Back From India

Jasmine Schmidt Health Guide
  • I’m back from India and recovered from jetlag. The trip was incredible in every way and to every sense: the sights of the colorful saris and sacred temples; the sounds of traffic along the highways interspersed with the occasional cowbell from bulls walking down the main streets; the feel of people breathing down my neck on over-crowded train cars with no air conditioning; the tastes of dal makhani and mango lassis; and the smells – oh, the smells – the smells of rotting food and open sewage. Yuck! I truly wouldn’t change a thing about my trip: it was adventurous, trying, exhausting, informative, and exciting. It was also very, very smelly.

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    I wrote before leaving that I wasn’t sure if I needed to bring toilet paper with me or not, but let’s just say I’m glad I did! However, the only thing harder to find than toilet paper, was a toilet. It’s apparently commonplace in India for men to urinate on the sides of buildings no matter if you’re in a two-hut town or major city. Children were often seen going to the bathroom out in the open on the side of a hill. I just can’t quite figure out where adult women go to the bathroom there.


    I was lucky enough to afford hotel rooms with bathrooms, so I generally tried to arrange my day so that I could stop back at my room every few hours to relieve myself. This certainly gave me a newfound respect for those individuals who have a difficult time being away from a bathroom due to incontinence: I felt like I had a leash on me! I have irritable bowel syndrome, which often leads to bouts of diarrhea. One day of the trip I was feeling quite well, and we were out shopping for the day in the neighborhood. I didn’t think we had wandered very far from our hotel, when all of a sudden I felt the diarrhea coming on – and it was coming on fast and furiously! I had to high-tail it back to my hotel, which ended up being about a mile away! I walk everywhere, so usually a mile doesn’t seem so bad, but at home I always have the option of ducking into one of the many stores and restaurants along the streets to use their restroom if I get desperate. Here I was totally stuck – there was no option other than to make it back to the hotel room if I was going to use a toilet.


    It’s really so true that no matter how sympathetic you are to a situation, and how open-minded you try to be about understanding it, you can never truly understand someone else and their motivations until you walk in their shoes. Even now, I certainly don’t fully understand what it’s like to live 24/7 with severe incontinence. But I do feel that I’ve been given a glimpse into what that life might be like for some, and that glimpse has opened my eyes.


    My question to those of you who have severe incontinence is this: do you feel that anyone in your life truly understands what life is like with this condition? If you do feel that those around you “get it” – please share with us who they are (spouse, parent, child, etc), and what you think helps them to be so understanding. If you don’t have anyone in your life who really gets it, please explain what they’re missing. I do feel that no one will truly understand every aspect unless they’ve lived it. But perhaps with your feedback (respond to this post or send in an email) we can create a list of attributes that the “ideal supporter” would have. You’ve probably heard the phrase “help me, help you.” Perhaps with some collective brainstorming you’ll be able to help your loved ones help you more by teaching them how to understand and be supportive of this condition. It’s worth a shot, eh?

Published On: April 10, 2007