This story is a part of the National Association For Continence’s “Voices Of Incontinence” campaign, which shows, in patient’s own words, what it’s like to live with incontinence. Learn more about this campaign, watch the videos, read other stories, and find resources to manage bladder leaks here.
I’ve always considered myself to be an upbeat person. But when I started experiencing incontinence at an early age, I found it hard to get that positivity back.
At 45 I began experiencing bladder leaks. And not just every once in a while. It seemed like overnight I was having leaks every day, although looking back I realize that I was in denial about the lead up to them. I’ve given birth 3 times, which most people know doesn’t do you any favors in that department. I’m also a pretty big runner, which might have also put too much pressure on my pelvic floor over the years.
At first, I figured that it was natural. Since it only seemed to happen when I was running, I brushed it off – most long-time runners I’m friends with experience the same thing eventually. It’s just a bump in the road, I thought.
But then in my mid forties, I started experiencing them every day. When I sneezed, laughed too hard, tried to pick up something a bit too heavy – out it came. It was enough that made me need to start wearing light protection, and after a couple of years, that turned into even bulkier pads.
I hate having incontinence. I feel so embarrassed that it’s happening to me at such a young age – I’m not even 50 yet! I feel like I can’t wear the same clothes I used to wear because I’m nervous that my bulky absorbent products will be noticeable. I hate having to wear them, but without them I’m so scared that I will have an accident in public.
Most of all, I hate that bladder leaks have affected my running. It was such a big part of my life, and I have been forced to quit it almost entirely. It’s hard talking to my running friends – I’m too embarrassed to explain that I can’t run because I’m afraid of the leaks.
I talked to my doctor, but he just brushed it off as normal. At least at first. I wasn’t going to accept that there was anything normal about what I was going through. So I pressed him on it. Insisted that there must be something I could do. When he saw how insistent I was, he prescribed me a medication, and it felt like a miracle to discover that it actually worked.
My excitement was short lived, though. The meds left me with a bad case of dry mouth and constipation. It was even worse than the incontinence, so I stopped taking it.
So where am I now? I haven’t given up hope that there’s a different treatment out there for me – something that will stop the leaks without causing something even worse.
In the meantime, I’ve come to accept that I need to wear pads. That doesn’t mean that I like it. Maybe somewhere down the road it’ll start feeling normal to me, but for now, it’s all I can think about when I go out. Of course, that means I’ve also bee staying in more and more these days.
I’ve lost touch with friends, but that’s not the worst of it. I feel guilty because my kids wonder what happened to their happy, upbeat mom. They ask me why I stopped running. Why I no longer do the things I used to do. Imagine how hard it is to tell your own kids that it’s because you can’t stop wetting your pants.
I’m trying to pull myself out of all this negativity, but it’s hard when you live with it every day. I know it’s not the end of the world, and there are people who have it a heck of a lot worse than me, but that doesn’t make my symptoms go away. Incontinence has taken so much of my identity, and I can’t help feeling helpless.
All I can really do now is to look for more solutions. I know there are things out there that I haven’t explored – physical therapy, other medications, even surgery if I want to go down that road. Hopefully one day I’ll get my life back and stop hiding from the world.