Of all the things I ever imagined being jealous of, people with well behaved bladders wasn’t one. But I am. If you have a bladder that works in normal ways and doesn’t cause you sleepless nights, hot flushes and the need to pee into plastic tubes for your doctor regularly, I envy you deeply.
I can’t even consider counting how many UTIs I’ve had in my adult life. I know there was a period where I had over 20 in a year (or more likely several that just decided they were making a home for themselves), leading to what seemed like endless examinations and having cameras put in places you really wouldn’t want a camera. I’ve also lost count of the amount of times I’ve been asked “does it sting when it comes out?”
If you know the plight of having bladder issues, then you know how real the struggle is. My bladder took over my life for about a year and a half. Eat, sleep, cystitis, repeat. That was pretty much how I rolled. Instead of sleeping peacefully at night I could often be found slumped on the bathroom floor cradling a bottle of water and thinking about how good life can be when you don’t have burning in your urethra.
Luckily for me, one of my housemates and best friends was going through an equally terrible time with her bladder. Infections, waking up several times a night, endless trips to the doctor and a general feeling of misery. While I’ve managed to mostly escape the clutches of bladder-doom for now, I still get the odd infection or period of time where things don’t feel quite right. It’s nice having a network of people who completely understand the awfulness to rant at when it happens. All I’m missing now is a cystitis WhatsApp group. Or actual support group. There are clearly women everywhere eligible to join.
I was once a tube going to work, and I got that terrible feeling of heat creeping up your body, followed by the sudden desperate need to go to the loo mingled in with nausea and must have looked so bloody awful that a woman approached me to ask if I needed anything. Maybe it was the fact this was about the fourth time in a month this had happened, or I was just at the end of my urinary tether, but I just word vomited all about my troubles to this absolute stranger. Turns out, she was on trimethoprim for a UTI herself. We ranted for three stops before I dragged myself off at Old Street to go and have a little cry in my office. Oh life.
One of the only things that got me through the worst of times, including laying in hospital with a raging kidney infection watching Pitch Perfect on repeat on iPad, was knowing I wasn’t alone. Even among my friends, there’s at least five girls who suffer the same as me. I’ve even gotten talking to people on Twitter who have the same issues and when you begin discussing techniques to feel better including baths, barley water and hot water bottles, you feel a sort of virtual hand holding. I even felt like I was receiving a pat on the back from Caitlin Moran recently when she tweeted on International Women’s Day that her best advice to women was ‘always have a wazz after a shag’ to cut down on the cystitis risk. What a hero.
It makes me sad that I even have this much to say about how much my own bladder trolls me, but knowing I’m not the only one sort of takes the edge off. I feel your pain girls, I really do.