Article by Ceri Wheeldon
‘You only get old when you stop being busy’. This was a quote I was deliberating over coffee with attendees of a roundtable discussion put together by Depend, to talk through their research on how women deal with incontinence.
I hadn’t realised just how apt this conversation was until I heard the views and stories of the women taking part in the panel discussion.
Incontinence impacts your activities and self confidence
What if you are one of the 10 million women in the UK living with incontinence? We discovered it can impact your life and confidence, prevent you from doing the things you love, limit your activities and make you feel old before your time.
The panel openly discussed and shared their personal experiences of incontinence and how it impacted their lives. It comprised of Lorraine, a pilates instructor, Jo, a teacher, and TV presenter Nadia Sawalha. They were joined by Psychologist Honey Langcaster-James (who has appeared as the resident Psychologist on a number of high profile TV shows) and Dr Sara Kayat, a NHS GP and TV Doctor (ITV’s This Morning), who offered insight to the discussion.
Incontinence does not just affect ‘old’ people
Incontinence does not just affect ‘old’ people. 47% of women between 45 and 60 experience incontinence , with one in five experiencing symptoms every day. 64% of those women affected find it difficult to talk about their condition, even avoiding talking with their GP about it. Women prefer to remain in denial rather than talk about, what they believe to be, an embarrassing part of their daily lives, even though there is a lot that can be done. As Dr Sara Kayat explained, from assessing whether your weight is having an impact, finding the right product, learning specific pelvic floor exercises than can help, electrical stimulation, or, in more extreme cases, a sling procedure to lift the bladder, symptoms can be alleviated. But, without admitting incontinence, it is impossible to find the right solution.
The overriding theme of the discussion was that women did not have to suffer in silence, and that by being more open about their own incontinence, they would remove the perceived ‘shame’ and encourage themselves and others to do something positive and constructive about it.
Impact on women’s social lives
Jo found that her anxiety about having to find a loo was impacting her social life and time with friends. Every year she joined friends for a weekend of kayaking and hiking. This year she didn’t go as the prospect of not being able to cope with the lack of loos was overwhelming. Rather than share the real reason behind her decision, she used her husband’s knee operation as her excuse. She was afraid that friends were no longer seeing her as fun. When she was out with her family, she used her daughter as her excuse to have to visit the loo, not wanting to admit that she was the one who needed to use it frequently.
Lorraine, a lively 50-something pilates teacher talked about how she had grown up simply not discussing personal health, you just ‘got on with things’, and didn’t dream of booking an appointment with your doctor unless your leg was hanging off. In fact, Lorraine said she did not really acknowledge her own incontinence until she participated in a training weekend pilates workshop where she was required to share a room with the person who was the ‘fittest person on the programme’. Surprisingly her roommate opened up about her own experience with incontinence. Lorraine realised she was not alone, and if the fittest person on the weekend course was experiencing it, then living with incontinence was not an indication that life, as she liked to live it, was coming to an end. Although she listened, she still did not share the fact that she too had incontinence.
It seemed that women prefer to try and cope in silence, not sharing the problem, dealing with it alone, and instead changing their behaviour and activities to fit in with their condition.
State of denial
So why is this? Psychologist Honey Langcaster James says that many women are in a state of denial when it comes to acknowledging incontinence. It creeps up on you, and impacts your self-esteem, relationships and general activities. In part it is due to what is seen as being socially acceptable. At a very young age, potty training is when we are taught to have control over our bodies. This has given us our sense of what is socially acceptable ,and what is not. Many women feel less feminine and less attractive, and so hey develop a good adaptive routine long before they admit to needing help, or the use of specific incontinence products.
43% of those with the condition do not use any incontinence products. Honey suggests that just by taking a small step, such as just carrying a product at a time when you need it most, like when you undertake strenuous activity, or go on a long flight, overcoming the denial can really make a difference. Many women have found that just by wearing incontinence underwear, such as Depend Active-Fit, they removed the anxiety, and this increased confidence meant they could get on with their life – often even decreasing the urge to go .
Acceptance can be liberating
Both Jo and Lorraine felt liberated by the switch to Depend Active-Fit underwear. They felt it helped them get their life back to normal. For Lorraine, the fact that it was discreet and gave her a super smooth silhouette gave her added confidence. For Jo, it has given her the confidence to commit to next year’s kayaking and walking weekend without a worry
No more ‘missing moments’, and back to busy, active lives.
For more information and to join Depend’s community of women where you can receive support and advice from other women who have been in your shoes, visit www.depend.co.uk.
Disclosure: Depend funded my attendance at their roundtable discussion.
Photo credit: Adrian Brook, Imagewise