You may have been recently diagnosed with incontinence or maybe you’ve been experiencing symptoms or perhaps you have been living with incontinence for a while or know someone who is. Whatever the reason, living with incontinence can impact both your mental and emotional state.
Some days you feel like you can’t leave your home, that you have this big secret that you need to hide from almost everyone. Many can struggle to cope and manage living with incontinence. Incontinence is a 24hour, seven days a week challenge that you can’t escape from. No longer is life spontaneous and carefree, it’s now focused and controlled.
In society, incontinence is unfortunately still a ‘taboo’ topic, so very few people have a well-rounded understanding of its true prevalence. If a medical practitioner doesn’t ask the incontinence question, often a patient will not reveal their condition due to embarrassment and lack of societal understanding. This is where the problem can worsen.
For a person who is incontinent, replacing feelings of helplessness with empowerment can help them to understand the steps they can take to try and better manage their condition. For many incontinence patients, little to no attention is given to the psychological impact of their condition, social considerations and quality of life.
It takes a lot of courage for someone to speak up and say that they have incontinence. For that person, speaking up seems more like a confession than a statement or fact. Too often after talking about their incontinence, they are met with disinterest or lack of understanding around the topic. This only heightens feelings of hopelessness or isolation. It is not an expectation that everyone knows the ins and outs of incontinence however an acknowledgement and sympathetic response can be an extremely supportive approach for someone who is struggling.
There are numerous struggles a patient may face daily such as:
It is generally people who do not suffer from incontinence that fail to understand the impact it may have on someone. Many people who suffer with incontinence feel as though their lives revolve around the location of the bathroom.
A sense of freedom and being in control comes with having incontinence products and adequate help around you to ensure that you are prepared may you have an incontinence episode in public. Incontinence in a public place in the presence of other people is a common fear.
Fear comes from feelings of shame, embarrassment, humiliation and anger that have usually been generated by an episode of incontinence. For some, this can be difficult to control and manage as the aftermath of an episode can be uncomfortable and time consuming. Getting to the bathroom, changing clothes, cleaning up and returning to an activity as though nothing happened. All of that whilst knowing you could have another incident again at any moment.
The first step to living with incontinence is to accept that you have incontinence. Once you accept this, the second step is to understand that incontinence can in fact, be managed. Living your best quality of life is still achievable, albeit with a few limitations.
The degree of acceptance from person to person will vary. Some people understand and accept that incontinence can be managed, and it is something they can live with. Others feel as though their life is over and give into feelings of lack of control. They may lack the ability to manage incontinence on their own and as a result become more isolated and resentful. Their anger can come across constructive or passive, meaning from an outside perspective they make little or no attempt to help themselves or their condition.
“There is a loss associated with incontinence. Some people may need professional help in making adjustments. For some they may feel as if their entire identity has been changed as a result of their incontinence.”
To most of society, people suffering with incontinence generally look healthy. They try hard not to let the world see what they live through every day.
“The amount of energy that is spent with the juggling act of getting through a day can be enormous just so the public is not exposed to our disability.”
If you’ve read this far, you have willingly chosen to expand your knowledge and acceptance of incontinence which is a huge step in the right direction.
Medical Disclaimer: Articles are intended for informational purposes only and should not be used as the basis of patient treatment. Ask a medical professional if you have any health-related questions or concerns.
Cockayne, A. (N.D.). Stop worrying about incontinence and start living.https://www.bladderandbowel.org/news/stop-worrying-incontinence-start-living/
Nancy, J. (2005). A personal account of living with incontinence. https://aboutincontinence.org/living-with-incontinence/a-personal-account-of-living-with-incontinence/