At an early age, doctors found that I had a smaller than normal bladder and that it was overactive, which meant that I had wee accidents throughout the day as well as night time wetting.

While my condition involved regular changing of clothes and bedding, and planning ahead, it didn’t cause any major difficulties until I began school.

Bullied at school

Looking back at those early school years, I can’t remember a time I wasn’t bullied because of my wetting problem. At junior school I would have regular accidents and be taunted constantly in the playground for ‘smelling like fish’. I didn’t have any friends. I always wanted to sit inside at break to avoid the bullies.

I couldn’t be like other children, getting on with their school day and taking part in sleepovers or school trips. I also wore a watch that beeped on the hour every hour to tell me to go to the toilet. I hated it because it attracted attention to me.

To begin with, the bullies were just in my year but rumours started to spread around the school and the name calling got even worse. There were so many times when I got home and my parents watched me cry because of the way I was being treated.

It all came to a head one day during an art lesson when I was nine. We had a supply teacher who, unknowingly, put me on the same table as the kids that bullied me the most. I accidentally splashed some water on one of the bullies’ paintings and that set them all off, saying all sorts of things, like I was useless and stank. I just sat there and cried my eyes out. It was the final straw.

That afternoon I got home and told my mum I couldn’t go to school any more. The bullies had worn me down and I just felt so low.

My parents decided there and then that they were taking me out of school. Mum rang the school and told them about the decision – and that I wouldn’t be returning until something was done.

Getting help at school

After that, conversations started happening between my school and the health professionals that were treating me including my hospital consultant.

My supply teacher was adamant that things couldn’t continue in the same way and that she would take an active role in educating pupils about my condition. She decided to gather the whole class together to explain all about my difficulties, and told them that I had a medical condition that I couldn’t help, and that I needed support. She was so supportive of me and told me it was fine to leave class whenever I needed to in order to use the toilet.

The school took steps to help me manage my condition by building a disabled toilet where I could store spare clothes and wipes. A brilliant teaching assistant was assigned to support me, who encouraged me to change my underwear three times during the day, which was checked off on a chart.

From this point onwards, things really started to change. There were still occasional comments, but nowhere near as bad as before. I was also, finally, allowed on my first over-night school trip! I dealt with it really well due to my amazing teaching assistant who always made sure I was looking after myself. I was also allowed regular calls home to let mum know how I was doing.

I believe that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the help and support of my teaching assistant, my supply teacher and my Headteacher. They made a real difference to my life because they took the time to care, understand and encourage open conversations about my condition.

Finally making friends

Slowly my confidence started to build. I began to develop friendships and I started doing better with my studies. At the end of primary school the teachers couldn’t believe how far I had come. When I moved on to secondary school I began to have more control of my bladder, but I still wet during the day so would always wear pads in my underwear.

Throughout my earlier childhood I was under the care of really supportive health professionals including a hospital consultant and nurse. The nurse would sit with me and my mum and on several occasions we went through ERIC’s catalogue to choose products that would help me.

My mum benefited from ERIC’s helpline and support services. It was important for both of us to receive support and feel like we weren’t alone. I continue to use ERIC’s website even now as it’s a source of support, information and somewhere I can hear about other people’s stories.

The bullying I faced in childhood was terrible, but that experience made me a strong person and I wouldn’t be who I am today without going through it. I’m not ashamed of my condition and I want to raise awareness so that other children don’t have to feel the way I felt at school.

My message for others

My message for young people is to not be ashamed because of your condition. I encourage you to have the confidence to tell other young people and your school about your continence issues.

If people understand these difficulties are medical conditions instead of being ignorant about the causes, then they are likely to be more supportive and help you deal with the problem.

Also if a young person needs to use the toilet and the teacher is refusing, my advice would be to just go ahead and leave the class. You could also order or print off ERIC’s Right to Go guide and take it into school as it can help staff understand these issues. At the end of the day it’s your health and the most important thing is to look after yourself.