Since I’ve gone through the drill, It seems only natural that I share my trials and tribulations on my journey into nappy land with a few added incentives:
- I’m relatively young and not immobilized, so I can talk about a lot of the practical aspects.
- I’m reasonably “normal” in terms of body proportions (despite pushing around a slight barrel tummy), so info should be relatable to many other people.
- I fortunately have retained a good level of control, so it’s not always a “do or die” situation for me (more below).
- I wear them myself, so you don’t have to rely on e.g. some care nurse’s opinion.
- I’m not shy talking about the matter (obviously) nor wearing them publicly.
Of course this will still be subjective in many ways, but I hope it will help to make other people feel a little less awkward or embarrassed when talking about this stuff and provide some guidance. This will be a multi-part series since there is just so much to talk about, so for now let’s start at the beginning: Your little problem and you.
Incontinence is a hush-hush topic most of the time only discussed behind closed doors, yet it’s more widespread than most people think. Yepp, it’s a matter of definitions and just thinking about who may be affected. Before we get to the difficult part, here are is a short list of the most potentially affected groups:
- Elderly people that due to normal degeneration can’t make it to the toilet in time because they’re too weak or too fragile
- Middle-aged to old people that suffer from neurological conditions like Multiple Sclerosis that make them lose control
- People with dementia, Alzheimer or similar conditions that simply forget or fall into certain patterns (infantilism or similar) due to their changed perception of the world around them
- People with all sorts of problems with their urethral, renal and intestinal tracts due to other illnesses
- Victims of accidents that had nerves severed and organs damaged
- Unfortunate people who had failed surgery and got something wrong snipped
- Handicapped and immobilized people or people with inborn deformities and malfunctions of organs
- Men beyond a certain age with prostate problems
- People with diabetes
There are others, but this isn’t meant to discuss bed-wetting and other psychologically induced problems nor temporary issues as they may arise when drinking too much or suffering side effects of certain medications. We’re more or less talking about functional problems and thinking more long-term.
Naturally, most people first think of urinary incontinence, but “that other thing” called fecal incontinence isn’t that rare, either. The causes, types and manifestations are way too numerous to go into detail here. That’s what Wikipedia is for. However, when talking about our specific subject we need to discuss one aspect: Are you just occasionally dripping or is there a persistent problem or even constant flow? This is the make and break of the whole matter.
Before reading scientific articles or visiting a specialist a lot of people do not even think they have a problem because they are taking things for granted (“It has always been like that.”) or already have developed strategies to get by. You can stuff paper towels and hankies into your under wear, you may carry a clean spare undie in your backpack when you go to work or, if you are a woman, you may use a larger/ thicker pad. There are additional strategies such as trying to preempt any mishap by taking excessively frequent excursions to the toilet or trying to force a fixed interval by drinking a lot and using diuretics/ laxatives. All of that can take you quite some distance, but eventually things will get worse or you will get tired of those workarounds and it’s time to see a doctor about it.
My issues started manifesting themselves with rectal bleeding and chunks of colon mucosa getting out where they shouldn’t. Along with the stool color not looking healthy this put everybody on alert, since it could indicate internal bleeding or a serious organic dysfunction, so an endoscopic inspection of my innards had to happen and I found myself in the hospital. Since nothing serious was detected, everyone was stumped, but happy. This occurred a number of times and never came anything of it beyond obvious things like my intestinal tract being inflamed and hyper-sensitive from my medication. Additional checking for hemorrhoids yielded no conclusive evidence, either, but I got at least some suppositories to stop the bleeding – for a while, anyway. My actual problem with my underwear getting wet and messy remained unresolved and so I kept muddling through until things started getting so bad, I dug into my diaper reserve which I had bought when I had some urethral problems due to my illness at the very beginning.
This became even more necessary when due to my regular use of antibiotics (my immune system has trouble battling even bacteria harmless to other people, so every “common cold” quickly turns into bordering on pneumonia) my gut flora got damaged and tilted out of balance causing regular bows of diarrhea and abdominal spasms, the latter of which also factor in since they put pressure on the prostate and bladder and can cause involuntary leaking from the front tap as well. Additionally, in the ongoing diagnosis of my issues other factors came to light like muscle weakness and degeneration due to the numerous corticoids I need to ingest to control my illness. There is also nerve damage, possibly from my time cycling a lot and rocking my butt (literally) on hard bicycle seats and sitting too much in front of the computer. So my specific case is a combination of multiple issues that manifest themselves as incontinence – neurogenic and muscular issues as well as pathological changes in my digestive system. The good news is that I notice when something happens, so I can act.
As you can see, it’s not easy finding out why you are losing control over your bodily fluids. The above detailed description is not meant to put you off, but to illustrate the point and encourage you to have your problems diagnosed. That said, not every incontinence problem is as complex as mine. Urinary incontinence can often easily be diagnosed with a ultrasonography and a chemical and bacterial testing of your urine. It can often be easily improved or healed with the right medication, special medical gymnastics or a specific regimen like avoiding specific types of drink or generally following a food plan. The latter even helps with my condition even if it doesn’t go away, though admittedly I still far too much enjoy good food and it sometimes has an adverse effect. ;-)
In light of that, you can already do a lot, but if your issues persist, you should face them rather than evade them. The longer you put them off, the more of a burden they will become – practically and psychologically – and exacerbate the issue. This part is especially important. You need to stop feeling awkward or embarrassed even if you are the type that blushes when you buy underwear. ;-) Yes, it will take some getting used to to walking through life padded, but it’s not the end of the world. The security and safety you gain will improve your life quality and that ultimately is what matters most – finding the positive and feeling good in your illness, if only in a minor way and I hope my writings can contribute to this. See you in the next part…