I’m 46, and I Still Bed-Wet. By Yoginder Sikand


I’m 46, and I still bed-wet. ‘Hawww!” I can hear you gasp in horror! But, please tell me (for I’d really like to know), what’s so ‘hawww!’ about this? After all, I don’t say ‘hawww!’ at the many things you may do in your bed, do I?
So, to come back to what I was saying before you interrupted me, I’m 46 and I still bed-wet. Not every night, though—it’s come down now to perhaps once a year or so. But even now, if I spend the night in someone else’s house, I’m careful not to drink too much water before I go to bed—just in case, you know. Sometimes, especially on a cold wintry night, I sleep in two pairs of pants so that I don’t stain my bed just in case I lose control. I’m petrified, you see, that someone might discover that, at 46, I still occasionally bed-wet!
I know it isn’t considered at all ‘normal’ to bed-wet any time after infancy. And so, I know that you may think me to be hopelessly ‘abnormal’. Some of you might even tell me that I ought to be thoroughly ashamed of myself!
Yes, that’s precisely how I used to feel—thoroughly ashamed of myself—when I came to an age when I was told that it was really ‘hawww!’ to bed-wet any more. But, what could I do? Despite knowing it was ‘hawww!’, I just couldn’t help it. Each time I wet my bed, I began to fear myself even more, till I was finally diagnosed, many years later, with OCD.
My father’s brother and his family also lived in Calcutta in those days—that’s where I was born. Sometimes, we’d be sent to their place for the weekend. Only I know how terrifying this was for me—the fear that I would wet my bed and my cousins would get wind of it. What face would I show them then? Wouldn’t they think that I was weird? Sick in the mind? Utterly ‘abnormal’? I felt like a miserable criminal, for I was led to believe that bed-wetting was nothing less than a heinous crime, that it was really and terribly ‘hawww!’
I haven’t read up much on the psychology of bed-wetting adults, but I have an understanding of what some of the psychological roots of my predicament are. My bed-wetting has probably much to do with the enormous, bundled-up fears that I lived with for many years, whose roots go back to my childhood. Wetting my bed is perhaps a way of symbolically letting go of, and gaining release and relief from, the bottled-up tensions engendered by these fears. Maybe it is is also a way of expressing a subconscious desire to go back to my infancy, to the stage before all those fears I have lived with began.
For almost as long as I can remember, I have lived in pervasive fear—fear of other people ‘stronger’ and more pushy than me, and fear of myself, too. At home, I lived in terrifying fear, and it was the same at school. Branded as a ‘pansy’ and a ‘sissy’, I was petrified of the toughies in my class. I was possibly in just the first standard when I began being taunted for being ‘effeminate’. That’s one major reason that I began detesting school. How I hated it when the boys laughed at me, roughed me up in the loo and mocked me for walking ‘like a girl’!
Things weren’t very different at home. I won’t go into that here, though. What’s the use of ruffling feathers now, four decades later, especially if it’s not going to change things and might only make things more acrimonious? The past is gone, and raking it up now serves no useful purpose. Maybe it was all the will of God or the result of my past karmas, no? Maybe it was all for the good in the ultimate analysis? And so, maybe I really shouldn’t blame anyone—my parents and my siblings—for what I went through as a child. But suffice it to say here that the atmosphere in the house, as at school, was such that my fears and insecurities were only further compounded, until they turned into a full-blown obsession. And so, when I was not yet in my teens I began contemplating suicide! I still clearly remember, as if it was just yesterday, reading the following Aztec (or was it Inca?) couplet:
Where would we go to seek death?
For that desire, our hearts bleed!
The fear of people who bossed me around and treated me like dirt and didn’t care a whit for my feelings, the fear of being punished and beaten and taunted by people more powerful, pushy and ‘manly’ than me, the fear of being mocked at for being ‘abnormal’, for not being a ‘real boy’, for being a ‘miserable sissy’, the fear of being taunted for being a ‘pansy’, for walking and talking ‘like a girl’ and for playing with dolls, rather than with guns and soldiers and forts—these were some of the fears I grew up with. As I passed from childhood into adolescence, these fears got only worse. To them were added many new terrors. And so, even though I had well past the age when most children grow out of the habit, I continued to bed-wet. And this made me even more fear-ridden.
I was simply too scared to speak to anyone about my bed-wetting, too ashamed of myself to turn to someone for help. They’d probably say ‘hawww!’ if I told them about it, just as you might—and would that at all help? And so, I kept it a very closely-guarded secret—and that’s how it has remained until now.
I’m sure you, too, have many secrets that you wouldn’t dare share with anyone, not even with the person you think you are closest to—secrets you’d rather die to safely hidden than let anyone in on. And, as with me, guarding them causes you much anguish. ‘What if someone comes to know? What would they think of me then? The very favourable impression that I’ve worked so hard to create would be torn to shreds in a second! They’d think I am really awful if they came to know,’ you fear! And so, you carry around an enormous burden of fear till the day you drop dead, building up mountains of lies to conceal your secrets from others. Sometimes, especially if you are the sensitive sort, the fear and guilt that go with this pretence can play complete havoc with your life. What an awful way to spend this one precious life that we’ve been given!
But do you know what? Despite all the many desperate efforts we may make to hide our most carefully-guarded secrets, there is Someone who knows them all. And not just that, God knows our secrets better than we know them ourselves! Why, then, ruin your life (as I did with much of my own), torn by the fear of what people might say if they come to know our reality, when the only one we ought to fear One knows everything about us already?
If God loves me despite my bed-wetting at 46, what need do I have to fear the hawwws! of people if they come to know?

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