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.
Lots of conditions can keep you from the activities you love, but most people probably don’t realize that incontinence is one of them.
I learned the hard way. I’ve had heavy incontinence for 3 years, and it’s completely changed my life. Almost every single day, there’s something I wish I could do that’s just not possible anymore thanks to my leaks.
Sure, the physical aspects are hard. No one likes wetting themselves, and the clean-up is a pain. But it’s more the embarrassment that really keeps me away from the things I care about. I hate the thought of people knowing that I have this problem. And I really hate the thought of having an accident in front of anyone.
So I do what I expect a lot of people with incontinence do: I stay in. I make sure I’m always close to a toilet. I don’t do things that might aggravate my incontinence – most physical activities are out of the question. No more tennis for me. And social gatherings are a rarity – I even try to avoid meeting up with my family. Gatherings are often limited to those I can host at my house, or ones where I feel close enough to a restroom to avoid public embarrassment.
Incontinence has taken a toll in other ways, too. I’ve gained weight as things have gotten worse. I can’t work out the way I used to – walking short distances is ok, but I have to do it on a treadmill so I’m always near a bathroom. And forget about lifting weights or any kind of jumping around – those are all definite no-nos.
Nobody wants to live this way. It’s frustrating. On the bright side, I have found some relief from medications, but I hate having to take them every day. And I know there are other things out there that I should explore – I’ve heard physical therapy might be helpful, and there’s something called PTNM that sounds intriguing – but I haven’t been able to work up the courage to ask my doctor about it.
I know incontinence is not life threatening. People live with much worse than this. But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about how small my life has become. I suppose that’s what truly bothers me the most – and it’s probably reason enough for me to get up the nerve to talk to my doctor about doing something about it.