Every family has its skeletons in the closet… little family secrets and taboo topics. We may wish that our family would be open and accepting of everything about us, especially anything health related, and yet that isn’t always the case. All too often I hear from people with incontinence who feel they can’t share that part of their life with their family. Some people have tried telling a family member, or even their entire family, and the news wasn’t well received. Others, who grew up with incontinence or enuresis, had unsupportive parents who thought the child was to blame. There are many who’ve never told their family for fear of embarrassment.
It’s estimated that 15 to 33 million people in the U.S. alone have incontinence… that’s a huge range! The reason the range is so large is because so few people feel comfortable admitting that they have this condition- to their doctors AND to their family. So how do you tell your family about something like THIS?!
Several years ago when a friend’s child was facing a difficult surgery, my friend and her husband sought counseling for guidance on how to tell their children what was going on. The counselor said that the children would react to the news in the way it was delivered. For example, if my friend and her husband fell apart while telling their children about the surgery, the kids would become scared and upset. Instead, my friend told the children the truth, but in a hopeful and heartfelt way. The kids likewise responded by asking questions and showing strength. I’ve found that this suggestion by that counselor is true in most arenas of life, not just parent and child interactions.
When you talk to your family about your incontinence, try to remain calm and collected, and act as you would when sharing about any health condition. You could start by saying, “I have been dealing with a health care challenge, and I would like your support. The health condition is called incontinence, and that means lack of bladder or bowel control. Sometimes body parts don’t work the way we wish they would, and in my case my bladder (or bowel) isn’t working quite right. It can certainly feel embarrassing at times, but I choose to deal with this as a health challenge.” Depending on who you’re talking to, you can then divulge more information if you wish including how the bladder or bowel works, what you’re doing to help manage your incontinence and perhaps most importantly, what kind of support you would like from your family.
I wish I could give you tons of great tips about dealing with an unsupportive family, but unfortunately no matter how well-equipped we are, we can’t be responsible for the thoughts and actions of others. If you have a feeling of self-worth and an attitude of success that stems from within, rather than being dependant on outside sources like friends and family, you have the opportunity to become happy and fulfilled no matter what feelings surround you.
Published On: July 21, 2006