Patient Perspective: It Doesn't Matter How Old You Are - Incontinence Is Not Normal!

Patient Perspective: Incontinence Is Not Normal

At 70 years old, you’d think that I’d have come to terms with having incontinence. But time has a way of making you see that some things you thought were normal actually weren’t at all.

The leaks started in my 50’s and at the time, I chalked it up to just growing older. I started wearing absorbent pads for protection and just went on living my life. My leaks started to get worse as I got older, and in my late 60’s I finally talked to my doctor about it. He asked me during a routine check up about my bladder habits and I told him I’d been having leaks for years. I tried to brush it off like it was no big deal (it was a bit embarrassing to talk about), but he kept pressing me, asking me more details and taking notes.

Finally, he told me that he wished I had told him about the leaks sooner, since there is so much that can be done to treat bladder leaks.  He said no one should have to live with bladder control issues and that it absolutely is NOT a normal part of aging.

I felt so foolish for having believed all those years that it was just my body breaking down, getting older. Turns out that I was able to start a medication that really helped eliminate (mostly) my accidents. And there are even more treatments besides medications that I can try if I decide to.

Now that I’ve treated my incontinence, I feel freer at 70 years old than I did when I was in my late 50’s. I only wish I had opened up about it sooner to my doctor. 

Don’t wait to talk about it. Don’t let the years pass you by living with incontinence. It’s just not worth it when so much can be done.

Abby M.,

Boston, MA

Patient Perspective: Having IBS Causes Me So Much Anxiety

IBS Gives Me So Much Anxiety

I am 62 years old and have been dealing with symptoms of IBS for close to 15 years.  I’ve had countless accidents in public – at events, friends houses, you name it.  The early days of having the condition were mortifying to me - I got pretty good at coming up with all sorts of excuses for why I need to leave a party or event early. But the isolation I think may be the worst. I just always felt like there was no one I could talk to about it and no one who would understand.

Luckily, my family has been supportive.  They don’t say much about it and just try to help with what they can. I know now to bring back up clothes and cleanup supplies everywhere I go.  I’ve also worked a lot with my doctor to develop an evolving treatment plan and ways to manage my IBS.

This condition has been so embarrassing for me and has caused me a great deal of stress throughout my life.  I’m constantly worried about having an accident, but that just makes me even more anxious and in turn triggers more accidents. It’s a vicious cycle that is so hard to break. 

The biggest things that have helped me are exercise, watching my diet, and taking up meditation. I find that exercising daily is a great stress reliever and also helps to get things moving, if you know what I mean.  It’s been a long road of trial and error to determine a diet that works for me, but cutting out beans, gluten, and sugary foods has seemed to really help.  Keeping a diary of what you eat and drink each day, and how it affects your bowels, can be a huge help in determining triggers and patterns. (Download our free diaries here!)

Finally, meditation has been a complete game changer. I’ve taken some classes, done a lot of self study, and have even found apps that have helped guide me through the process. Whenever I start feeling overwhelmed or anxious, even just a quick 5-minute meditation can be enough to calm my nerves, and seemingly, my bowels. I encourage everyone to give it a try – what do you have to lose?   

I think the most important thing is for people to keep some perspective on life and know that while this condition is a constant struggle, it doesn’t have to be limiting unless you allow it to be. Talk with your doctor, a nutritionist, a therapist – or all three if it helps! Find ways to manage it and cope with the stress. It really makes all the difference.  

Sherri K.,

Baton Rouge, LA

 

 

Patient Perspective: How I Allowed Incontinence Steal Parts Of My Life.

How I Allowed Incontinence To Steal Parts Of My Life.

I’m 65 years old, and for years I let my incontinence control me.

I always had a bit of an overactive bladder – I’d race to the bathroom as soon as I got home, no matter where I had been or how long I’d been out. Washing dishes after dinner had me almost hopping to the toilet, for fear I’d have a leak.

It was sort of funny at first – well, as funny as we could make it. My kids would make fun of me and we’d laugh about how silly I looked. But after a while, my body just wasn’t strong enough to hold it in and I started not making it to the bathroom in time. I brushed it off for a while – I’d had five kids after all! Wasn’t this something I should expect?

But after a while, it really started to get me down. The small leaks started turning into gushes and I wasn’t able to hide my accidents. I relied on absorbent products but so many of the ones I tried leaked that I became terrified of venturing out of the house.  

I became a hermit – making my kids come to see me at home instead of meeting them out or going to their house.  I missed events – graduations, family outings, get-togethers with friends – things I used to love to do. I was a slave to my incontinence. And I felt helpless.

I finally found help through my daughter. She saw my pain and the big changes in me over the years and finally put her foot down, demanding to take me to talk to my doctor.  It was a terrifying discussion for me – what would she say? Would it make me feel even more embarrassed?

But my doctor was very kind, and started me on a medication for OAB right away, which helped a lot. 

She also referred me to a physical therapist to help strengthen my pelvic floor.  I thought it would be extremely uncomfortable, but it’s left me feeling so much stronger and empowered, I kick myself that I didn’t start it sooner.  

I’ve regained so much control over my condition and my life now. I wish I had sought help sooner.

I’m likely an extreme case – I don’t think most people – even those with incontinence – live like I did.  But here is my challenge to anyone living with incontinence – why let it dictate your life even a little? If you’re struggling with little leaks here and there, don’t put off treatment or brush it off like it’s nothing. Packing an extra change of clothes, scouting out bathrooms, making excuses – these are changes to your life that may start off small, but can snowball into something larger if you don’t seek help and take care of it now.

Find a doctor you trust, and get treatment for your leaks. Don’t let incontinence hold you back from living your life. It’s just not worth it.

Sandra F., Minneapolis, MN

Patient Perspective:  How Do I Tell My Wife I Have Incontinence? 

How Do I Tell My Wife I Have Incontinence?

I’ve been incontinent for 1 year now, and my wife has no idea. (At least I don’t think she does).  You see I’ve gone to great lengths to hide it from her.  It’s not like I leak all the time, but a few times a week I find myself unable to make it to the bathroom in time and I have an accident. It horrifies me, since this has never happened before.

My doctor tells me I have an enlarged prostate. This, my wife knows. I’m sure she also knows some of the symptoms, since she’s the type to do research on this stuff. But I haven’t told her I suffer from bladder leaks.

I keep spare underwear hidden in the car.  I limit my fluids when I know we’re going to be out. I always scout out the nearest restroom in case I need to make a beeline to it. I even decline certain events if I think there’s a risk I may have an accident. I feel like I’m living as a secret agent with this condition – always trying to stay 1 step ahead. 

You’re probably wondering why I haven’t told her. Talking with your spouse about something that embarrasses you is never easy. But for me, this is devastating. I’ve always been her “tough guy”. The one who fixes up old cars, goes bowling with the guys on Tuesdays, can handle pretty much anything anyone throws my way. But this is different. It’s made me feel like less of a man. And I feel embarrassed that I can’t control something as simple as my bladder.

I know it’s more complicated than that, but I just can’t help thinking “What will she think of me?”  “Will she still find me attractive?” “Will she think less of me?”

We’ve always been so spontaneous. Running out at a moments notice to meet up with friends at a pub. Jumping on those last minute flights to somewhere tropical. Going to shows and concerts and ball games. I still want to be that person. That guy who does all the fun stuff. But these bladder leaks are getting in the way of that.

I know we’re getting older, but I still just want her to look at me like she always has, and I’m so scared this will change that.

I’m planning to tell her soon. I know that it’s probably better to just get it out there, Knowing my wife, she’ll probably jump right in and try to help. She’s awesome like that.

And, I’m sure her knowing will probably be good for me. We’ll find ways to deal with it together. We’ll find solutions for this condition that I know are out there but I’ve been too stubborn or embarrassed to seek out. It will be better. She will help me make it better.

But the thought of having that conversation with her is still scary as hell.  The telling is really the hardest part of all of this. Wish me luck.

Anonymous

NAFC's Message Boards Provide A Safe Community For Incontinence Sufferers

Join The NAFC Message Boards And Online Community

NAFC is a huge proponent of opening up about your incontinence. Talking with others about what you’re experiencing can be very therapeutic. But, we know that speaking openly about something like incontinence is not always so easy.

That’s why we created the NAFC message boards. It’s a anonymous community that let’s our visitors talk openly about their bladder and bowel health issues without judgment. Our community is filled with a supportive and caring community ready to help with questions, share stories, or just lend a comforting ear.

Don’t believe us? Check out some of the message board posts from our community:

“Thank you for your kind words. This is the first time that I’ve ever opened up to anyone. I’m really happy that I found a place where people are supportive and can truly understand what I’m going through.”
“Posting here is a difficult step for me to take. I am too young for this – my 24th birthday is this month. But since there are many others on this forum that share in incontinence, I will give it a try.” 
“I am a 35 year-old woman and I have been suffering from incontinence at bedtime all my life. It’s made my social/dating life very hard. I’ve turned down proposals, as I’m too ashamed to tell my partner why we can’t live together. I’m desperate to stop this so I can live a normal life and have a husband partner. I’m happy I found this community.”
“Bedwetting started for me as a teen. It was occasional and a huge source of shame for me. And to continue into adulthood was just humiliating. Hear to listen and talk with anyone else who cares to support each other with this issue.”
“Hello everyone. I’ve read some of your posts and its nice to not feel quite so alone with these sorts of problems.”

You are not alone. There are others out there who understand what you’re going through, and who are willing to listen and provide support.

If you’re struggling with incontinence, or any other bladder or bowel condition, or if you’re caring for someone who is, join our community. We’re all here for you. Because no one should have to walk this path alone.