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Bladder Confidential: Speaking Truth to Pee Power

If you think about it, peeing is naturally funny. For example, the oxymoronic term ‘adult diaper’ is just plain hysterical. The prospect of wearing one is either icky, hilarious, or a relief depending on your age and urinary health. Gender-bending pee behavior is hilarious, too. My boyfriend pees sitting down whereas I pee more easily standing up and letting it go in the shower. Quite the laugh riot, eh? Okay, not always.

Bladder infections are no laughing matter. I had them chronically all during 2016. Then in 2017, nothing. Funny, but not in a ha-ha way. Funny-ironic, funny-bittersweet. For a while it was kind of a mystery. What did I do differently this year? First, let’s enumerate the facts from last year:

  1. I might have had the same UTI that didn’t die off entirely with Bactrim last year, but was finally vanquished with a powerful three-day dosing schedule of Cipro in December.
  1. Last year I kept forgetting to take a single prophylactic dose of Bactrim within a few hours prior to/after having sex. This could have allowed any residual urine to grow bacteria.

What’s different now?

I’m emptying my bladder more completely by bearing down with my newly-sensate abdominal muscles. Where that came from I have no idea. I haven’t been able to voluntarily flex my pelvic floor muscles since an MS flare in 2009. Then one day in January, 2017, I suddenly felt and then flexed my diaphragm muscles, which are located well above the pelvis. I could feel them push down towards my bladder, causing it to empty the small amount that’s usually left over after peeing. It is now July and they’re still working the same way. Very cool, hope it lasts. But what if it doesn’t?

I do have catheters. Not a big deal as long as I can find the right hole. Girls have three. I’m not suggesting that boys have it any easier, but they only have two and one of them isn’t anywhere near the urethra.

The first time I tried to self-cath back in December, I looked like a contortionist in a porn film. I tried it lying down, sitting on the edge of the bed/toilet, and standing over the toilet. The last stance was successful. But wait. Just out of curiosity I tried it again last week to no avail. My urethra is tube-shy.

At first I did what every normal, red-blooded American MS patient does in a situation like that: I sank into complete denial about ever needing to cath in the future. Something to the tune of Ach, it doesn’t matter anyway. I’ll be one of the lucky ones. Let’s hope. Tomorrow is another day.

Every day is unpredictable

But every day with MS can bring a different set of symptoms. Some are welcome, like loosened muscles or a bladder that has wakened out of its stupor. Others you try to show the door but they hunker down in your favorite chair for weeks and drink up all your scotch. What nerve. At first I always feel a little helpless, then resentful because I gave the intruder so much power over me. But then I gather my wits and get a plan. If the unwanted guest is bladder retention, I start telling myself I can do simple things that will help release urine. Here’s my plan:

  1. Drink a lot more water. Dehydration can cause hesitation in my urine stream.
  2. Lean forward while trying to urinate. It helps if I also press on my lower abdomen.
  3. Visualize running water. I picture a montage of faucets running at full throttle. Auditory imaginings help a great deal too.
  4. Remember to take those prophylactic doses of Bactrim on sexually active days. Bladder infections will cause major urine hesitation.
  5. Eat very small meals and take Miralax regularly. My IBS with constipation will cause abdominal distention. A constipated colon interferes with my ability to urinate.

The main thing I need to win the battle of the dysfunctional bladder is a plan. When I deploy my plan enumerated above, I defeat urine retention and hesitation. It allows me the illusion that I have some kind of control over my body. This too shall pass. But for now, I’m feeling my pee power and it feels righteous-good.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • sip1beer
    2 years ago

    I, too, found out I wasn’t completely emptying my bladder no matter how long I sat, nor how hard I squeezed, pushed nor screamed. So, after 30 years of MS slowly stealing bits of my legs, hands, eyes, brain, and feet, my urologist said it had taken yet another normal function from me. My husband had bladder cancer and has to use a cath, too, so we decided The Couple Who Caths Together, Laughs Together. Oh yes. A laugh riot,

  • potter
    2 years ago

    I had a lot of battles with bladder infections until I read a interview of a urologist by the MS Society. He said you can control bladder infections by take a 1000mg of Vit C when you go to bed. It sits in you bladder and burns away the germs. I started taking the Vit C and it cut down on my bladder infections by 99%. I found that 500mg of Vit C worked better for me the 1000mg made my bladder sore. If I feel a infection coming on I take a extra Vit C during the day and a Cystex Plus or Azo pill. It even works for people like me that get up a couple of times during the night to pee. Now I only have a bladder infection every two or three years instead of monthly. Potter

  • Walt O
    2 years ago

    I have a hint on how to empty your bladder that I found by chance one day.
    If you act as if you are wiping your self after a bowel movement you will many times find that you will release a small amount of pee! I do this to release as much pee as possible, hopefully extending the time before I will have to go again or have leakage.
    I talked to my urologist about this approach and he said that it is a normal function of the body as there is some nerve interaction between the rectum and bladder that makes this happen.
    This is another way of getting some control over your body.

  • Michraf
    2 years ago

    What a great article. I denied it for a long time and would not take my neuro’s advice to see a urologist. Unfortunately that led to multiple tests and self cathing. Yuck. Glad to hear it could end.

  • zenhead
    2 years ago

    Yeah, it’s a riot OK. I can’t count the number of events or visits I’ve had to cancel or skip because of pee issues. And though I know I’m being big baby about it, the very idea of self-cathing makes me oogly. Funny how this is such a taboo topic!

  • kobrien83
    2 years ago

    Feel your pain. Tired of changing my skirt twice a day from leakage. My training nurse at Cleveland Clinic told me, wow your uretha is far back I don’t know how you are going to do this! How’s that for encouragement. Constant leakage and UTIs told me I had no choice. I live in a power chair, left side of body does not work and no feeling or not much below waist. It took about a week but with my husbands help I learned. He learned to cath me first. I concentrated on what it felt like and told myself it would be like putting earrings in w/o a mirror. It worked! Now I can go 3-4 hours w/o leaking,have sex w/o leaking and don’t need to worry about if I can fit or even find a public bathroom.

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