This post was made in partnership with Depend® brand. All opinions are my own.
When you are managing incontinence, it can sometimes feel very lonely. It can feel like you are an individual in a sea of other people who don’t understand the challenges you are dealing with.
That said, if you look at the statistics of how many people manage incontinence, things look a little bit different. 1 out of 4 Americans have bladder leakage. That means that if you are sitting at a table with 7 other people or on a Zoom conference call with 10 coworkers, statistically, at least one other person could be experiencing incontinence issues. And likely, they also feel that they are the only one.
One reason people experiencing incontinence may feel secluded is because no one talks about it. For as long as any of us can remember, no one has openly talked about having incontinence – it is stigmatized. Which is shocking because so many of us manage it. Not to mention, a study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Depend found that 7 in 10 believe conversations about taboo topics, such as incontinence, are more widely acceptable now than ever before, so why aren’t we talking about it?
What if we started to try to combat the stigma? What do we need to think about to feel more empowered and self-assured in our bodies? Here are some ideas:
We All Have Health Issues
Everyone has health issues – and if one doesn’t, they will eventually. Whether you are dealing with a thyroid disorder, anxiety, diabetes, or prostate cancer, there are very few adult bodies in this world that aren’t managing something.
Part of growing, changing, and maturing is learning to deal with our medical conditions, develop humor about uncomfortable situations, and move through life in the best way possible. We talk to our healthcare professionals when we need to, take our medications as prescribed, and get on with each day.
We all have health conditions, and incontinence is just one of them. It can be inconvenient and frustrating, but there are ways to manage it so that it doesn’t change your quality of life.
Just like the habits a diabetic creates for staying healthy (checking blood sugar, watching carbs, etc.), when you have an overactive bladder or fecal incontinence, you pay attention to where the closest bathroom is, wear your incontinence products (like Depend Silhouette Underwear), do your pelvic floor exercises, and stay away from bladder triggering foods. It becomes second nature.
Incontinence Is A Common Condition
Like we talked about earlier, incontinence is extremely common. There seems to be an everyday belief that bladder leaks only happen to younger women who have just delivered a baby or older women in general. And while postpartum incontinence is real and older people may lose some tension in their pelvic floor muscles, the prevalence of incontinence is much wider than only these two groups of people.
Both men and women experience incontinence. While women are three times more likely to experience bladder leakage than men, nearly 4 million American men are also affected by the condition. That’s a lot of people – a lot of people dealing with social isolation when we really shouldn’t have to.
Whether you are managing stress incontinence, urge incontinence, temporary incontinence due to a urinary tract infection, or long-term incontinence due to side effects from other chronic conditions or cancer, chances are very good that you have friends or family members who know exactly what you’re going through.
It Doesn’t Have To Be A Secret
One of the best ways to help break a social stigma is to talk about the issue. When we bring something out of the shadows and into the open, it loses power. And incontinence is so common that it’s a subject many people can relate to.
When we keep major secrets, they can have a negative impact on our mental health. Medical diagnoses are nothing to be embarrassed about and incontinence doesn’t define you. You are so much more than any medical diagnosis.
If you are nervous about discussing incontinence, you would have to believe that you have a family member or friend who is as well. What if you could talk to each other? Wouldn’t that be freeing?
You Are Not Alone
Imagine what would happen if we could try to combat the stigma of incontinence for the next generation. It would be amazing for them to not be as uncomfortable talking about their bodies as some of us are.
Whether you choose to join The Incontinence Community on Facebook, find support groups, talk to loved ones, or be more open with your medical professionals, having conversations is the key to breaking the stigma. Every time you talk about it, you will become a little more comfortable. And every time you talk about it, you may help someone else become more comfortable.
What’s better, you can get some excellent information when you hear other people’s experiences! In the Incontinence Community, we’ve had discussions about Kegel exercises, effective treatment options, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, and so much more. It is incredibly helpful for learning, but it also feels great to be able to support someone else.
It is time to talk about incontinence, even if it makes us nervous. It is so incredibly common and such a prevalent challenge that we could be helping each other instead of hiding. And very quickly, you’ll find that what used to bring you a great deal of embarrassment is suddenly something that is no big deal.