Shame

This article has been reprinted with permission on We Are Like Your Child.

I want to test a theory. The theory of shame going away when it’s out in the open.

I seem to have this thing. Which could or might possibly be related to decreased pain sensitivity. Or maybe executive function.

I don’t feel my bladder getting full. Usually the first signal that really gets me to pay attention is “bladder completely full cannot hold it need to find toilet within next 30 seconds!” Mad scramble for toilet ensues.

That or peeing myself.

© Bartlomiej Zyczynski – Fotolia.com

I’m 36 years old. I’m a pretty successful career woman (I can still bluff my way around the gaps in my resume). I have bought a house on my own (mortgaged of course, but still). I have a small but close circle of friends. I’m close with my family. I’m highly verbal. If I wanted, I could easily be seen as a shiny Aspie.

And the last time I peed myself in public was 6 weeks ago. And I don’t mean a few dribbles. I don’t mean “bit of incontinence, here’s some Depends”. I mean not being able to stop until my bladder is empty. Thank god this time the train platform was fairly dark and I was wearing a skirt so only my shoes got soaked. Made a nice squishy sound when I walked away from the puddle in the hopes that nobody would see.

Have I forgiven myself for not being able to feel my bladder until it’s bursting? Oh, years and years ago. It’s just a thing that happens. I can’t do anything about it except frequent toilet breaks even when I don’t feel like I have to go, and sometimes I simply forget to do that. It’s part of being me.

Do I still feel absolutely mortified when I pee myself in public? Does telling this story make me cringe? Did anyone here reading that story feel embarrassment on my behalf? Or even disgust?… Yeah, thought so.

But I’m glad you listened.

Edited to add some background:
When I wrote this, I was incredibly angry. Angry at the idea that shame was just some silly notion that would disappear as soon as it got examined. So I wanted to prove that there were some things that would not be less shameful when brought out in the open, because it wasn’t irrational to feel ashamed of them. That it was actually
normal to feel ashamed for wetting myself as an adult.

But now I feel pride. Pride that I had the courage to come out and admit that there are some things that will always be a problem for me. Pride that I was asked to publish my story on We Are Like Your Child, which is a blog full of articles by bloggers I very much admire. And pride that maybe, just maybe, someone else out there will read this and find some consolation and courage in here too. Bless you all. Wetters and non-wetters alike.

Guess that means I'm doomed ;-)

Guess that means I’m doomed *giggles*

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24 thoughts on “Shame

  1. “Did anyone here reading that story feel embarrassment on my behalf? Or even disgust?… Yeah, thought so.”
    No. I don’t feel that way. There is a difference between accidents and lewd behavior (a guy relieving himself in public).
    🙂

    • I do need to say this though. It’s not an accident. It’s me failing to compensate for a disability I am well aware of, which is my tendency to not notice I need to go to the toilet. Which is ok when it happens inside my own house since I’m the only one having to deal with it. I don’t mind changing my sheets in the middle of the night. It’s happened before, it will happen again. It’s not an accident, it’s me forgetting I need to take my disability in that area into account. It’s me mistakenly assuming I can do things without consciously thinking about them like so many other people do. I need to spend precious processing power on things that are completely autonomous and automatic background processes for others. That’s not an accident. It’s part of who I am.

  2. No, no disgust, no embarrassment on your behalf. Just compassion for the distress you relate, high regard for your courage and honesty, and sincere regret at the damn awkwardness of our bodies – especially when it occurs in full view of others whom we suspect will judge us.
    Instead of your pee my nose can bleed without warning – all over my clothes, my dinner plate at a restaurant, other people’s carpets, my desk at work. More socially acceptable, I hear you say? Maybe, maybe not. Some people fear blood, some faint at the sight of it. Lots of people want to help when there is nothing they can do (that’s when I feel most shame, when I start to get impatient with them for not going away).
    But pee/blood/other body fluids/unusual & unpredictable noises/movements – it doesn’t matter what the issue is, it’s the context we see it in and how we place responsibility on ourselves for something when there is no justification for it.

    I think society uses shame to try and control our behaviour so we try to conform and reduce conflict/whatever. But when our minds/bodies prefer to do their own thing (through genetics/illness/disability/etc) we often take on “the shame that gets placed on those who could/should/would normally be able to control their actions” and make it our own. It’s fine at home, but hard to avoid in those public places. The only way is to lift one’s head, and don’t try to hide if it is really obvious, but ask for help while treating it as a shared problem. There will always be many people who live to judge, but others are kind enough to want to help. They can be the nuggets of gold you and I get to discover through our difficulties.

    I find that once you start talking about shame (with selected others) you find it’s very common, and often we don’t see why others should feel the shame they do, nor do they see a reason for ours.
    Thanks so much for sharing this, you have given me much to think about.
    Take care and continue to be brave!

  3. Yesterday when I drove to a work-suburb where I was to do a lot of walking around listing stuff, I felt I needed to pee badly but the place was far out in the countryside and I didn’t pass a conveniently located McDonalds or something like that and I wanted to get the listing done ASAP, so I postponed it. Four hours and two suburbs later, I had to redo half of a listing because I had made a mistake (1 mistake = it stuffs up all the following entries. And I am writing directly on the original, copies are not allowed, so not good). I also made several driving mistakes, it was almost as if I was a bit drunk. I felt confused and “out of place”, and very tired. I hadn’t done THAT much work, so I didn’t understand it. Then: “Oh, didn’t I need to pee at some stage? Aw damn, that actually hurts quite a lot!” I wasn’t feeling good at all. Sure enough, it helped to get that issue sorted.

  4. I too have that at times. There are other bodily cues (being hungry, thirsty, tired, hurt, etc) that I also struggle to notice every day. Thank you for being so open and honest! It is something that you should certainly not have to live in shame of!

  5. For what it’s worth, it didn’t occur to me that I might be embarrassed for you until you said that, and at that point it wasn’t a reaction on my part, it was more like, “Oh I’m suppose to be embarrassed? Crap. I totally missed that. But if I’m supposed to be embarrassed, uh, I’ll try.”

    I admit this isn’t a problem for me, but I totally get the start of what is emotionally attached I think. While I rarely pee myself in public, I definitely have huge issues knowing that I have to pee (or, um, other things) until it is “omg now! Now! Now” time. It’s even similar for hunger and thirst.

    And really, this might sound dumb, but good for you for just putting it out there. Shame is my go-to emotion and has been since I was a kid. Even if I can forgive myself for something I’m ashamed of, I don’t know that I could stand up and say it like this, and I really admire that you’ve done something I imagine would have been as scary as me airing some of my own stuff.

  6. Yes, it’s scary.

    I’m not going to unpublish this post, even though it’s been tempting to do so. To erase this.

    As I saw the number of views in my blog stats go up, but no responses.

    It’s scary.

    So scary that I haven’t responded to you all individually, as I usually do. I finally told myself to stop hiding and respond, because I wanted comments. I want this out there, getting responses. They might be good responses or bad responses but I have no control over that.

    I don’t have a way to make people respond. Even if it means people are reading this and not responding. That is also good.

    But scary.

    Thank you, you who share your own stories, you who write supportive words. Words mean a lot. Thank you.

  7. I’m proud of you for posting this; it makes me think of things that I have let cause those feelings in my own life. I think sharing the truth of our lives is a very powerful thing, and I hope that you will not let yourself feel shamed for something like this. I think a moment of embarrassment is a normal response, just enough to think, “Oops! I need to put peeing on my schedule!” or something like that. But no shame.

  8. Actually, due to the personal nature of this post I should probably double-check first. Would you mind if I linked to this post in my own post on shame (assuming I don’t chicken out of writing said post)?

  9. Pingback: Just Another Post About Shame | Feminist Aspie

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  11. I’m glad you had the courage to post this. My son has this issue as well. It was actually the day, when he was 6.5 yrs old, that I was cleaning him up from his third bathroom miss of the day and he started talking to me about whether the universe could have a middle because it goes on forever that I realized he is an Aspie. It is good to hear from an adult why this happens and that it may be something he will always be dealing with. As an NT parent of and Aspie I am infinitely grateful for adults on the spectrum like yourself who are helping me to be a better parent. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • It’s a possible explanation but everyone’s different! For some people, not going to the toilet might also be a way to try and impose control over their bodies, because simply accepting that bodily functions *happen* is a scary thought. I’m glad that you’re looking for information to help your son and listening to those of us who’ve had similar problems! That makes you an excellent parent in my book. It does get better, by the way, like how I learned not to wet my bed by training myself to wake up whenever I started dreaming of going to the toilet, and teaching myself a standard routine of going to the toilet every few hours during the day to make sure my bladder wasn’t full. It just took me a bit longer than other kids. 😉

  12. I know how hard it can be to open up about things that cause us shame: I’m proud of you for raising awareness of something that few people would have the courage to admit. 😀

    I agree that “coming out” about certain things does not magically make the shame go away. But I do think that opening up the subject to discussion can help (some) people understand, and when people understand they are less likely to react automatically with disgust or the fear born of ignorance. But I also think that some things are very unlikely to ever be generally seen as acceptable behavior.

    I’m not very well-attuned to bladder pressure either: I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been sitting at my desk or reading and only noticed that I’m uncomfortable (or even in pain) when I get interrupted. It’s rare that I have accidents that are noticeable to others — it is just dribbles. Although I expect that will change as I age and bits start to wear out.

    • Oh god. The moment at work where I realise that if I try to get up, I will lose all bladder control. I’ve told coworkers on several occasions to go ahead, I’m just finishing up some work so won’t be leaving yet. Just so I could limp-rush to the bathroom the moment they were gone.

      Thank you for bringing back that memory, lol. But all kidding aside, thank you for your comment. It means a lot to me that people are proud of me for raising this subject.

  13. Pingback: Why Feel Ashamed? | Married, With Aspergers

  14. I thank you for sharing story. I do not have exact problem. Instead I awaken during night having brain tell me I am hungry. I start to grab anything I can tiredly grab to eat. Suddenly I feel the pee strengthen and realize “it happened again.” Amongst other Auspie issues , the bowels just seem in issue. Suddenly, at the shopping mall, The other day, shot a dirty mess in my pants that I had to deal with. Obviously frontal lobe issues cause many greater problems. I am 48 and have gone threw the whole shame thing, along with anxiety and depression. I yell at my wife and teens that “I am sorry I am such a loser!!!”. Instead it comes across as a scary play for attention. Dude, it is a problem, if it were not for the way it is unexpected, it would be so much easier to deal with. I suggest doing all you can to manage it (spare clothes, look for bathroom locations when you go anywhere new), all a pain…but do not attach shame. At least you know a problem you can embrace! Good luck!!

    • Thank you for sharing your story as well, it helps not to feel so alone with this. The unexpectedness and the lack of control are definitely making it harder to deal with. And in a society that even condemns people for simply smelling of themselves (I hate the word “BO”, the implications that the word is such a dirty word that you need an acronym to refer to it, instead of saying it fully) – in such a society, smelling of piss or shit is even worse. All we can do is hold our heads up high and refuse to feel like losers simply because our bodies have a different way of operating. I agree with you that knowing the problem helps to embrace ourselves and our perfectly imperfect humanity.

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