This feature photo shows an unstaged photo of the top drawer of my filing cabinet in my locker room office. Note the bounty of certain items (that aren’t snacks). Shorts, pads, some extra underwear — all tell tale signs of someone with a leakage issue. Since the tail end of my rugby playing days and certainly since the beginning of my rugby coaching career (2005-ish), I have had a pretty significant problem with bladder control. I define ‘significant’ as alters what I am able to do. Jump training has been out of the question, as has most prolonged running. As far as my job as a teacher, when I am caffeinated (and I have to be caffeinated to put out the amount of energy required to pull a large group of lethargic teens to perform) and have to yell or shout — to coach — I typically have to change my safety pad after every period.
This is not normal behavior or function. And yet, like so many, it is remarkable how one can make dysfunction a standard of operation. Wearing a pad is not a big deal… I have multiple extra layers of clothes to change into… I can still do everything I need to do, well… When you can justify why you don’t fix something, and are more interested in other things, the issue lingers and the system (how you work around the dysfunction) adjusts. Furthermore, the better you are able to survive in this state (yes, a matter of perception), the less fear you have to motivate you to try and do the unravelling work to try and correct it.
I’ll explain this last sentiment with a story. Imagine the absolute worst experience a public educator with a bladder control issue might have. Perhaps a large group of kids around, visibly wet shorts/ pants, the soaked pad falling out… now infuse this with an extra large group of new students around that day being overwhelmingly male varsity athletes… I am slaying them with my 1 v 1 mini-football lesson, and am HYPED because it’s going so well. (This is the same group who is under the assumption that my section ‘sleeps all day’ so I am out to blow some minds.) At some point, I am giving group instruction — all of these new, opened eyes are eagerly on me — and I feel the pee coming out and I feel the pad shift because it has reached maximal absorption. It has dislodged from my underwear and is trapped between my thighs BUT I cannot keep it there for long because it is SO wet that I am afraid it will squeeze and seep into the very visually available front of my pants. I am in meta now, still talking and describing but also intensely aware of where this pad is in the plinko that is the joints of my lower leg. I KNOW it will and must hit the ground, so in a last gasp effort to remain unlaughed at, I raise my hand and gesture with it just before it hits the ground inside of my shoe. Amazingly, it worked, and I somehow timed it so that they turned their back on me just before impact (and public humiliation). I swiftly scooped it up and deposited it in the trash, sight unseen.
When you survive a worse case scenario like that, there really is no impetus for change.
Fast forward a few years, including the COVID ones where we weren’t in an actual room with kids, and the body was feeling so good and able that I wanted to circle back to this issue because I had the space and energy for it. My good friend and idea instigator, Adarian Barr, started telling me about some pelvic floor ideas he was working on, and how the anus is an uninvestigated area because “people are weird about it.” I was intrigued. There were two openings to the pelvic floor (three for females) and the fact that the anus was kinda counted out made me feel like it could be an important, albeit neglected, contributor.
Because I knew it was about pressure, and because I was mostly interested in how pressure affected the biggest culprit of jumping, I used a plastic bat to try and feel for changes during a bounce:
View this post on Instagram
Did the lead-up text help you see what I intended, or are you one of the 8.1 MILLION people who saw and shared what they wanted to see? [The following post, which was incredibly similar without the jostling, didn’t garner nearly as much attention.]
The world showed me this was sexual. I was completely oblivious that it could be taken as such. The comments were funny at first, and I played along because I don’t take things to seriously and like to let things naturally ride out. As the views and shares mounted, I was asked publicly why I would share such a thing. I answered honestly. I had no idea it would be taken in such a way, and that I had pressure leaks I was trying to get to the bottom of. These engagements usually ended with, “sorry I asked” or “you should do some kegels” or “there are people that can help you with this.” It was then and here when I realized the beast that is social media:
- Once you release something, people make of it what they want to make of it.
- Males comment the most and a few want to save you. (The vast majority want to objectify or crucify you.)
- Impact is often bigger than intent
- People want to be entertained much more than they want to be educated.
About a week in, things took a dark turn. Liked “look” emojis turned towards comments and DM’s that were crude and offensive. It was hard to keep up with everything, particularly because so many were in different languages. If felt like trying to filter a tsunami. Two ladies messaged me to tell me what a disgrace I was. I noted everything with a disconnected curiosity, but then I realized you can shut the comments off. Incredibly relieving. I could still watch the world pass it along but it somehow felt like I regained ownership of it. (And people who shared it negatively in their stories I could just block, ultimately taking a deliberately negative view of it off the board.)
The comments closed at about 4 million views, and to my surprise it kept escalating at the same pace. Comments are not necessary for the algorithm, I thought to myself. Things finally slowed about three weeks later once I crossed the 8 million view threshold. The number of followers tripled, and all the posts around that one (which had nothing to do the anus) skyrocketed in viewership — from less than a thousand to 20 thousand plus.
Going viral wasn’t going to derail me. Instead, it made me want to show-off my brain a bit. I would tune in to a different show, with a similar premise of trying and finding and teasing out understandings. Because my Instagram releases are months behind what I am currently working on, I had several phases past the now infamous one already recorded. I just chose to withhold it from that audience. YouTube trolls aren’t much better, so I decided to bundle them as unlisted on YouTube.
Here they are, listed in sequence as conjured:
Horizontal to 45-Degree Orientation
Seated w/ Front to Back Weight Shift
(I tend to ‘sit’ more on the pee hole than the anus. Trying to centralize on the back hole without having to pelvic tilt.)
Pelvic Floor Pressure – Larger Surface Area
(Seeing this through ‘sexualized’ eyes and I totally get it. However, my intent was to be able to transition between vertical and horizontal orientation and keep the ball ‘squished’. I wanted the specific pressure to stay between the two holes regardless of where the pelvis sat. It is interesting to observe the feet… when they ‘grab’ I like to think the pelvis is also ‘grabbing…’)
I am publicizing all of this in a very real attempt to sever shame and stigma from the parts of us that likely need more attention, not less. I believe that the more we can openly and fruitfully talk about things, the more we can start to dissect them and learn how to use them as informational structures to guide our actions and decision making. I will write up more in a future post about the how’s (what you see above was simply an entry gateway into that area), but I am pleased to report that in the eight weeks since I began engaging with this stuff I have yet to have to use a pad for non-period issues AND I was able to get a sprint session in. (I wore absorbent period underwear but it was not necessary.)
If anyone is looking for more specific pelvic floor insight during the interim, I suggest you look at the videos posted on movingfsst.com, starting with the first one posted here. It is a pay per view site, but I promise you won’t spend $5 any better today.