I need your help. I am a bedwetter. I am 13 and I don’t know what do to or who to go to, or why I keep doing this. I hate myself, I wish I could change.
I wish I could talk to someone about this, but I’m scared. Like maybe talk to my dad, but I don’t even know my dad ‘cause he left us when I was little, and I think he hates me because whenever I call him he doesn’t want to talk to me. He never even remembers my birthday.
…I just wanted to tell someone who could help me, I’m so embarrassed. Please don’t use my name. What should I do? Please answer my email if you have some time.
This isn’t my normal column topic, but your letter struck a nerve. But before I say anything else, listen to me:
Relax. Breathe, my friend. Eat something manufactured by Little Debbie. Draw a warm bath. Watch episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show.” Or at the very least, “Monk.”
Peeing the bed is not a huge problem. Granted, I’m no doctor, and my advice isn’t worth much. It’s probably a good idea to get checked out, just to be safe.
Still, I believe you will get through this. I swear. And do you want to know why I believe this?
Because you’re talking to a former professional bedwetter.
That’s right. I used to wet the bed. You might think you’re unique, but you’re not the only one in the world with at golfball-sized bladder.
I peed the bed for years. It got to the point where my mother wouldn’t let me drink liquids past lunchtime. “But I’m thirsty, Mama,” I would whine.
To which Mama would reply, “Swallow your own spit, I do enough dirty laundry to cover the needs of Mainland China.”
Does any of this sound familiar?
My bedwetting problem got super bad after my father died by suicide. I was a mess. Every morning I awoke in a puddle.
Eventually, my mother helped cure my bedwetting problem. And believe me, I’m going to tell you how we accomplished this in a second, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The first thing you should know is you’re not a freak. Nighttime accidents are common. Around 20 percent of children pee the bed. Among teenagers, the average is around five percent.
Now, I want to pause here, and talk about this statistic. FIVE PERCENT of the world’s teenagers pee the bed. That’s a lot of pee.
Think about it like this. About 25 percent of the world’s population is teen. So if we do simple math, divide the sum, carry the two, subtract the fiscal gross income of Norway, we get about 2,000,000,000 bedwetting teenagers worldwide.
Two billion teenagers is a lot of folks.
That’s more than the entire population of China. That’s WAY more than the population of the United States. This number is well over twice the population of all Europe. Are you following me here? What I’m saying is that twice the population of Europe, including members of the Vatican City, still wets the bed.
What we’re actually talking about is called “nocturnal enuresis.” Kidneys naturally make more urine at night. And since your bladder is probably still growing, it might not be ready for the pee surplus.
Furthermore, at night, your brain is so deeply asleep that your whole body is numb, so you can’t feel when your body has to “go.” Thus, your body takes care of business.
I slept on rubber sheets for years. My mother took me to doctors because she was worried about my urinary problem. The doctor said it was probably stress.
Which brings up my final point.
Stress. Stress is one of the most common reason for enuresis. You might not THINK you’re stressed, but you probably are. Kids experience stress when life is unpredictable. Moving into a new house, or a new school, or experiencing a divorce, or losing a parent, or whatever.
So anyway, my mother finally cured my problem by setting an alarm clock. For years I slept with an alarm clock beside my bed. The clock went off at 1 a.m. Every night. The rule was whenever the alarm sounded, I got up and went to the bathroom.
I did this for three years. Eventually, I quit wetting the bed. In fact, going to the bathroom at night became such a habit that, to this day, I still wake up around that same time to see a man about a dog.
The main thing here is to realize that you are not weird, my friend. You’re just going through something. You’ve endured a lot in your life, and your body is likely dealing with stress the best way it knows how.
Talk to a doc. Try not to overthink things. You’re going to get past this. I promise. I got through it. So will you. You might not think your father has time for you, but you can rest assured that I do.
Write me any time.
—Your Fellow Bedwetter
Marie - December 11, 2022 7:25 am
Thank you for mentoring this young man in just the right way. My so, now age 41, still occasionally has a problem. Let’s just say you don’t want him falling asleep on your couch or unprotected mattress. Set the clock…..don’t stress.
Maureen La Pierre - December 11, 2022 7:30 am
I will look for you
Hazel - December 11, 2022 8:56 am
Perfect time to read this @2:52 a.m. I had to go pee !
heidi A salmon - December 11, 2022 9:55 am
I took my son to a hypnotist when he was 18 years old and needed to stop before starting Navy boot camp. The pressure was on. The hypnotist asked him a question. “Do you pee all over yourself during the day? His answer was, “No.”
She said, ” Well then your brain already knows how to stop doing this. You just need to tell your brain to stop allowing your body to pee during sleep.
That simple statement helped my son get through and graduate Navy boot camp and go on to a successful career.
George Robert Leach - December 11, 2022 10:05 am
Bet you hear from a lot of people over this. Thank you for being so open and helpful to those who are hurting and need a friend. Your friend, nameless,
Dolores - December 11, 2022 11:41 am
I too was a bed wetter. First of all, no one wants to wet the bed, don’t get offended if folks blame you for being lazy. They are quite simply ignorant.
One older brother threatened to tell my classmates, I was horrified. Sleepovers requests had the adults whispering about my problem.
I’m still a heavy sleeper. To this day folks will say, did you hear the thunder and lightning last night. Most times the answer is no.
We grew up without running water in the home. The outhouse was probably 30-40 yards from the house. Emptying your bladder in the dark and cold was not something to look forward to.
I’ll just say my home life was dysfunctional and we were at poverty level, probably contributing to stress. Back then it wasn’t acknowledged, much less discussed.
I wasn’t allowed drinks after supper. A porcelain potty was there for use before bed religiously. Depending upon your size you might be able to wear adult diapers in the meantime.
Know you will grow out of it. My hope is it will make you a more sympathetic person toward others. Your dad sounds like he’s suffered a lot of hurt too. It’s a shame on all he’s missing. That’s not your fault either. Don’t let your own hurt make you angry or bitter. There are professional folks you can talk to, there’s no shame in that. Godspeed.
Carolyn Kelley - December 11, 2022 11:46 am
You are a wonderful person Sean Dietrich, such compassion.🙂
mccutchen52 - December 11, 2022 11:47 am
Hey Sleepless don’t fret. You are not alone like Sean says. I was a bed wetter when I was your age even younger but it did pass. Now at 70 I am up and down, off and on all night so it will come full circle if that is any help. Things will get better.
Renee Welton - December 11, 2022 11:51 am
Butch - December 11, 2022 12:04 pm
Sound advice. A Pediatric Urologist can evaluate whether there is a medical issue causing this problem and provide reassurance in that regard.There are both safe medical and behavioral options to available to treat nocturnal enuresis, some of which can be used on an as-needed basis. The improvement in the quality of these kids live’s can be immense.
Helena Shirley - December 11, 2022 12:50 pm
Thank you so much for giving this young man hope for a problem. Granted, enuresis is not a life threatening issue; but to those affected, it dominates their lives. My 2 youngest grandsons live with us. I won’t go into the reasons. The youngest, age 10, has this problem. And you are correct, anxiety makes bed wetting worse. But we will get through this.
Nazem - December 11, 2022 1:17 pm
I fully agree with you Sean, my kid suffered for about 14 years of age. Stressful thinking of the issue is a cause! Patience required and stay away from soft drinks and coffee helps a lot.
Kindred Spirit - December 11, 2022 1:36 pm
I remember lining my sleeping bag with trash bags and towels before going to teenage slumber parties. I also took bed-wetting pills, but I think it was time that cured me. We should start a club! I’m sure we’re all empathetic folks. Please know that you are not alone. Love to both of you!
Susie - December 11, 2022 1:58 pm
Sean, you make my heart soar with your kind and helpful letter to this young man. ❤️ Thank you!! I know he will be ok soon.
Nancy - December 11, 2022 2:42 pm
My brother, grandson, and granddaughter were all bed wetters, and ALL grew out of it. I, however, have grown into it. As I age, I find myself having more accidents. I know when it happens to you, it is very embarrassing, but. Sleepless, please know that this isn’t going to last forever and probably not much longer. Look how many people you have loving on you and praying for you. You have Sean to thank for that.
Joy Jacobs - December 11, 2022 2:48 pm
Good advice. My brother wet the bed for years. We finally figured out that if he didn’t have dairy within a few hours, he didn’t wet the bed. Your moms solution was amazing… she’s quite a wonderfully person.. ❤️
Bkr - December 11, 2022 2:49 pm
You are just so darn sweet and thoughtful. Seriously
Mark - December 11, 2022 2:50 pm
I went through it too. I would sleep through the alarm clock at night, plastic sheets, scared of sleepovers, got up and peed in the closest, on the bathroom rug, in the bathtub, I finally grew out of it and so will you kid. Thanks for supporting him Sean.
Lori L - December 11, 2022 3:24 pm
There is a device called “wee alert”. It’s a pad you sleep on that alarms as soon as it gets wet. It cured my son 30 years ago. I think they still make them.
Julie Cotten - December 11, 2022 3:49 pm
Thanks Sean, I wish more kids could hear and believe this. If I was Miss America, this just might be my platform. Love to you.
Lisa Simmons - December 11, 2022 3:59 pm
You’re the best!
Patricia Gibson - December 11, 2022 4:04 pm
God bless you, Sean!
kingswaydaughter - December 11, 2022 4:32 pm
Sean, you are a saint! I was a bedwetter into my elementary years. My mother was understanding….my father was not. I remember being at my grandparents house and my dad announcing out loud to everyone that we had to go to the laundromat because I peed my bed. He would humiliate and traumatize me in front of others all the time. I once peed the bed at a friends house and I never went to a sleep over again even after I was able to stop peeing the bed. But I grew up and later became a compassionate mother to my children and my children’s friends whenever we had a pee incident. So what my father meant for bad became good. P.S. I am now 63 and my father is 87….. he disowned me after my precious mother died at 58 from ALS while he was having an affair. The bad parents in this world does not make the child bad. We rise to be the better human being. Thank you for being a better human being!
Suzanne - December 11, 2022 5:11 pm
Sean, you were very supportive of this beleaguered young man. If his mother has not already taken him to a competent Urologist, she may not have the means to do so. OR, perhaps she is not aware that medical treatment for Adolescent Enuresis is available. If this young fellow attends school in Nashville schools, perhaps he can work up the courage to talk with a School Social Worker about this problem. Medication exists to treat this, but also a ‘treatment plan’ which might include special bedsheets or pads with a moisture alert that can awaken the sleeper when moisture is detected. Counseling for anxiety about the embarrassment the bed wetter suffers can be helpful, too. Turn to a Social Worker to ask for resources in the medical community, and not just wait to “grow out of it”.
Lee Henderson - December 11, 2022 5:19 pm
This boy was me..and I used the clock method as well. I never slept over at anybody’s house. The one time I did , I had gone to a river cabin with a friend for two nights. The second night I peed…..threw up for 2 days. I never heard anybody talk about stress being a key factor until today reading your letter…..my father at the time was drinking heavily and it was not a good time at our household. The young man will be fine.
Stacey Wallace - December 11, 2022 6:43 pm
Sean, I love you. Love also to Jamie and Marigold.
David - December 11, 2022 6:45 pm
Sean, thanks for making a difference in this teenagers life!
Dee Thompson - December 11, 2022 8:56 pm
Sean, you inspired me to write my own column! https://deescribbler.typepad.com/my_weblog/2022/12/labels-for-children.html
sflouden - December 11, 2022 9:53 pm
Sean you are an inspiration to us who read your column. You were a Godsend to this child. How blessed the world is for you to be amongst it’s occupants.
Anne Arthur - December 11, 2022 10:56 pm
We have a grandkid, same story. Thanks for tackling this with so much openness and compassion.
MAM - December 11, 2022 11:05 pm
Sean, you are truly a good man! How wonderful for you to help this young man!
Ann - December 12, 2022 12:34 am
This is not unusual..especially for boys….you covered many reasons, deep sleep is another, but TIME..He will outgrow the problem…he is definitely not alone!
Cordell - December 12, 2022 1:24 am
From another fellow bed wetter all is well and you will overcome this challenge in due time. Love and best wishes for blessings of better days to come.
Mary - December 12, 2022 3:45 am
My daughter had the same problem, years……..ago and her pediatrician put her on a medication that app8was used on older people and it really helped her. Sorry I don’t recall the name of it.
Debbie Schmidt - December 12, 2022 11:34 am
I’m 71 and my father was prone to violent alcoholic rages. My earliest memory of him was seeing him beat my mother and sister until they were both unconscious. I recently made the connection between this and the fact that I stuttered as a child, but it was just now that I made the possible connection of bed wetting and anxiety. Understanding is so helpful, even at my advanced age, Thank you.
Love , prayers and empathy for our friend in Nashville.
Molly - December 12, 2022 3:00 pm
Michael Landon was in a movie pertaining to that. The title was something like Running the Fastest Mile??? His character would run wash sheets each morning before school and then later became the fastest track star. I think it was based on a true story. Great movie but it was long ago.
Pamela Davis - December 12, 2022 4:25 pm
My sister was a bedwetter up into her teens. She would not sleepover at her friends house because she was afraid she would wet their bed. Our dad worked the 4-12 shift and came in at one in the morning. He would always get her up and she would go the bathroom. If she had already wet the bed, he would change her sheets. Sometimes it helped but sometimes she would still wet the bed before morning.
She did grow out of it but it did take into her teens before that happened. You were so right in the advice you gave that young girl. This too will pass!
Donna - December 12, 2022 5:07 pm
Carol - December 12, 2022 6:24 pm
Another Great One, Sean, thanks for allowing me in on the conversation….Bless Your Heart and Soul…and I mean that in the truest sense of the words…
Carla - December 13, 2022 7:05 am
As a mother of three (now adult) boys, I’m deeply touched by your response to this young man. It reminded me of my own response to a friend who criticized one of my sons who, at almost four years old, still wore diapers. She couldn’t believe that I wasn’t upset about my son’s “abnormality on the growth chart and inadequate control of his bladder and/or bowels”. I asked her if she had ever known a 21 year old man, who still wore diapers. I told her that my son would mature in his own time, when he was ready, and that I had no worries or fears—my son was completely normal.
As a community, we have to protect and defend children who may feel they’re unusual or abnormal in some way. Sleepless in Nashville got a lot of reassurance from you, Sean. Thank you.
Ginga Smithfield - December 13, 2022 3:41 pm
Sounds like really good advice!! Way to go, Sean!