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Water Works

Photo by Joe Zlomek on Unsplash

Incontinence. I know I talk about it a lot. It’s something I stress over every day.

A friend of mine used the word incontinence once to describe a strange physical symptom she experienced. Because of her habitual hypochondriac tendencies, I really thought little of it. We were impressionable college students looking for IT. Cheers to the IT we never found.

Fast-forward too many years:

I have had to learn to deal with many humiliations since D-Day, but this is the most alarming.

When the word popped up again upon diagnosis, I immediately cringed in sympathy for anyone who experienced such a degrading, animalistic situation.

And then I realized I HAD experienced incontinence and thought it was because of a UTI, for which I was prone.

It is not uncommon for me to not quite make it to the toilet on time or even recognize the urgency of the need.

In the early days with the MonSter, and even now, I am not comfortable in strange settings if I haven’t located the lady’s room. There are particular places I refuse to visit because I know, without a doubt, that disaster lurks. I rarely try on clothes anymore, choosing instead to grab a size that looks right and later returning/exchanging the garment. I avoid public venues that are removed from easy access to a restroom. Pre-diagnosis, I remember sitting in traffic on a warm spring day and feeling my bladder totally empty onto the plush black upholstery of my snazzy l’il sports car. I had driven several miles aware of a need to relieve myself, but confident that traffic would speed up and I would make it to Golden Arches beckoning to me in the distance. Thank goodness I was alone with no witness. (That has not always been the case.)

I hated to soil my car, but at least this hadn’t happened in someone else’s car. (Eww…)

Why had this happened? What was wrong with my body that I couldn’t “hold my water”?

I remember laughing at myself. But then, it happened again… and again… and again…

Once at a deli; once in the hallway at school… no, twice… no, three times at school; once on my back porch as I fumbled for the door key; again in my kitchen after miscalculating the number of steps it would take to reach the bathroom; once in line at Walmart; a couple of times in bed; standing up at my desk; on the edge of a ski boat (but that was okay since I was already wet and in the river)…

You get the picture.

What horrid fuel for an already elevated anxiety level! I never knew when it would happen and consciously dehydrated myself to the point of yet another UTI.

My gynecologist suggested daily Kegel exercises. My mother told me to wear Depends. The urologist prescribed an assortment of medicines. With each failed prescription, I poured another chemical into my body.

Living with multiple sclerosis requires a lot of self-experimentation. The MonSter attacks us differently so that what works for one of us may not be the answer for others. Twenty years after my official diagnosis, my neurologist hit on a tolerable pill for me. Oxybutynin Chloride doesn’t always work, but so far does the best job of protecting my dignity. (Next week I have an appointment with a neuro-urologist to talk about self-cath.)

The MonSter keeps us on our toes, that’s for sure and for certain; so, my advice to you is to learn from the cures we’re thrown. Know your personal triggers. Here are a few of my own:

  • Stay out of the heat.
  • Always know the fastest and most direct path to a bathroom.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Always know the fastest and most direct path to a bathroom.
  • Exercise/stretch daily.
  • Always know the fastest and most direct path to a bathroom.
  • Do not apologize for your disability. It only disables you if you allow it to.
  • Always know the fastest and most direct path to a bathroom.
  • Find a comfortable support group.
  • Always know the fastest and most direct path to a bathroom.
  • Be your own best advocate.
  • Always know the fastest and most direct path to a bathroom.

Have a dry day,

Lisa, Lady With the Cane

For more common sense thoughts about living with multiple sclerosis, check out my book I Have MS. What’s Your Super Power? on Amazon.


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