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A full bladder filled with crashing yellow waves.

My Bladder Is a Bad Communicator

Have you gotten to the point where it seems MS has just always been part of your life? I think that I’m approaching that point. Looking back over the past 20 years since my first big attack of optic neuritis, there are specific events or moments that stand out in my mind. One of those moments took place in the middle of a street.

Maybe I should have stopped in the restroom?

I had just left the dentist’s office and was planning to stop at the grocery store on the way home. I was anxious to get on with my day. Nothing unusual with that scenario.

Once I reached my car, unlocked the door, and sat down, the thought of the bathroom crossed my mind. I questioned my haste – maybe I should have stopped in the restroom before I left the building, Nah, that would have required asking for the bathroom key, going down the hall to the restroom, taking the key back to the office. Too much trouble. I’ll be fine.

Those fleeting thoughts are actually warnings

What I did not appreciate at the time was that I need to listen to fleeting thoughts that flitter across my mind, no matter how small they seem. This was early in my years of living with MS and I had not yet learned that sometimes those thoughts are the only warning I get before my body takes action on its own.

Now I know. If a thought crosses the mind, even for a split second, but the body hasn’t “said anything” obvious, I better act upon that thought.

My loss of bladder control message

I turned on the ignition still planning on stopping at the grocery store on the way home. I started to maneuver out of my parking space. Uh oh!!

Belatedly my bladder sent its own rumbling message that a bathroom pitstop would be the right thing to do. I pulled back into the parking place, turned off the ignition, and grabbed my purse to quickly head back into the building.

Nothing I could do to stop it

I got about three steps before I realized that no amount of pelvic floor tightness was going to stop the trickle from turning into a waterfall. I was frozen, standing in the middle of a deserted street as I looked down and saw that my sandals were about to get soaked. Off came the shoes before the dam broke loose.

So there I am barefoot in the middle of the street as my jeans do nothing to stop the enormous flow of urine from hitting the pavement. I’d had NO IDEA that my abdomen was hiding such volume.

The urine and the tears flowed

While the urine flowed, so did the tears. This was the first time I lost all bladder control in public since MS intruded upon my life. Although nobody was around to witness the embarrassment, that didn’t matter. I witnessed my own horror.

Legs frozen in place, I just stood there until the waterfall ran dry. Finally I could return to my car, but the thought of sitting in my fabric seat wearing jeans soaked with urine just made the tears flow more rapidly. I noticed a newspaper in the backseat. A few sheets of paper were all that I had available to place between me and my seat.

Trying to wash away my embarrassment

No trip to the grocery store. No stops anywhere on the way home. I pulled myself together for the 25-minute ride home.

As soon as I got home, I dumped my shoes and purse in the entryway. I headed straight for the bathroom, turned on the shower, and stripped down. Once the warm water hit me, I started crying again as I let the water wash away my embarrassment.

With MS, I can't trust my senses to warn me

This would not be the only time my bladder has betrayed me since I’ve been diagnosed with MS. But it certainly was the most surprising.

MS doesn’t play fair. Many of my symptoms are sensory in nature, but I can’t trust my senses to warn me when I need to do something as simple as get to the bathroom. I have learned, however, that I can trust those fleeting thoughts.

Be well, my friends,

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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.

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