Mark – Living With Overactive Bladder
Mark has bravely agreed to share his story of living with an overactive bladder. Mark is 40, a Project Manager and lives with his wife and two children in the Midlands.
Mark has lived with embarrassing bladder symptoms for several years before recently confiding in his wife and seeking help from his GP.
Mark, thanks for talking to the Bladder and Bowel Community…
When did your bladder symptoms first start?
I would say I have had a very active bladder since my early 30’s when I slowly started planning my life around being able to access a toilet. I didn’t realise I was doing it for years and when I finally noticed what I was doing I convinced myself that it was nothing and would probably sort itself out over time. I have only started experiencing leaking for around the last two to three years, which has got progressively worse.
What symptoms did you experience?
At first it was simply an urge for the toilet that was impossible to ignore and that sometimes came just minutes after I had already been, then after a number of years planning my life around toilet stops I started having small leaks. At first I noticed that instead of one or two drips after using the toilet I was getting a small dribble, this slowly became dribbling on and off for up to 30 minutes after going to the toilet and also small dribbles in between if I could not get to a toilet in time and occasionally even worse dribbling overnight.
What did you do initially to help with your bladder issues?
I changed my underwear to thick cotton to soak up dribbling and often I would intentionally bunch up my underwear around my privates as a makeshift soaker. I changed all of my trousers to black to make wet spots harder to see and started to select trousers of thicker material even in the summer. I stood at the toilet sometimes for minutes after finishing in order to try and drain as much as possible (would keep getting small dribbles), and finally I came up with hundreds of plausible excuses to explain wet patches to colleagues, friends and family.
When did you decide to confide in your wife and how did you feel after?
After a particularly bad accident overnight, one that was too much to explain away, I confessed everything to my wife. It was very emotional and embarrassing for both of us and she was almost immediately worried that there would be some kind of serious underlying cause. Afterwards I felt relief like never before and was almost angry with myself for not speaking sooner.
How has your wife dealt with your condition?
She has accepted that I have a problem and is supporting me with getting help. I think that she is as embarrassed as I am about it and we still struggle to speak openly about it due to embarrassment. I am trying to be as open as possible but even after our first talk where I covered just about every aspect, the words still stick in my throat when I want to talk about it more and it is a real effort. I think she has a similar issue, I know she is now noticing how often I visit the toilet and she is now aware of my accidents (as I no longer hide them), I feel that she wants to talk about it sometimes but cannot find the words.
Do you think you will be able to tell any other friends or family about your condition?
Definitely one day, but hopefully I can resolve the issue now that I am talking openly with my GP and if I do tell family it will be to tell them about a problem I had rather than one I have, but whatever happens I will let them know when I am ready.
Why do you think it took you so long to seek help for your condition?
Embarrassment pure and simple, I think that being unable to keep your trousers dry throughout the day feels like the ultimate shame and it feels like climbing a mountain with the weight of the world on your back to say it out loud for the first time.
What treatment has your GP prescribed so far?
Anxiety medication due to the emotional stress and anxiety that I relate to any toilet activity after bottling up my emotions for so long, also some changes to my diet (no more caffeine, fizzy drinks etc). I’ve got to lose some weight and have some exercises to do. My GP did suggest that I will be referred to a urologist once my anxiety is under control.
Are you now able to manage your condition ok?
I definitely feel 100% more in control, the anxiety medication seems to be making trips to the toilet less stressful and now that I am using pads, the fear of wet patches has almost disappeared.
What advice would you give to someone living silently with a bladder condition?
Talk to someone today, even if it anonymous online or call the continence helpline. It’s better to speak to someone close to you like your partner, they may not understand at first but they will and you definitely need to open up to your GP as they understand and will work with you to treat and hopefully cure the problem.