So here’s what happened…
Every once in a while, I would have to pee so badly that I totally wet my pants. Gross. But, hey, who doesn’t misjudge that every once in a while, right? And then sometimes when I’d cough, I’d shoot a little pee into my britches. Dang it, I must be really sick. And then, I started a new thing where I was leaking a few drops of pee right after I’d just finished peeing. Wait a minute. Wait just one fucking minute. That’s a lot of pants wetting. Holy shit, I’m incontinent at 40.
Oh, hell no.
I panicked for a minute. Then I did nothing. I went to bed. I breathed. I cried a little, and I let that be okay. I napped.
When I was finished doing nothing, I started gathering information. My herbal mentor Susun Weed has a new book, “Down There: Sexual and Reproductive Health the Wise Woman Way.” I have all her other books (autographed of course, thankyouverymuch), but I hadn’t bought this one yet. Pissing myself was a clear indication that I needed help “down there.” I ordered the book. I looked up some basic information on incontinence and bladder problems.
Gathering information also meant examining my lifestyle. Here’s what it boiled down to, kids:
I began every day with 4-5 cups of strong coffee on an empty stomach. Of course I never ate breakfast, because for some reason (sarcasm!) I wasn’t hungry. When I finally ate something, even though it might be nutritious, I’d have to wash it down with tea or diet soda. And then have lots more tea and/or diet soda throughout the afternoon. By late afternoon, I was always tired and wired. Clearly I needed a glass of wine. Of course, what started out as a glass or two a night quickly escalated into an entire bottle. Every night. After which I would pass out until 2 or 3 am. At which time I would wake up SO thirsty and have to go make myself a glass of ice water.
Every day. And every night. I don’t have to be a doctor to understand how unhealthy this is. The Herban Cowboy, bless his heart, kept trying to find a reason for my incontinence besides me.
“I’ve heard that it can be triggered by a virus!”
“Seriously dude? You think it’s a virus instead of the copious amounts of kidney poison I ingest on a daily basis?”
So now I was a little better organized, mentally. I knew what I needed to stop putting into my body, and I knew what I needed to give my body to nourish it. Now it was time to put it into practice.
At the beginning of October, I stopped drinking wine, coffee, soda, and tea. Instead I drank strong herbal infusions of nettle, linden, and comfrey leaf. I’d gotten into terrible habits of buying pre-packaged convenience food, fast food or other restaurant food. So I stopped eating at restaurants, and made food at home, eliminated snack food, and stopped eating after 9pm. I also started doing pelvic clenches (kegels) several times a day to strengthen my pelvic floor muscles.
Yay for me! Oh wait no. First there was withdrawal. Horrible, horrible withdrawal. Keep in mind, I have been a hardcore caffeine addict since 1987. Mountain Dew was my gateway drug, that evil temptress, and I have been chasing buzzes ever since. So this was a BIG DEAL. I tried to taper off gradually, but I still got slammed by headaches that seemed to SOAK my brain in pain. For days. Extreme fatigue, confusion, cloudy thoughts, nausea, shaking, sweating, anxiety, and never-before-seen levels of irritability. The only thing that kept me from backsliding was knowing that it would only be a matter of time before I’d have to face this AGAIN. No thank you. As Winston Churchill once said, “When you’re going through hell, KEEP GOING.”
I worked through a lot of feelings. Anger at myself for allowing my health to deteriorate to this level. Shame at being caught in a preventable state of health. Humiliated at having to face myself. Grief at having to stop a lifestyle that felt so GOOD. Jealous because others get to enjoy things that I have to STOP enjoying. Facing selfish feelings of “It’s not fair!” Wanting to scream and cry and hit things.
I didn’t feel “right” again for almost two weeks. I thought I’d never make it. But I did. I have the Herban Cowboy to thank for most of it. He made me my “witch’s brew” herbal infusions every night. He did mountains of dishes and took out loads of trash. He did laundry and made dinners and played with Little Boy.
Since the withdrawal has ended, I’ve found it easier to cope with the loss of habits that were destructive, but nevertheless I enjoyed immensely. And even though it’s only been a month, I’m already starting to see HUGE differences. I’m sleeping better than I have in years. The pants wetting incidents have stopped altogether. My family is eating better foods, and we’re eating more meals together. We are saving incredible amounts of money on NOT buying wine, coffee, soda, tea, and restaurant food. And I no longer have to take ibuprofen daily for lower back pain.
I still have a long way to go in building optimal health. I have to make my new habits as hard to break as my old habits. I have to get more exercise, even though I bike and walk everywhere. I have to wait for my goldenrod tincture (5 weeks until I can strain and use it) to support urinary health. And I have to be patient with myself, and remember that healing is an action verb.