Telling Family and Friends About Incontinence: My Story

Jennifer G Health Guide
  • When I first had issues with bladder and bowel incontinence, I was newly diagnosed with mutiple sclerosis and going through a very bad relapse. I was having steroid treatment and I had wet the bed two times at my mother's house (she and my father were taking care of me as my husband worked to keep us afloat.) Being on the verge of a nervous breakdown from the rollercoaster ride of steroids certainly wasn't helpful, but this time in my life was prompting me to "come out" as a patient with bladder and bowel issues.


    Before this humbling time in my life, I was beginning to show signs of bowel urgency. I had no idea that multiple sclerosis could manifest itself this way. I would walk with my husband and find myself needing to go to the bathroom immediately. Or we'd be on a road trip and I'd need to find a rest stop right then and there. It was highly disturbing and my husband and possibly my parents were the only people who knew about my issues. So I was out with my immediate family. The next move was extending my group of supportees.

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    As I became more comfortable -- all right, maybe "acquainted" is a better term -- with my weak bladder and bowel, I found it a little easier to open up to sympathetic people around me. I first revealed my situation to extended family and friends (aunts, uncles, cousins, and so on) so they'd understand why when I said I needed to use the bathroom, I meant RIGHT THEN. I also told my close group of girlfriends because I knew we all had our own issues and this "problem" wouldn't disturb them. I was right: it brought us closer in terms of knowing one another.


    I've since gotten better with my incontinence in terms of timing bathroom breaks, eating, and/or drinking more wisely, and informing those around me that MS causes these issues. I am becoming more comfortable in my vulnerable skin. When I now bring up the issue with people, including need-to-know work and volunteer supervisors and immediate coworkers, I try to balance it with the gravity it warrants and a lighter sense of humor, since it's merely a gliche in my system. Incontinence doesn't define my life.


    I've revealed my experience to other MSers as of late, because I know that my journey can help others going through similar issues. I recently got together with some online multiple sclerosis friends and when I revealed my recent bout with bowel incontinence - one of the most disturbing incidents I've yet experienced - I was met with "I understand."


    It was okay, and my incontinence was well-embraced. I let out a deep breath and fully relaxed.

Published On: September 09, 2010