WebMD BlogsUlcerative Colitis

Careful Planning Helps Me Manage UC at Work

photo of engineer in virtual reality lab
Brett Gaul - Blogs
By Brett GaulJuly 22, 2021

Although managing the symptoms of ulcerative colitis isn’t easy, I feel fortunate that my job as a college professor made it easier for me to manage my frequent bowel movements when I was newly diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and struggling to control my condition.

My father worked for over 30 years as a delivery driver, and I’ve often thought about how difficult it would be to have an inflammatory bowel disease and a job that lacks easy, consistent access to a bathroom.

During the school year, a typical day for me includes teaching, holding office hours, and attending a meeting. My classes and meetings are usually 50-75 minutes long. When I was having as many as 10 bowel movements a day, I was able to avoid trouble by going to the bathroom right before class and meetings and immediately after them.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to invent this routine overnight. I developed it over the course of a couple of months in the fall of 2016 as my condition worsened and my bowel movements became much more frequent than they had been in spring semester or the summer.

This routine was so successful that I had to leave class only once to use the bathroom. The class was taking a test that day, so I was able to slip out without having to say anything about my temporary absence.

Ulcerative colitis can make bowel movements extremely urgent. Even though I had gone to the bathroom right before class, I wasn’t able to make it 50 minutes without having to go again. Fortunately, the closest bathroom was just down the hall and I was able to avoid an embarrassing scenario.

Even though I have easy, consistent access to a bathroom while at work, there were still days when I wore adult diapers just in case I had an accident. Although I was initially concerned that a colleague or student would be able to hear the plastic diaper crinkle when I sat down or see that I was wearing a diaper because of its bulkiness, I don’t think anyone ever noticed. At any rate, it was never obvious to me that anyone noticed. And if they did, so what?

If you suffer from an inflammatory bowel disease and work in a job without easy, consistent access to a bathroom, I suggest talking to your supervisor about your needs. Even though you might be embarrassed to do so -- in my experience at least -- people are understanding and sympathetic. They don’t want to talk about your bowel movements any more than you do, so be brave and have the conversation if it’s necessary.

Ditto for wearing adult diapers. Any embarrassment you may initially feel from having to wear them will be far less than any embarrassment you feel after having an accident without them.

And even if you have an accident without them, so what? It’s not your fault you have an inflammatory bowel disease. Be kind to yourself. It’s difficult to manage frequent bowel movements at home, and much more so at work.

 

 

Photo Credit: Thomas Barwick via Getty Images

WebMD Blog
© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Blog Topics:
About the Author
Brett Gaul

Brett Gaul has lived with ulcerative colitis since 2016. A philosophy professor, Gaul enjoys sharing his passion for philosophy and helping students live more meaningful and successful lives. When he’s not having interesting dinner conversations with his history professor wife and three children, he likes reading, running, and rooting for Minnesota sports teams.

More from the Ulcerative Colitis Blog

View all posts on Ulcerative Colitis

Latest Blog Posts on WebMD

  • tired person holding alarm clock
    Sleep Disorders

    What I Learned From My Sleep Study

    When you have sleep apnea, you don’t sleep soundly. You might not fully wake up, but you become semi-conscious several times during the night. As a result...

  • illustration of woman gazing at horizon
    HIV

    What It’s Really Like to Live With HIV

    Have you ever wondered what it's like to live with HIV? If you're not HIV positive and don’t know anyone who is, then it's a good chance you harbor a misperception or two ...

View all blog posts

Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Read More