I’m going to start this blog with a warning: if you haven’t yet been introduced to the world of YouTube, watch out! This article may lead to the loss of many hours watching a variety of short videos on this fascinating website, which is quickly developing a cult-like following. I came across one particular video on this site that I think everyone should see. It’s a spoof trailer for the movie The Shining… you know it, that horror movie with the famous phrase “red rum”. With crafty editing and splicing together just the right clips, set to upbeat music, this trailer suddenly depicts a heartwarming father-son coming of age epic. You can see it for yourself here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gf7h6o3I8yw.
What exactly does this video have to do with incontinence? Well, aside from the fact that I wet my pants in fright every time I watch the original The Shining, this video got me thinking about the word “perspective”. The goal of this spoof trailer was to make it seem like an emotionally uplifting tale from the perspective of the viewer. This spoof tries to control our perspective; much like a person with incontinence tries to control the perspective of those around them.
Those living with incontinence often try to conceal their condition from others at almost any cost. Often the techniques work quite well… for a while. When my friend and boss at the Simon Foundation, Cheryle Gartley, first began experiencing incontinence, she reacted as many do. She re-arranged her life completely around her incontinence, including no longer going horse back riding, teaching tennis, or even shopping with friends. After a while one of her close friends asked how he had offended her that she no longer would go hiking with him. She finally revealed, for the first time, that she was experiencing a misbehaving bladder.
If Cheryle had maintained her active social life, there is a chance that her friends’ perspectives in that situation would have allowed them to see or know about her incontinence. It is completely normal that Cheryle would want to control for that possibility and change her friends’ perspectives so that they didn’t have the opportunity to find out about her incontinence. What Cheryle didn’t expect was that by changing that perspective, she was opening the door for her friends to establish new perspectives. This time, however, the perspectives were based on assumption, and at least one friend made the assumption that Cheryle was upset with him. Because people need to make sense of the world around them, they will often find their own reason for the changes they see in a friend who was once fun-loving and suddenly and inexplicable becomes standoffish. They might assume the reason for the distant behavior is a new marriage or relationship, moving to a bigger house, being on television, a promotion at work, etc.
I’m not trying to say that you shouldn’t hide your incontinence. Choosing whom to reveal any medical condition to is a very personal choice, and in many cases there are good reasons for withholding that information. But, remember that when you attempt to alter someone’s perception in such a way that it is different from the truth, be prepared for sticky situations to come up once in a while. In many ways, our perspectives create our realities. In Cheryle’s case, adjusting her friend’s perception back to the “real” reality, led to a cascade of events. This friend encouraged Cheryle to seek out treatment and management options. That search ultimately led to the formation of the Simon Foundation, and now, twenty-something years down the line, you’re reading this blog. So I challenge you, as you consider whom to share your bouts of incontinence with: what kind of cascade do you want to start- one based on an assumed perspective, or one based on reality?
Published On: October 03, 2006