A few weeks ago I wrote about how vastly different everyone's story is when it comes to incontinence, and I've been struggling to figure out a way to establish some common ground amongst so many kinds of people. Over the course of the next few weeks I’m going to create a few different categories for individuals with incontinence, addressing each category once a week. I tried to figure out the best way to break-down these groups: by sex, age, type of incontinence? In the end, after looking at many different stories and situations, I’m starting to see a pattern. It's based on what phase of seeking treatment a person is in.
There are those in the first phase,who have yet to contact a medical professional. Perhaps she or he thinks incontinence is normal or untreatable. Next,there are those in the second phase, who have tried a treatment or multiple treatments without yet experiencing success. Lastly, there are those in the third phase, who have found success with some degree of continence and are looking for ways to manage and sustain their dryness.
The first phase I’m going to write about this week is individuals who haven’t yet seen a healthcare professional. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, how old or young you are, what kind of incontinence you are experiencing, to what degree it is impacting your life, or even how long you’ve had incontinence. If you are experiencing enough incontinence to be reading this blog, and yet you haven’t talked to a health care professional, you share something with the millions of others who, like yourself, haven’t sought medical help.
Even within this phase, there are different stories: too embarrassed to bring it up to the doctor; don’t know what kind of doctor to go to; or the misinformed belief that it’s normal to experience incontinence after having children or after a certain age. The fact is that you are suffering silently and needlessly from a condition that has many treatment options available, including therapy programs utilizing pelvic floor exercises and biofeedback, medications, and surgeries – to name just a few! Usually incontinence can be treated, but even when it can’t, there are management techniques that a physician or nurse can recommend.
I always make one request of anyone who hasn’t had the motivation to seek treatment for incontinence: take a quick inventory of your lifestyle, comparing the years before incontinence to the years after incontinence set in. Did you previously enjoy activities that incontinence now makes difficult or even impossible? Are there places that you no longer visit because it’s too long of a drive, or there aren’t toilets available there? Finally, ask yourself this one question: if you could achieve dryness, what would you want to do differently in your life? If you have an answer for this question – any answer at all – it’s probably time to seek treatment.
Of course I also want to point out that incontinence is always the result of something happening in our body – it’s a symptom of some underlying cause. While that cause isn’t always determined, it’s important to see a doctor to rule out any major medical problems.
My final words of inspiration to the “phase one-ers” out there: seek professional medical help and diagnosis, follow-through with a plan of treatment, and share your story with others so that you can go through this together.
Published On: March 19, 2007