Alternative Therapies

Chapter 1

“I know someone for whom it’s time for bed,” I interrupted the peaceful puppet show of my little sister on the living room floor in a tone that, to my shock, almost sounded like my mother’s. “Please Emily, just a little bit longer, I’m not tired yet,” begged Sophie, looking at me hopefully with her big, brown eyes. It was the usual evening drama she played when she had to go to bed. “No Sophie, it’s bedtime now, there will still be a tomorrow to play,” I explained to her clearly. I had more than enough of her daily, evening disagreements. “But…,” she started to whine, but I cut her off. “No Sophie, it’s bedtime now, no arguing!”

Sophie pouted, but when I took her by her hand, she got up without any further grumbling and allowed me to accompany her to the bathroom without resistance. After a few meters, I noticed that her walk was a bit odd. She was walking with her legs much more spread apart than usual, as if she were imitating the walk of a duck. At first, I thought it was just another game of hers, a way to make the trip to the bathroom more exciting. A Game that she might have learned at kindergarten. But then, suddenly, I realized why she was walking so strangely.

“Sophie, can you wait a moment please,” I asked her with a sense of foreboding, and stopped. I lifted her summer dress and saw that her pull-up was completely soaked. It was almost a miracle that she hadn’t leaked yet. " You’re supposed to tell me when you need to go potty," I scolded her sourly. She looked down ashamed. “I was having so much fun playing, I didn’t want to stop, and then suddenly I had to go potty before I could say anything.”

Sophie was a highly advanced child for her age of four. Her language skills were significantly above average, and she could not only read the entire alphabet, but also already write several words. Even simple addition problems were not a problem for her. Despite her remarkable intellectual abilities, she struggled with potty training. She still often woke up with a wet diaper and had more accidents during the day than a typical girl her age. My mother had tried every imaginable method to help Sophie overcome this issue, but with no avail. She even experimented with alternative therapies, like Bach flower remedies and Homeopathy, but as expected, they were of no assistance either.

Typically, I would have put Sophie on the potty one last time before bed, like every night, but I could spare myself this step now. Instead, we just made a quick stop in the bathroom to brush our teeth. Then I took Sophie to her room, where I placed her on the changing table. I removed her dress, took off her wet pull-up, cleaned her privates, and sprinkled some baby powder on her diaper area. Finally, I put her in one of her nighttime diapers.

“Is this the pajama you’d like to wear, my dear?” I asked my little sister, offering her the princess-printed sleepwear she loved so much. She beamed with joy and put on pants and top with my assistance. “And which story would you like for bedtime tonight?” I asked, giving her the option to choose, even though I already knew the answer. With a loud rustling of her diaper, Sophie scampered over to her bookshelf, and, as she does every night, pulled out the storybook about the adventures of a little princess. “What a surprise,” I said with a touch of sarcasm as I took the book from her hand, but she simply smiled contentedly. To my surprise, Sophie was still enamored with the book, despite having memorized every story inside and out.

“Will Mum come to give me a goodnight kiss?” Sophie wanted to know as I helped her into bed and looked at me hopefully. “Mum is still out and won’t be home until later, but I’m here if you need anything”. Immediately, any trace of a smile disappeared from her face, although this situation was nothing unusual for her. Our mother was a highly sought-after lawyer and often had to work late at her office. In such cases, I was often the one who had to pick Sophie up from kindergarten and take care of her until our mother returned. Only on days when I couldn’t or didn’t want to, a babysitter looked after her.

“Mom will give you a kiss as soon as she’s back,” I cheered up Sophie. “Remember that your potty is right beside your bed in case you need to use it during the night. And if you don’t want to go by yourself, you can always call me,” I reminded her, as I usually did, in the hope of preventing any nighttime accidents. “I know,” Sophie replied with a touch of frustration, having heard this reminder every night before bed. It would only have been nice if she had finally put this knowledge into action.

“The little princess lived in a grand and magnificent castle,” I started reading to Sophie, and before long, her eyes began to close. So much for her insisting she wasn’t tired yet. I continued reading a bit longer, until I was certain that she was soundly asleep and wouldn’t stir even if I stopped the story. I placed a gentle kiss on her forehead and tiptoed out of her room.

Chapter 2

The pleasant chirping of birds in the garden woke me up from my dreams the next morning. Only two weeks ago I had finished my final school exams and it was still unusual for me not to be woken up by the annoying melody of my alarm clock. Finally, I was free, I was no longer forced to adjust my sleep rhythm to the early morning school hours. I could get up and go to bed whenever it suited me. Of course, I was aware that once I started to go to university, the morning sleep-in would also come to an end, but for now I was going to enjoy every moment of my temporary freedom.

Unfortunately, this freedom was still quite lonely. As soon as I had finished my final exams, my mother, my younger sister, and I moved from the city to the countryside. My mother had long dreamed of a small cottage, and she took the opportunity provided by the end of my school years to start a new life in a more idyllic place. Admittedly, the old house and the surrounding countryside were beautiful, but it didn’t change the fact that it now felt like we were living at the end of the world. There was no club or bar in the immediate vicinity and nothing else to pass the time as a young person. Without a car, you were completely helpless here and I had neither a vehicle nor a driver’s license. As a city child, I had never seen the need to waste my time with tedious driving lessons when you could get around more quickly by bike or public transportation in an urban area. But in the end, it didn’t matter that I was not mobile here, it didn’t matter that I didn’t know anyone my age yet, because in no time at all I would be moving far away to England, the location of my new university.

I was about to drift back to sleep when I suddenly realized something was amiss. The area around my buttocks felt uncomfortably wet. Had I sweated excessively in my sleep, causing the mattress to become soaked? But why did only the area around my buttocks seem to be wet? I wondered if I had gotten my period, but it was hard to imagine that the little bleeding I normally had could have caused such a mess.

I quickly realized what had happened as I lifted my bedspread and discovered a circular, yellow stain around my buttocks on the otherwise pristine white bedsheet. I had clearly wet the bed, even though it seemed surreal at that moment. After all, I had enough experience finding Sophie’s mattress in a similar state when we tried letting her sleep without a diaper at night, to know what such a mishap looked like.

Repulsed by the wet, already smelling urine that now also stung my nose, now that the bedspread no longer trapped the odor, I rolled out of bed and immediately stripped off my pajama pants, which were also soaked with urine. No one was ever allowed to know about this mishap. I was 19 years old, not four like my sister. There was no excuse for such an accident at my age. I couldn’t even imagine what my mother or friends would think if they found out. I could already picture the rumors spreading through my social circle and my new village. “Have you heard, Emily still wets the bed at 19 years old.”

I had to act fast. I quickly thought through my options. If I threw my bedding into the washing machine before anyone saw it, no one would ever know about my accident. I quickly took off my sheet from the mattress and also removed the covers. However, now that the mattress was uncovered, my mistake was even more obvious. The big yellow stain in the center of the white mattress was unmistakable and would immediately reveal what had happened to anyone who saw it. I had to turn the mattress over to completely hide the urine stain, but just at the moment I was about to start, there was a knock at the door.

“Emily?” I heard my mother’s voice. “Please don’t come in,” I panicked, but as usual, she had already entered without waiting for my permission. “I told you not to come in! You always come in without waiting for me to say it’s okay,” I yelled at my mother while desperately trying to position myself so she couldn’t see my bedding and bed. “I’m sorry, I just wanted to quickly ask if you could unload the dishwasher later, after all, you shouldn’t have much to do otherwise,” she explained apologetically, but didn’t make any effort to leave my room and instead looked curiously inside.

She must have just been about to leave the house to go to the kindergarten and then to her office, since she was already holding my little sister at her hand. “Why isn’t Emily wearing any pants?” my little sister innocently asked my mom when she saw me. I blushed. Out of sheer fear that my sheets and my bed could be seen, I had forgotten that I was standing half-naked in front of them, giving them an optimal view of my uncovered vulva. I couldn’t recall the last time my mother had seen me this exposed, but regardless of when it was, it must have been before I hit puberty.

“Uh, I was just about to change”, I stammered and quickly brought my hands down to conceal my privates. “Why did you make your bed so early?” My mother wondered as she noticed that my sheets were lying behind me. “Did you get your period and is there some blood on the bed?” "Uh, yeah, that’s right” I lied, grateful for this plausible explanation. Unfortunately, it didn’t have the desired effect, and she didn’t leave me alone. “Is there any stain on the mattress too? You need to act quickly if you want to remove it completely,” she explained and before I could do anything, she stepped further into my room and looked at my exposed mattress.

She appeared stunned. “Did you wet the bed, Emily?” she asked, clearly in disbelief. The question was rhetorical, she didn’t need a response to know what had happened. I was speechless. I stood there, my face red, covering my nudity with my hands and hoping it was just a nightmare from which I would soon wake up. Unfortunately, it was not a dream, and I had to confront the unpleasant truth. To my shock, my mother reacted in the same way she always did when my younger sister had an accident. “Oh Emily, it can happen to everyone,” she comforted me in a loving tone.

Most people would probably argue that my mother’s sensitive and considerate response was a positive thing, something to be happy about, but I would have preferred if she had screamed at me from the bottom of her heart. By reacting to my misfortune in the same way she reacts to my little sister’s, I felt like she was equating me with a toddler who was expected to wet the bed once in a while and could therefore not be blamed.

“We really have to go now. Are you okay?” my mother asked me with such a soft and concerned voice that I almost started crying. Her caring and considerate demeanor only made me feel that the whole thing was even more of a disaster than I had initially thought. I could only nod silently, as I knew that one more caring word would finally make me cry. “Just put the sheets in the washing machine and let the mattress air out before putting on new sheets,” she instructed as she was already walking out the door. “Don’t worry Emily, it’s probably just a one-time thing. We’ll see you tonight,” she said finally and in the next moment she was gone with my little sister.

Hardly had I been alone when I could no longer hold back my tears. For the rest of the day, I was occupied with crying my eyes out. Why did this have to happen to me and why was I so stupid to get caught as well!?

Chapter 3

Unfortunately, my bedwetting persisted. Despite my mother’s aversion to conventional medicine, I saw my GP. The doctor diagnosed me with a bladder infection and prescribed antibiotics. But despite taking them, I continued to wake up in a wet bed every morning.

While we were preparing dinner and I took the last pill of my antibiotics, my mother made a sarcastic comment about it, saying, “Chemicals seem to be working wonders.” Despite my efforts, I couldn’t conceal my ongoing bedwetting from her. And since I started the conventional treatment, she stopped offering her support and understanding towards my situation.

She began to recount out a theory she had read in an article the previous night, regarding incontinence being related to traumatic experiences during the anal phase. She believed that stimuli, which don’t have to be conscious, can reactivate these traumas in the brain, blocking access to brain areas where the ability to go to the toilet is stored. She concluded that this could be the reason for my bedwetting, as I had lost my father during this critical phase and that the stress from my high school graduation and moving could have reactivated the trauma. In my opinion this was nothing but pseudoscientific nonsense.

I held my tongue as usual when my mother spouted nonsense, knowing it would only lead to more arguments between us. Even if I found it disrespectful that she was using my father’s early death from cancer for her far-fetched theories. Although my mother was a smart woman and successful in her career, it was strange how often she spouted esoteric nonsense. What was even worse was that she was immune to criticism. Whenever her arguments were logically and consistently discredited, she would come up with ten more reasons why her theory must be correct. The discussions I had with her reminded me of a joke by the german comedian Vince Ebert, “An esoteric can spout more nonsense in five minutes than a scientist can’t refute in a lifetime.”

“To treat incontinence, the anal phase and potty training routines must be re-experienced and re-learned, to overwrite traumatic memories blocking their recall,” she finished her speech. She looked at me, expecting me to be at least as enthusiastic about her treatment proposal as she was. However, I didn’t even had a plan of how this dubious treatment would look like in practice. After all, I couldn’t travel back in time and relive my childhood.

Maybe it would have been best if I hadn’t commented on the matter at all, but in the end, my curiosity won out. “What do you mean by re-exprience the anal phase?” I asked with a skeptical expression. “Well, just go back to living the carefree life, like your younger sister does,” she explained in detail. “Being taken care of, going to bed early, being reminded to go to the potty now and then, and wearing a pull-up at night in case something goes wrong.” “You want me to wear diapers!?” I exclaimed, struggling to regain my composure. “Pull-ups! And you will wear them either way, because I’m not going to stand by and watch you ruin your expensive mattress any further,” she clarified. “I’ve already bought a pack for you at the supermarket today. Trust me, they’re hardly distinguishable from normal underwear, you won’t even notice that you’re wearing them. They’re no different from a slightly thicker pad.”

I couldn’t control myself any longer. “I am certainly not going to wear pull-ups! I am not a baby! You can try your quackery on someone else from now on, I’m not going to be a part of it anymore!” I snapped at her and angrily stormed out of the kitchen. “Well, then you can also find someone else to pay for your expensive biology degree in England!” My mother countered swiftly.

I slammed my bedroom door behind me. She couldn’t really mean that. Studying in England was my big dream, and it was impossible for me to finance everything without her help. This was not the first time my mother had blackmailed me like this; I was already too familiar with this game. For example, I had to treat my first menstrual cramps with homeopathic pills instead of painkillers, as she had threatened to cut off my allowance if I didn’t. There was no improvement, but what did it matter if you used something natural like homeopathy? Who needed an effect or scientific proof when using something like that. My mother always knew exactly which pressure tactics she could use to make me obedient. But this time her nonsense had gone too far, this time I wouldn’t be intimidated, no matter what it cost.

Chapter 4
The following days, my mother and I didn’t exchange a single word. I didn’t eat with her and avoided her as much as I could. I tried to deal with my nighttime incontinence problems by using maxi pads, several layers of underwear and towels that I placed underneath myself. This combination had always been very successful in preventing period stains, but it was almost useless against my nighttime bedwetting. Fortunately, it was summer, so at least my mattress was dry again by the evening.

If my general practitioner hadn’t been on summer vacation, I probably would have visited her again to seek medical advice. But since she was, I decided to wait and hope that the issue would go away on its own. I was too embarrassed to talk about this issue with someone else.

I probably would have ignored my problem forever and never spoken to my mother again, if I hadn’t received an email from my future university. The email kindly but firmly reminded me to pay the 10,000-pound semester fees. If the money was not received within three days, I would lose my place to a student on the waiting list.

So it turned out my mother’s words were not an empty threat. She should have already transferred the money; I had given her the account information a long time ago and she was not the type of person to forget things like that. So, I was forced to swallow my pride and reach out to her again if I didn’t want to lose my dream study place. “Mom,” I spoke to her that evening, trying to sound like there had never been any conflict between us, “you still need to transfer the semester fees to the university.” I casually placed another printout of the university’s bank information on the table, hoping she would come to her senses and transfer the amount without any fuss. I was just about to leave when she stopped me.

“Emily, stop pretending everything is okay. I have already told you what you need to do to get me to pay your tuition. I know you’re still wetting the bed every night! Pretending it’s not there won’t fix it. You have to work through your issues before you can live on your own. I’m your mother and I only want what’s best for you. Do you think I’m doing this just to bother you? Bedwetting shows that you still have some healing to do before you’re ready for adult life or do you think it’s okay for a university student to still wet the bed?” she said, upset.

“Fuck you,” I hissed at her. I left without giving her another look and went back to my room. If my mom didn’t help me with tuition, I would have to find a way to pay it myself. There had to be a way to come up with the money.

In the following days, I realized that as a person without income, it wasn’t easy to come up with such a large amount of money. I had never even had my own account, let alone any income, except for the pocket money of 100 euros that my mother gave me every month. I scraped together all my savings and all the money I could find in my room, but I only came up with meager 173 euros and 34 cents. I cursed myself for never saving anything. But why would I have saved? My mother always had enough money, so financial difficulties were completely unknown to me.

This meant at the current exchange rate, I had to come up with 11,201 euros and 56 cents by the deadline, or I would lose my dream study program, as the email had made clear. I didn’t have any relatives or friends who could loan me such a large sum and it was too late to apply for a loan or scholarship.

On the evening of the deadline, I sat on my bed, despairing and crying. I had long since given up hope of getting the money together. In just a few hours, the deadline would pass and I would lose my place in the study program. It felt like my entire future was being buried. All my plans, all my hopes seemed to dissipate. So far, my life had always gone according to plan, everything had been possible. I had the intellectual abilities and financial resources to make my dreams a reality, and now everything was supposed to end just because my mother had gone crazy?!

Suddenly, there was a knock on my door. “Can I come in, Emily?” asked my mother in a sweet voice. I didn’t answer. I didn’t want to talk to her or hear any more of her attempts to control me. She came in anyway and sat down on my bed. I put my head under my pillow so I wouldn’t have to talk to her. “I’m sorry for being tough on you,” she said, “but I only want what’s best for you. Conventional medicine isn’t helping. Health is important and I don’t want to see you harm yourself with medicine that might not work. I know you don’t like my plan, but I have one more offer for you,” she said as she gently rubbed my back.

“For the next three months, until a month before your studies begin, you’ll try the method I’ve suggested and if it doesn’t work, I won’t interfere in any of your medical matters again. Then you can see another conventional doctor without me saying or doing anything about it. In exchange, I will pay for your studies as promised,” my mother said. I emerged from under my pillow and looked at her. “And if I don’t agree?” I asked, irritated, although I already knew what she would reply. “Then you have to find a way to finance your expensive studies yourself. I don’t see why I should support you if you’re not willing to support me,” she explained and all the warmth that had previously been in her soft voice was gone.

I looked at the clock on my wall. 11:15 PM. I still had time and the possibility to make my dream of studying in England a reality through a wire transfer, but the clock was merciless. Tick, Tock. Tick, Tock. Of course, I didn’t want to go along with my mother’s strange plan, but every tick of the clock that revealed the hands had moved closer to midnight fueled my inner panic. It was the fear of losing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the fear of losing everything due to a wrong decision. The selection criteria of the university were tough, and I was lucky to have even secured a place. If I lost my spot this year, it was not guaranteed that I would be able to study there the next or following years.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. "Why can’t this damn clock tick more quietly?! Why can’t time just stand still?! I didn’t want to make this decision. No matter what I chose, I would lose. Tick, Tock. Tick, Tock. My mother’s plan was a disgrace to my entire being. Not only would I be humiliated by sleeping in pull-ups like a toddler, but I would also betray everything I believed in. But was my dignity really more important to me than my future?! After all, it was only three months, and what were three months compared to the rest of my life. After those three months, I would be far enough away from my mother so she wouldn’t be able to annoy me with her nonsense anymore, even if she didn’t keep her promise. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

“Well, I guess I don’t have a choice,” I decided to go along with the deal before the ticking of the clock drove me completely crazy. I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. My dream of studying in England would come true, but I had made a deal with the devil to do so. My mother’s mood, on the other hand, was clear. With a look of complete bliss, she looked at me. “Believe me, you made the right choice,” she rejoiced. “I would say we start tomorrow evening, then you can use the next day for yourself before the therapy begins.” To refer to the nonsense she was planning as therapy was nothing less than a mockery of any real, evidence-based therapy.

"I expected her to finally leave me in peace now that she had gotten her way, to make the make the bank transfer to the university, but instead of leaving, she pulled something out of the large front pocket of her apron. “Even though we don’t start until tomorrow, it’s probably better if you start protecting your bed today,” she said kindly, presenting me one of the the pull-ups she had already purchased days ago and that I had refused to wear. I hated her for having already brought the pull-ups into my room without even knowing if I would agree to her deal. I couldn’t deny that taking preventive measures to prevent the likely nighttime accident made sense, but she could have at least given me more time to think about it. And not only that, she could have at least gotten something more appropriate for my age.

“Didn’t they have other kinds? This one is for kids,” I expressed my frustration and looked disgustedly at the still packaged pull-up she was holding out to me. A young, pre-pubescent girl was pictured on the packaging, happily jumping in the air, wearing only a t-shirt and the childish, girly pull-up pants. Next to the girl was the slogan, “PJAMA PANTS: Look and feel like real underwear.” “I’m sorry, but in your size, there were no others. It’s designed for girls up to 57 kilograms, so it should fit you easily,” my mother explained, soothingly stroking my arm. I cursed the fact that I wasn’t as tall as my mother. She wouldn’t have been able to give me pull-ups meant for ten-year-olds if I would have been her size. “Nobody will see you wearing it,” my mother tried to cheer me up, noticing my disgusted look.

“Do we have a deal now, or can I buy the beautiful necklace I saw at the jeweler’s with the money intended for your studies?” she demanded a decision and held out the pull-up pants to me, so I could take them. “We have a deal,” I replied grimly and snatched the item from her hands. “I want to make it clear, Emily, that I will immediately reimburse the tuition fees from the university if you do not cooperate accordingly. We have an agreement and I will only fulfill my part if you fulfill yours. Understood!?” “Understood, Mom, but now please transfer the money before it’s too late,” I begged her, with a nervous look at the clock. “It starts tomorrow at 18:30 and be punctual please! And don’t think you can put the pull-up pants aside as soon as I leave the room. I’ll come by at night to check that you’re really wearing them!” With these words she left the room and I was left alone with the pull-up in my hands.

It took me an eternity before I could bring myself to take the pull-up out of its packaging. Even without the packaging, it was clear to everyone that the item was designed for children. Bright butterflies and flowers adorned the entire pale lavender pull-up and left no doubt as to who the target audience of this product was. Reluctantly, I slipped into the item and then looked at myself in the mirror of my closet. To my misfortune, I had to admit that the pull-up fit me just as well as the girl on the packaging. So I didn’t even have the option of rejecting it because it was too small for me.

Maybe I could have gotten along better with that piece of crap if it had lived up to its big advertising promises. Despite the manufacturer’s obvious efforts to make the pull-ups look like regular underwear, it didn’t change the fact that it was immediately recognizable as what it actually was and what it was used for. It was almost fraudulent to claim that these things couldn’t be distinguished from regular underwear. My younger sister wore pull-ups during the day too, and no one would think to confuse these things, which were nothing more than thin diapers with a waistband, with real underwear. In the end, the thing around my hips remained a diaper, regardless of the fact that the manufacturer consistently avoided the word and preferred to talk about pajama pants instead.

Wearing this garment around my hips made me feel like I had been stripped of not only my adulthood but also my femininity. At my age, for a girl, there was little more important than appearing attractive, even if one, like me, was attracted to women instead of men. But how could another woman possibly find me desirable now? The only thing my underwear would evoke in another woman now were her maternal feelings"

I put on my pajama bottoms to avoid looking at my pull-up any longer. Out of sight, out of mind, I thought but unfortunately it did not even need my eyes to be aware of the pull-up around my hips. The soft rustling sound it made when I moved could have been mistaken for a regular pad and the slightly thicker area around the crotch wasn’t much more pronounced than with regular feminine hygiene products. But the feeling of the pull-up material against my skin was so different from that of regular underwear that even without knowing of its existence, one could sense its presence. So much for feeling like real underwear.

Not even sleep was merciful to me. I lay in my bed, unable to sleep, struggling with my decision. I was constantly tempted to rip the damn pull-up off my hips. Only the prospect of studying in England, a life far away from my mother, prevented me from declaring everything null and void just a few hours after agreeing to it.

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