BY: Ayomide Arowobusoye
Every Nigerian has a bedwetting story to share as a kid growing up, either theirs or that of someone they know. From turning the mattress upside down and putting the blame on siblings, to getting scolded by parents, listening to insulting songs and doing the early morning walk of shame down to the bathroom.
Bedwetting (Nocturnal enuresis), the loss of bladder control is a normal developmental stage in children. However, if a person has been wetting the bed since being a child and continues to do so into adulthood, it poses a problem. This condition is called Primary Nocturnal Enuresis. The second type, Adult Onset Secondary Enuresis is when the person stopped wetting the bed as a child and started again later in life.
In a survey of over 50 adults conducted by The News Beam, 45.5% of the respondents stopped wetting the bed between the ages of 3 and 6, while another 45.4% stopped between age 6 to 18. Noticeably, 5.5% of respondents revealed that they stopped wetting the bed between the ages of 18 to 25 and 3.6% of the respondents said they are still bedwetting. Though a relatively low percentage, this ultimately points out to the fact that adult bed wetting isn’t a myth.
Adult bedwetting is a subject that is, however, underreported. Understandably, this is due to shame and embarrassment that might come with such discussion. Shying away, notwithstanding, does not hide the fact that it is present in our society and needs as much awareness at it can get.
Tolu Joseph, a teacher, author and motivational speaker, is one of the few making all the differences by sharing her story and inspiring many, who might not be bold enough, to seek help.
Speaking with The News Beam, Joseph, who is also the Founder/CEO at Peace Enhancement Initiative, disclosed that she has over 20 years of bedwetting experiences. She used to bed-wet till her university days.
“I’ve always wet the bed since I was an infant. As a matter of fact, I grew up to know myself as a perpetual bed-wetter”, she said.
The graduate of University of Lagos also recounted some of her trying experiences.
“I was only always feeling bad about my situation and I and family had always been trying different treatment but I became terribly bothered the moment I got into SS 1 class and the disorder refused to stop. This time, I knew something wrong needs to be right”.
“I was greatly embarrassed than ever before the day I wet the bed in my fiancé’s house. As a matter of fact, that was the most disastrous of all my enuresis session. That night was a night filled with regrets, pains, bitterness and heartbreak. I was dumbfounded and my tears felt hot and tasted bitter”, the founder of Without Blemish added.
Causes of Enuresis
Nigerians easily attribute the causes of uncommon health conditions to terrestrial/supernatural powers and ‘village people’.
However, Dr Tolulope Otuneye, a General Medical practitioner at the National Hospital, Abuja, has described bedwetting among adults to News Agency of Nigeria as a “genetic medical sickness’’.
Corroborating Otuneye’s claim, Joseph said “the fact that my mom also had enuresis history also gave me a push. Many do not know that enuresis can be genetic. And the earlier we know, the better”
According to Otuneye, psychological problems such as stress, fear, anxiety, sleep disturbance, side effects of certain medications, excessive ingestion of alcohol or caffeine content and irritable bladder can cause bedwetting in adults.
Bedwetting might also be a symptom of a much more serious health issue such as diabetes, pelvic organ prolapse, or even bladder or prostate cancer.
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Effects of Enuresis
The effects of this medical condition are numerous. However, its psychological effects are more. For Joseph, it affected her self esteem, social life and romantic relationship.
She said: “I didn’t really know it has psychological effects when I was a child. At least, not until the reproach started getting to my heart. My self esteem began to reduce the day I wet the bed with my roommate in the bed with me. That was during my NCE days at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Lagos. It was from this point I got to know that something is actually wrong somewhere.”
Enuresis has been found to affect the way victims think about themselves. According to Joseph, “bedwetting brings down self-worth and makes the victim lose confidence, especially when it is beginning to last for too long”.
“Also, victims are always bothered about their situation and this often affect their concentration in life.
“Enuresis also create a permanent fear in the heart of victims because they are often afraid of being found out especially when they have to pass nights outside their homes. It becomes difficult for them to travel and stay for days.
They also experience sleepless nights. They stay awake in order to avoid wetting themselves again and this, if not well taken care of may lead to ‘self-induced/induced insomnia.’
All these are what I experienced and it made me understand that the effects of enuresis goes beyond the physical reproach of carrying wet bed/mats all around and washing of messed-up clothes”.
What to do?
21.9% of the respondents to the survey earlier stated, think parents who find out their children (above the age of 12) still wets the bed should take them to their spiritual leaders while 16.4% of the respondent say such child should be beaten till he/she stops. The remaining percentage was shared among respondents who gave a myriad of other solutions that spanned from using the “word of God”, taking him/her for deliverance, prayers, “talking some sense into the person”, to disowning him/her, reducing dinner proportion, waking him/her at the middle of the night so he uses the restroom.
Similarly, 37.7% (the largest proportion) of the respondents say if they find out thei. boyfriend/girlfriend still bedwets, they will take him/her to their spiritual leader. This percentage gives a wide gap to the next proportion of respondents (13.2%), who believe it is better to break up with such person. The rest of the respondents replied that they had no idea of what their actions might be. While some are disposed to seeking medical help, many believe they will report him/her to his friend and family. One of the respondents said he will laugh while another said she will, “talk some sense into his head”.
However, the Ogun state indigene, Tolu Joseph shared with the News Beam some lessons her bed wetting experience taught her and her candid advice on how it can be managed.
She said: “First to Parents or Guardians, no one is happy doing what is embarrassing. Enuresis (wetting the bed) is not a voluntary action, beating a child mercilessly will not magically control the bladder. To family and friends, mocking and stigmatizing victims of enuresis is not the best. When you do so, you are only pushing them towards untimely death. I was more traumatized because of how my relatives treated that aspect of me when I was younger.
“Of course I do not totally blame them because they only thought they were helping (thinking I will stop wetting the bed if I was badly insulted with words). They never knew they were wrong.
Parents should ensure they are very observant, watching the function of their children’s body organs. Once you begin to notice abnormal signs of incontinence in your child, rise up to take necessary steps so as to curb anything that could become a serious problem in future.
But finally, the medical research I did helped me to take intelligent and more accurate/appropriate steps such as avoiding certain food that could trigger enuresis such as carbonated drinks amongst others”.
Her traumatic bedwetting experiences inspired her book Enuresis: A distressful disorder and foundation, and Enuresis Support Foundation
When asked what her source of motivation is , she said “It takes a rare courage and that courage comes from the Lord. When the Lord is about to set lives at liberty, he gives men courage to initiate the liberty. Well, I launched my book on 7th November 2020, but I can tell you that I never saw that coming twelve months earlier. That is to tell you that it wasn’t like there was a long time plan on ground. I would say that God led me to do so.
“My experience with enuresis was such that had a great impact on my mental health. I practically lost my peace and I was often disturbed. My esteem was low at some points. I was traumatized with my condition every now and then. Fast forward to times after the disorder had stopped. God enlarged my heart so much that I began to perceive that there are many who are actually fighting this same battle.
And people’s mental health is getting wrecked around the world. And then I realized this disorder was not something talked about at all. It has been left untouched for a very long time. So the desire to give a voice to all victims and to provide emotional support for them even while they look forward to their victory was what motivated me to write the book”.
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