Here at Lily Bird, we feature personal stories written by smarty pants women from our community. That’s because telling your bladder who’s boss is better as a team sport. These women get you. They’re in your corner. And they’re here to remind you that your body isn’t broken. Hey, bodies age, bladders leak, and movie sequels bomb. Right?
This week Akanksha’s here to tell us what peeing into a bottle can teach us all.
It started on a drive from White Plains to Brooklyn.
My sister and her fiancé were in the front two seats and the last rest-stop was half an hour ago. I’d started the morning (like I do every morning) with a liter of water. Bad. Idea. We were nearly at our destination when traffic came to a standstill and I had to go. Really had to go.
My sister — bless her — chugged part of her highlighter-green energy drink and passed it back.
“Here,” she said.
“You’re not serious.”
She was. I took the can and yep: I filled it up.
While she and her fiancé rolled down the front windows and blared Taylor Swift, my embarrassment crumpled me into a ball from the inside.
My embarrassment crumpled me into a ball from the inside.
The kicker? I didn’t screw on the top properly. Just as traffic started moving again, the bottle slipped out of my hands. It was half pee, half energy drink.
When I spoke to my sister a day later, she said the seat adjusting mechanism had stopped working.
I can’t say I’m not mortified in sharing this story. But there were signs before that incident that I wish I’d seen: bursting to pee every time I went to the restroom, peeing way too often, and actually wondering if I’d peed myself laughing.
I now know that I have a condition that impacts 346 million people worldwide. And while that situation was shame-inducing, there’s nothing for me to be ashamed of. I have urinary incontinence.
My diagnosis came after hours spent on the internet researching what was ‘wrong’ with me. I had a fairly strong idea that it was incontinence (because Dr. Google has never failed anyone, has she?) but dragged myself to a urologist all the same. After a series of questions, she diagnosed me with Mixed Urinary Incontinence or MUI and asked me when it had started.
There’s nothing for me to be ashamed of. I have urinary incontinence.
When I came to think of it, it had started in my first semester of college. I’d wet myself after just a couple of beers, but I wasn’t drunk. That was also when I had started the contraceptive pill, which according to my urologist was mildly linked to incontinence too.
That, to me, was the initial sigh of relief. I was so caught up in thinking about the ways in which my body had failed me that it didn’t occur to me there might have been external factors at play as well. Now, when I think back to the college incident, I realize that there was no failure involved. I’d simply had too much beer without emptying my bladder. And since alcohol is a diuretic, most urologists will tell you to steer clear. Truthfully, I think there’s a balance between knowing your limit in terms of beer consumption and in terms of bladder capacity. Thankfully, my doctor agrees. When I drink beer nowadays, I make sure I use the restroom as frequently as possible without forcing myself to ‘go’.
All it takes for me to live the life I want to live is listening to my body, and thinking ahead.
Knowing I had a condition was really half the mountain climbed. I’ve come to realize my triggers, and take preventative measures as a result. The second half was accepting that there’s nothing wrong with me. This is the hand I’ve been dealt and it’s no one’s fault. Thankfully, I don’t see myself peeing into a bottle on a long ride again, and I haven’t given up coffee (also a diuretic) or strenuous exercise. All it takes for me to live the life I want to live is listening to my body, and thinking ahead. I use the restroom as frequently as possible, and, if I’m going on a long drive, I’ll look up rest stops before hand. Incontinence is uncomfortable, but for me, it’s not an obstacle.
By Akanksha S.
Akanksha is a full-time writer and part-time coffee fiend based in Bombay, India. Equal parts eye-rolling emoji and heart-eyed emoji, she sporadically tweets from @akankshamsingh.
Want to share your own story about leaky laughs or dribble dilemmas? Give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.