by Guest Writer
There are a handful of aspects of PTSD that are rarely if ever, discussed. Though it is not a symptom that everyone in the PTSD community faces, arguably, one of the biggest can be our inability to maintain bladder control.
I am a combat veteran, a seasoned EMT, and most importantly; I am a survivor.
I remember losing control of my bladder during a horrific nightmare about a year ago. I had a girlfriend at the time, her little girl who often joined us under the cover of night, and a puppy that slept at the end of the bed. I shot up from that nightmare similar to the others that I had suffered from, but never having the feeling and emotion that I did sitting up, realizing what had just happened.
In fact, I don’t believe that there was ever a time where I wished that I had not returned from the Middle East, more than in that moment. There was so much emotion and fear from my night terrors that it was hard to imagine how it could be any worse; and yet in that instant, this new reality made it far worse.
That’s when my girlfriend woke up, the bed wet with urine, and an impending PTSD “moment” that I was not wanting to address at 3am. I did the first thing I could think of. I blamed the dog. I had never felt more shallow than I had right there. But it had to happen a few more times, before I accepted the realization that I had a problem, and that it was not the dog, who no longer was allowed on the bed.
I didn’t know how to deal with it. This was not something that you talk about, even with your loved ones. So as with many of my other PTSD symptoms through the years, I bottled it up and withdrew, just hoping that it wouldn’t happen again.
This was not only ineffective, but damaging to the progress that I had made in my treatment. I began to rationalize it so I could have a better understanding as to why this was happening. Think about your trauma and the effects it has on your body. Those symptoms of fear that we experience are very much a part of the sympathetic response, better known as fight or flight. One of the symptoms of a sympathetic response is the release of urine.
So…what’s this mean? It means that your body is doing exactly what it is suppose to do, and that is a good thing. As with other avenues of treatment, the incontinence is not the issue, its what is causing it.
Talk with your doctor. While it is your discretion as to whether you want to discuss this with others, a doctor can help you work out your fears and hopefully mitigate those fears and nightmares that cause the sympathetic response.
You can help yourself by using those grounding techniques that you have learned in other situations. The soft music, activities that calm the nerves, meditation, yoga, exercise, and breathing techniques can all help in calming those brain waves that cause the problem in the first place.
In my case; I had to stop blaming the dog, or anyone else for that matter. This is not something that gets assigned blame. That kind of behavior and rationale is what prevents it from getting better. As with so many problems, knowing there is one is the first step.
Tell your loved ones; especially those you share a sleeping space with. Chances are good that we have this built up in our heads to be a major meltdown scene, but it is more than likely going to help you cope and eliminate the fear of doing it. In fact, the fear of incontinence and getting caught often contributed to the accident.
You are not alone and this is an issue that is common. You are a survivor, a warrior, and symbol of strength. You will continue to be, even after this. Reach out. There are many people in PTSD awareness groups that will listen. Utilize your resources and carry on! We are stronger than we give ourselves credit for.