your first fan. My parents getting divorced a few years earlier (not because of my peeing) turned out to be fortuitous because I gained the sweetest sister, my first fan, and today, still my biggest supporter.
At fourteen, my mother (not my biggest supporter) sent me to Outward Bound because she thought it would make me a better person. It didn’t, but what would have made me a happier kid (better person) would have been if she wasn’t always drunk and yelling at me (see: divorce). 28 days canoeing and hiking in Maine. You didn’t want to be in my canoe. We’d be pulling over every twenty minutes if I was having a nervous day, which, out in the middle of nowhere, was often.
Eventually I staged a rebellion when we were portaging and I slipped through some moss covered rocks. I got everyone to agree that we didn’t need the canoes anymore. Our guide was forced to walk miles to the nearest radio tower to walkie talkie back to base camp to accomplish this, and we would end up having to walk through armpit high water more than once in the coming week, but I didn’t care. It made it incredibly easy to pee.
You didn’t want to be in my canoe. We’d be pulling over every twenty minutes if I was having a nervous day, which, out in the middle of nowhere, was often.
At sixteen I had to go so bad on the field hockey bus home from a game that someone gave me their water bottle, which, after I filled, they promptly threw out the window. I got my first car, a mustang, which often had a fast food cup in the holder for when I needed to go on the highway.
I began smoking pot, and drinking, which meant I had to pee even more, but cared much less. I was always a greedy pot smoker; I could house an entire bowl with one flick of a lighter. And my lungs never matched my appetite. This meant I began peeing in my pants – you know, that embarrassment that is supposed to come into your life at menopause. I began carrying extra panties in my bag. On a blunt ride one time I couldn’t wait to get back to my girlfriend’s house to go – and couldn’t shut up about it, either. I do a mean potty dance from the back of a car, like davening. “You aren’t the only person on earth!” sneered the driver. But it’s pretty hard to see past yourself when you’re in a world of urinary pain.
I do a mean potty dance from the back of a car.
Cigarettes never helped. In fact, any stimulant made it worse. But I enjoyed any escape or identification with badness, so I smoked them. When you’re yelled at and told you are bad your whole life you begin to identify with it, to like it, even, and by high school being bad was synonymous with being cool. I didn’t care that coffee and cigarettes and weed and booze and any other drug I could get my hands on made me pee more. They were who I thought I was.
At the age of seventeen, in France for a school trip, outside of the Museé de la Pais, a WW2 memorial, we were on bus working on our own détente. A girl who had been been previously home schooled started pontificating about how much she admired Hitler. I stood up and shouted, “He turnt my ancestors into lampshades!” She calmly replied, “He had unparalleled oratory skills.” “He made human beings into SOAP!” I continued, shaking my fist, a defense which was made less effective by the fact that in my other hand, I held a sloshing Pringles can, full of my own urine.
I’ll never forget the first time I took a dab of weed, because I peed everywhere. Or the time I peed my pants so bad after Fun Fun Fun fest in Austin that I had to go back to the hotel, missing the cocaine guy by minutes. The next day my friends were miserable in bed while I stumbled into a yoga festival, heard a brass band play Wannabe, and rode a mechanical bull. Fun. Fun. Fun.
I’ve found that meditation helps. Yoga helps. Yoni eggs do not help. Avoiding caffeine really helps.
I know what you’re thinking, “Rebecca, why don’t you go to the doctor?” Until now it hasn’t occurred to me. I don’t want to take pills that don’t get me high. That’s creepy. The years I was on cocaine the feeling of having to go never left so I would just sit on the toilet in Miami between lines, waiting.
Now sober, I’ve found that meditation helps. Yoga helps. Yoni eggs do not help. Avoiding caffeine really helps. Anything that lessens my anxiety lessens my need to GO. The more comfortable I am in my own skin, the less my brain tells my body I have to get out of here. But still. I have a terrible Uber rating.
By Rebecca R.
Rebecca R. is a comedian and writer who recently appeared on Viceland. When she’s not on the road, she resides in West Hollywood with her dog.
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