Incontinence Care: How Talking About Your Condition Sets You Free
Written by tyemedical on September 17, 2019
Do you frequently stress about your incontinence, dreading trips or meetups? Do you feel like you’re alone in the struggle? Managing a medical condition can be difficult, but it’s especially challenging when you’re dealing with one that is so highly personal. If you’re like most people dealing with this problem, you’ve had to make incontinence care part of your daily routine, doing your best to manage your physical well-being and hygiene.
But most people never take the time to consider their emotional well-being, because they’re unaware it’s a critical part of incontinence care.
If you’re one of over 33 million Americans suffering from urinary incontinence, then you’re aware of the stresses it can bring. Despite being a common medical condition, it can become very isolating for some people. If you’re the type of person who stifles their emotions concerning incontinence, then it’s time to consider making a change.
You can actually step-up your incontinence care by simply sharing your struggles with those who need to know. We’ve compiled some candid questions and answers to prepare you for seeking the support you need.
Why does the topic of incontinence make us so uncomfortable?
When we were very young and in nearly perfect health, we were trained to use the bathroom, and it became an important part of our self-sufficiency. We were encouraged to stay accident free. But as kids, our bodily systems functioned optimally, so we had little trouble complying with our training.
As we get older, our bodies change, but our childhood training – and the resulting emotions – remain the same. That’s why incontinence is both a physical and an emotional adjustment, and it requires a shift in thinking.
If you start to feel embarrassed or ashamed about your incontinence, remember that it’s simply a matter of physiology and your changing body (whether age, illness, injury, etc.). While your initial instincts may lead you to connect past emotions with your present circumstances, do your best to disengage that childhood training from your current situation. There’s a very big difference between then and now!
There’s another reason some of us have unpleasant emotions about our condition. Let’s be extremely candid for a moment – incontinence involves very private areas of our bodies, and that alone is enough to make some of us feel discomfort.
Depending on your upbringing, generation, and life experiences, you might have stronger emotions related to your incontinence. If this is true of you, then just realize that it’s okay and you don’t have to feel this way. We’ll be talking more about the emotional aspects of incontinence throughout the article, but just remember that healing, comfort, and acceptance are possible.
How does urinary incontinence make you feel, honestly?
It’s true that incontinence can trigger a tide of emotions. As you learn to practice incontinence care, it’s important to self-reflect and ask yourself what you feel and why. You have to become aware of your own feelings and understand where those feelings are coming from. You have to acknowledge those things – to yourself first.
If you ignore or bury your feelings (most people’s default reaction), you’re inhibiting your own happiness. So, the first step is self-awareness – being emotionally aware.
People with incontinence often feel negative emotions like:
- Sadness or grief
This isn’t an all-inclusive list, so you might experience more or different emotions. As you move throughout your day, managing your condition, you need to ask yourself, “How is this making me feel?”
Remember that you’re entitled to your feelings. It’s not wrong or weak to experience your emotions, but it’s important that you learn how to heal – which brings us to the next question.
Who should you share your feelings with?
Not big on talking about emotions? Are you squirming in your seat just reading the header? It’s true that emotions can be messy and talking about them can make us feel vulnerable and extremely uncomfortable. But bear with me. I promise to make this quick and provide you with some useful information.
The plain truth – when you hide away your feelings, you’re denying yourself comfort. Comfort helps heal your hurts and calm your fears. So, it’s important that you share your feelings with at least one other person, and who you choose to share with is key.
Always select a “safe” person, someone you implicitly trust with your most sensitive information. You might choose to share with your:
- Best friend
- Adult child
- Other family member
It’s very helpful if this person is also a good listener who can offer the comfort you need.
Before you begin sharing, let the person know that you’re simply communicating your feelings and not looking for any feedback at this moment. When you’ve sufficiently expressed yourself, remember to ask for what you need. What kind of comfort can your listener give you?
Here are some common comfort requests:
- Reassurance – request confirmation that everything will be okay, and that you have the person’s support
- Physical comfort – request a hug or to be held
- Problem-solving – request help addressing a specific problem that’s driving a negative emotion
For those of you who get all squirmy about emotions, it might be especially tempting to skip over a comfort request, even when you need comfort. I get it. Talking about this stuff isn’t easy, but it’s necessary!
Remember that it’s far better to ask for the comfort you need than to deny yourself an opportunity for healing. If all you needed was a listening ear, that’s okay, but make sure you’re being honest when you say it. Remember that your emotional health is an important part of your incontinence care.
Who should you tell about your medical condition?
While you may only share your feelings with one or two trusted confidants, you’ll probably benefit from telling others in your life about your incontinency. But this doesn’t mean that you must lay out every detail. Just tell them what they need to know to keep things simpler and less stressful for you.
For example, ease tensions at your workplace by simply asking your boss for a few extra bathroom breaks. You likely won’t get any pushback, and you’ll feel much less stressed.
When it comes to selecting this group of people, it’s all about practicality and easing your daily stress.
Who should you tell?
- People you spend the most time with
- People you regularly travel with
- People you travel long distances with
- Employer or coworkers
- People you regularly stress about hiding it from
- Always tell your doctor
Telling other people is typically the most difficult part of incontinence care. Don’t pressure yourself, and make sure you have the support you need from your “safe” person.
Once you’ve become open with key people in your life, you’ll likely notice how your incontinence-related stress dramatically plunges. You simply won’t have to worry about hiding anymore.
What are the benefits of talking about your incontinence?
If you remain skeptical about this critical aspect of incontinence care, then consider the benefits of being more open:
- Reduced stress and anxiety, even at work (who doesn’t need that!)
- Increased support and comfort from your inner circle
- More honesty in your relationships, which means less tension at home
- Overcome unnecessary shame or guilt
- Increased self-acceptance when you receive the acceptance of others
- More willing to travel and rekindle the romance
- Become more active in your family life and enjoy the grandkids more often
Sometimes, asking for just a little bit of help opens doors you thought were long closed. Your overall quality of life dramatically improves when you begin a dialogue and give yourself permission to live more freely.
Are you ready to take control and live free?
Effective incontinence care and openness helps keep your condition in perspective. Even though it stirs emotions in a deeply personal manner, it’s good to remind yourself that it’s a common medical problem that millions of people deal with daily.
Do you think badly about people with diabetes, thyroid conditions, or cancer? Of course not!
The truth is, you’re not a child anymore, and you have nothing to be ashamed of. No one’s body functions perfectly, and yours has difficulty in this area. There’s nothing shameful in that.
Managing your incontinence isn’t easy, and no one should ever disregard your trials, but when it comes to shame and hiding, it’s time to change your thinking.
Your first step toward freedom is talking about it.
How Support Groups Can Help
It’s not always enough to share your feelings with a safe person or even a counselor, especially if you’re highly stressed about your incontinence. You may need additional incontinence care, like a support group.
Many people also benefit from sharing with others who have similar feelings. In other words, it helps to talk with people who’re experiencing the same trials and similar emotions as you are. Studies find talking with someone who “shares your emotional state” can reduce stress for both of you.
So, even if your spouse is an excellent listener and comforter, you may gain additional relief through a support group.
Not only do support groups relieve stress, according to the Mayo Clinic, you may also experience additional benefits like:
- Feeling less lonely, isolated or judged
- Improved depression or anxiety
- Improved coping skills
- Increased motivation to manage your condition
- Feeling a sense of empowerment, control, or hope
- Increased understanding about your medical condition
- Receiving practical feedback about treatment options
- Learn about new resources
How to Find an Incontinence Support Group That’s Right for You
Not all support groups are the same. When selecting the group that’s right for you, consider who is leading the group and what type of format you’re comfortable with. Support groups are typically led by a:
- Lay person with similar experiences
- Social worker
You can choose from different formats like:
- Face-to-face meetings
- Online communities
The type of group you choose is entirely your decision. Choose a support group you feel most comfortable with, and don’t be afraid to try some out until you find the right fit.
Face-to-face support group meetings for incontinence can be difficult to find unless you live in a larger city. But you can ask your doctor to recommend local meetings to you.
Online Incontinence Support Communities and Forums
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