Pardon Me, Excuse Me, I’ve Really Got to Go NOW!

Pardon Me, Excuse Me, I’ve Really Got to Go NOW!

Have you ever been in line in a public women’s restroom and had someone fly past you and slip through a newly opened stall door to get to the toilet? What were your thoughts? Probably something to the effect of ‘how dare she skip the line that we’ve all been suffering through’ or ‘what nerve she’s got’ or ‘how rude?!’

Have you ever been the woman who rushed into the bathroom, skipped the line, and simply walked into a newly available stall without even looking at the ladies who had been waiting?

Both sides of the equation

I’ve been both of these ladies on different occasions. Neither situation is ideal. Planning ahead for how to take care of your bathroom needs can become a challenge with MS. Even if you don’t have bladder problems all of the time, when you do it can be embarrassing, uncomfortable, disruptive, and demoralizing, especially in public.

Learning from traveling

Over the past few years, I’ve taken several train trips up and down the East Coast traveling between Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and Manhattan. During these travels, I’ve learned a few things, especially as they relate to the ‘gotta go, gotta go, gotta go’ situation.

If my trip is from Washington, DC, to Philadelphia, I’ve learned to take the opportunity to use the facilities on the train shortly after we pass Wilmington, DE, because we’ll be pulling into Philly soon and people will begin gathering in the aisle waiting to de-board. If I’ve missed this opportunity, at least the restrooms at the train station are larger than they are busy most of the times I’ve been there. It’s only reaching them in time that is the challenge due to the long walk.

Planning my strategy in advance

If my destination is New York City’s Penn Station, then I have to plan my strategy a little more in advance. Things get busy on the train between Newark, NJ, and NYC. It is at Penn Station where I once simply walked past a line of at least 15-20 ladies who were waiting their turn in the restroom. I’m not sure that I’ve ever visited this particular restroom which is centrally located near the Amtrak waiting area when there wasn’t a long line.

This situation was similar to many others where if I didn’t keep moving and get undressed as quickly as possible, the dam on the levy would break so to speak. I’ve even been known – well, probably no one else knew – to discretely get my pants undone while waiting in line to facilitate a speedier drop of the pants to try to beat the stream of urine that was sure to escape before I got appropriately positioned.

Standing still can make it worse

For some reason, standing still for a brief period of time makes the situation worse. It seems that if I pause long enough to clinch my legs together, then the next time they relax – for example, in order for me to take a few steps – the muscles holding back the urine relax too and Lisa ends up with soaked underwear and most likely very wet pants.

Losing the ability to control the flow of urine is a common dysfunction in MS. So are problems with storage of urine, emptying of the bladder, or a combination of problems caused by detrusor-external sphincter dyssynergia (DESD) which is a lack of coordination between the different muscle groups that independently control storage and flow.

Discussing bladder problems with your neurologist

It is important to talk to your neurologist about any problems you are having with bladder functions. There are treatments which may help to reduce complications. But one thing you should NOT do if you are worried about incontinence is to dramatically limit fluid intake. You need to drink plenty of water to stay appropriately hydrated and to avoid aggravating bowel problems which can often accompany bladder problems.

For me, the onset of bladder problems coincided with a period of time where my MS was progressing somewhat rapidly. I was having several relapses with limited recovery in between. This was years ago, however.

My brain subtly warning me

Now, when I begin to have bladder issues, it is often because of a blossoming urinary tract infection or poor attention to my body’s needs on my part. I’ve learned that if the random thought of the bathroom crosses my mind I should act upon it, even if I don’t physically feel the need to go to the restroom…yet. I may not be able to FEEL my need, but my brain is trying to subtly warn me in advance that we’re going to have to make a move soon.

What’s your experience with bladder problems? Are there strategies that you employ to try to manage or prevent problems when you are out and about?

Being prepared helps to reduce anxiety

One last thing. I’ve also learned that it is very helpful to carry a ziploc bag with a fresh pair of underwear just in case I need to store a soiled pair in my purse and swap it out for a clean pair. Individually packaged handi-wipes are also useful to have for when you need to freshen up a bit and plain toilet paper feels insufficient. I’ve found that being prepared helps to reduce anxiety related to bladder problems.

Lisa Emrich | Follow me on Facebook | Follow me on Twitter | Follow me on Pinterest

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

Comments

View Comments (23)
  • lalkana
    7 months ago

    I have finally gotten control of this problem by taking Oxybutinin XL and self cathing. By cathing, I’m sure my bladder is empty, allowing much, much more time between trips to the restroom. This combination has also allowed me to feel the urge, but be able to wait some time without feeling like the flood waters are coming.

  • irma
    3 years ago

    I’ve been diagnosed with MS since October, 2003. And now I’m experiencing a frequent urine. It’s so embarrasing having to change pads every 20min. Is like changing baby’s diaper. I wonder if there is a pill to stop this.

  • Lisa Emrich moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi irma,

    Please talk to your neurologist about this. It might be a good idea to consult with a urologist. There are medications which can lessen the frequency of urination.

    Best, Lisa

  • Dr. Bernie
    3 years ago

    Just a comment about a recent experience I had with urinary urgency. Having been diagnosed with MS for some 10 plus years I feel fortunate that I have not progressed as quickly as others I know but I do suffer from some of the same problems one of which is urinary urgency. When I get the urge to urinate I know I must respond as quickly as I can if I want to avoid wet pants. It is just one of the things some of us have to learn to live with and I can usually manage it. Recently I was on a road trip via the interstate and began to feel that I was going to have to go pretty soon but alas there was no restroom to be found anywhere nearby. When I finally found an exit which stated that there was gas station I took it and went immediately to the station and found a restroom as fast as I could. Whew what a relief! Now I am unsure how female restrooms are arranged but in this particular restroom as in most of the men’s restrooms I have used the toilets are side by side with a metal partition between the toilets that do not allow one to see the body of the person in the one next to you. There is however usually a small region of the side partition that only goes part of the way to the floor such that one can easily see the shoe of your neighbor. As I am sitting there feeling much relief the door to the toilet next to me opened and closed quickly(I could more accurately describe it being slammed shut) and then I could not help but notice that the foot of the person next to me was small with pink painted toe nails in a dainty sandal. My heart sank. I thought I am in the women’s restroom! How am I going to explain being here? What will everyone think? Will they call the police and arrest me as some sort of pervert who is trying to get a thrill by being in the women’s restroom or worse a potential rapist? I could see my life and reputation as a Pediatrician going down the tubes. What will my wife think? The life I have worked so hard to achieve is over.
    And then it happened.The toilet flushed and the person in the next stall stood up and said in a very feminine voice “I am so sorry I could not wait”. Then she and her dainty feminine feet exited the men’s restroom. I was saved. My life was back on track but I learned no matter how badly you might need to use the restroom be sure it is the one you want. It was a lot easier for the lady to apologize for using the men’s room then for a man to make amends for using the women’s restroom. Even those without MS can have urgent needs at times. I laugh when I think back on it now but at the time it happened I was not laughing or smiling. Oh the joys of MS.

  • cnoellert
    3 years ago

    My feelings:
    Diapers, (no) cloth or otherwise

    Pads (maybe) but they’re either too big or too small and adjoining two small ones doesn’t position correctly

    back up Panties (maybe) zip lock bag is easily displayed in your purse

    trying to hold it (no)often creates a UTI

    ***ok ready for this???
    I’ve found a great solution to the emergency pee situation.
    A new product called Poise Impressa bladder supports!!

    resembles a tampax but bigger and is inserted in the V and when pushed fully up there it blocks leakage urine from flowing down the canal. By some miracle it knows the difference between blood collection and urine collection. You can leave it in for up to 8 hours.

    Now you can’t full on release a stream of urine but it collects the per-urination accidental splahs.

    You’ll find it in the sanitary napkin isle.

    Consider this a positive testimony but like MS everyone is different!

    Chris

  • Lisa Emrich moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi Chris,

    I’ve seen the ads for the Poise device, but it seemed very curious to me. Thank you for giving a bit more information about how it works.

    Best,
    Lisa

  • joannmaxwell
    3 years ago

    Incontinence is an embarrassing issue and I certainly didn’t announce it to the world or my doctor for quite some time. Getting on and off toilet can definitely be a struggle with my right side weakness. So I am glad when I find a toilet that is higher than normal. I am tall (5’10 ½”) and it can be a long way down and back up. And just making it to the bathroom has its challenges. I try to read or type one more paragraph, watch TV to the next commercial, or just try to ignore the urge. But I have to be very cognizant of my bladder because the muscle control just isn’t there. Especially in the middle of the night when I am half asleep and have trouble walking let alone trying to control my bladder. I am now taking a medication that helps.
    While I was still working, I wore slacks with a flat front and side zipper. I had started taking an antidepressant which was supposed to help with my neuropathy pain. Well, it worked, but I gained 15 pounds (before finally stopping the medication). So think of a weak right hand, a side zipper, weight gain, and trying to hold off going to the toilet as long as possible. It was a perfect storm for an accident. Then if another woman came into the bathroom and wanted to talk! Oh my gosh, it was not a pretty sight. Good thing I had taken precautions with wearing panty liners!!

  • Lisa Emrich moderator author
    3 years ago

    “…try to read or type one more paragraph, watch TV to the next commercial, or just try to ignore the urge.” – I’ve done each of these things to my own detriment on occasion. Oops.

    Lisa

  • gmc
    3 years ago

    I’ve purchased new jeans and underwear, along with baby wipes when I ignored the warning signs. I always wear a poise pad or its generic equivalent. Now I also take a change of clothing in a small bag it ha plastic bag for the soiled clothing. It’s frustrating and embarrassing. The statistics for all women over 40 are mind boggling, though; it’s not just MS.

  • Lisa Emrich moderator author
    3 years ago

    I’m glad that urinary issues in older women have been gaining public awareness, even if it’s mostly through advertising. At least the subject is not as taboo as it once was.

    Best,
    Lisa

  • Dianna lyn
    3 years ago

    I had just turned fifty and my sisters are alot older than me, by 10 years, well they all call it, “radiator leaks”.LOL Anyways, I have a huge radiator leak that needs fixing, so I use always pads, and I drink alot of cranberry juice to keep the UTI’s away. When I use the bathroom here in Hawaii you have to ask for a key to the bathroom, I learned real quick to ask for a key nicely. Anyways, I hope this all helps. Happy Holidays..

  • Lisa Emrich moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi Dianne,

    “Radiator leaks” is a good analogy. Water in old radiators in under a lot of pressure and turn the radiator key just a little too far when you are “bleeding” air from the system and water can spurt everywhere.

    Good advice to always ask nicely for the bathroom key.

    Lisa

  • CarolynH
    3 years ago

    For me it’s bowel incontinence. Embarrassed publicly on several occasions.

  • Lisa Emrich moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi Carolyn,

    I haven’t had this experience yet. But I imagine that it is harder to deal with than urinary incontinence.

    Lisa

  • Azjackie
    3 years ago

    I have had this problem too. Luckily in the woods at a pull-off by the roadway. I’ve learned that the very moment I feel either, I look for a restroom. Even if it’s a false alarm.

  • Diana Chapman
    3 years ago

    I tried Botox in my bladder and although things are not perfect it’s so much better than before. I highly recommend it!

  • Lisa Emrich moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi Diana,

    Another one of our writers, Laura, has discussed Botox injections for her bladder. Seems to work well for her also.

    Thanks for mentioning the option,
    Lisa

  • J R
    3 years ago

    Hi!
    I have tried everything but Botox with little effect accept extremely dry mouth(probably over medicating) which has ruined the enamel on my teeth. How long before you saw the effect and did it hurt? I’ll be honest. I have used Botox on my face and it is a little irritating but just the thought of shots there is daunting. Botox on the face last 6 months to a year. Same thing? Thanks.

  • Sherry
    3 years ago

    I used the men’s as they both were closed for cleaning and the men’s opened first. I did get the stink eye from people. They starting saying rude comments and my daughter said back “she has MS” and that ended the rude comments.

  • Lisa Emrich moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi Sherry,

    That’s very nice that your daughter stuck up for you. Not so nice that people were being rude. Good for you for having the gumption to use whichever restroom opened up first. I did this at a tourist rest area once (which only had two single restrooms male/female) and some folks did act appalled when I came out. Oh well.

    Best,
    Lisa

  • Tripping on Air
    3 years ago
  • Lisa Emrich moderator author
    3 years ago

    That’s a great post. Thanks for sharing it. I’ve had several friends suggest that self-cathing is actually quite liberating. Good to know that it’s not painful as well.

    Thanks,
    Lisa

  • J R
    3 years ago

    That article was funny and helpful. I my pants off in the doctors office and all the instruments out on the tray beside me when I just totally freaked. I jumped up, ok wriggled side to side, until I got up and put my clothes back on and said “no” not yet to the nurse who had just walked in. You should have seen the look on her face. I will try the Botox first and if it doesn’t significantly help I will re-read the article. I have a hard time with the visual of the bag strapped to my leg. Vanity, or lack of, is a hard thing to come to terms with. What about UTI’s? I heard they are synonymous with Cathy’s which I had a very hard time with until I started taking antibiotics on a daily basis.

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