A Tale of Sinuses, a Bladder, and Avoidance

 Does the fear of discomfort and embarrassment get in the way of getting help?

This post is going to get a little personal—and not in a sexy way. If reading about stress incontinence would be too traumatic for you, then consider this your warning. Click away if you can’t handle it. No hard feelings. 🙂

Of course, writing about it may be a little traumatic for me because it’s, well, embarrassing. But that’s kind the whole reason I’m going to talk about it.


I have chronic sinusitis due to narrow and oddly angled sinus drainage structures. My sinuses don’t drain easily and I almost always have a stuffed-up nose. Most of the time I can manage it with a combination of allergy pills, neti pot, nasal spray, and decongestant. When my spring allergies kick in, however, the whole system runs amok.

About a week ago, I felt the nasal tingles that told me my sinuses were developing an infection. I should have called the doctor right away to start a course of antibiotics—but I hesitated. I questioned whether I’d really felt the beginning of an infection, wondering if maybe it was because I have a lot to do and I wanted an excuse not to do it. I felt a little embarrassed about calling, thinking that the staff probably roll their eyes every time I call. “Hey, it’s that lady who thinks she can diagnose her own sinus infections. Again.”

So I decided to wait a few days, doubling my efforts to put my WebMD medical degree to good use. I pushed fluids. I took the right decongestant. I pushed more fluids. I took a pain reliever that reduces inflammation. I tried warm wet compresses and humidified air. I pushed even more fluids. I went to the bathroom a lot.

And every day, I spent the first part of the day thinking maybe I was getting better—only to feel even worse that night. I couldn’t breathe easily, so I struggled to fall asleep. When I did fall asleep, my inability to breathe easily woke me up.

By the end of the week, not only had all my symptoms worsened, I had started coughing. And coughing. Night and day. I coughed so much my back was sore. I experienced the aforementioned stress incontinence. It was not pretty.

Every time I coughed, I had to try to maneuver myself into just the right pelvic muscle configuration to try to counteract the pressure of the cough. It worked. Sometimes. And sometimes it didn’t. (It’s okay if you’re laughing at this. I am.)

So I tried not coughing. I took a cough suppressant. It was nice not to cough, but not coughing meant that it was even harder for me to breathe because of all the gunk in my lungs. So I would cough anyway. And it would be a big, deep cough. And it would make my back hurt. And my bladder just couldn’t stand up to the cough.

I felt gross. All. The. Time.

By Friday, I broke down and called the doctor’s office—right after the doctor had left. So I toughed it out over the weekend, getting more miserable. Big Guy took good care of me, but I kept getting worse. Last night, I was lying in a bed covered with kleenexes and pill bottles and a dirty plate from the sandwich my husband had made for me, right next to a night stand overflowing with more kleenexes and empty glasses.

If I had called the doctor early in the week when the problem was first developing, I would have avoided all the coughing and its effects. I would have slept better.

Because I was stubborn and embarrassed and uncomfortable calling the doctor, I became a miserable and icky version of myself who was giving more attention to the new issue (coughing) than to the original infection (my sinuses).


This morning I was so miserable that instead of going to church, we went to urgent care.

The doctor checked me out, agreed that I had a sinus infection, and then asked me to sit on the examining table. She asked me to take deep breaths—and I couldn’t do it. I was too afraid that taking a deep breath would make me cough. Up there on that table, there’s nothing to hold onto to brace myself for the cough. I was too embarrassed about the likelihood of that annoying stress incontinence.

The doctor then told me to do what I’d been avoiding. “Mrs. Taylor,” she said, “you’re breathing very gingerly. I know you don’t want to cough—but I need to hear what your lungs are doing so I can help you get better.”

Sigh. I knew that antibiotics would take care of the sinus infection, but there was only one way for the doctor to figure out what was going on with my lungs.

So I took a deep breath . . . and coughed . . . and, well, you can guess what else I did.

I was so embarrassed—until I realized that no one besides me knew what had happened due to certain products you can use to deal with that. The doctor could tell by my face that something was wrong and asked me if I was okay.

I mumbled something about my back hurting and then said, “Well, I’m a middle-aged woman who’s given birth and I have a bladder and you just made me cough and, well, you know . . . “

And you know what? She did know! She talked with me not just as a doctor but as another woman who’d dealt with the same thing. And all of a sudden, I felt a little less embarrassed. (Big Guy tried to tune out our conversation at that point.)

Based on what she’d been able to hear in my lungs when I finally coughed for her, she knew that medical treatment I needed to address what was going on in my lungs as well as in my sinuses.

I got a breathing treatment that allowed me to breathe more easily right away. The doctor sent me home with a couple prescriptions.

The doctor diagnosed me.  Some of my discomfort was alleviated right then and there, and I was sent away with tools I had to use on my own to work on the rest of what ailed me. And I survived my embarrassment.


You may be wondering what this has to do with marriage, and here it is:

Too often we avoid seeking help for fear of discomfort and embarrassment.

It happened to me this week with my sinus infection, just as it did for years when it came to my marriage.

I refused to talk with a pastor or a counselor about my struggles with sexual intimacy.

I didn’t want to be embarrassed by talking about something that was so deeply personal. It wasn’t just that sex is a private thing. My sexual reluctance was largely in response to feeling so unlovable and unloved. It was too deep and personal a thing to share with someone else.

The likelihood of discomfort scared me away, too. I knew that figuring out what was going on with me was going to be hard. I knew it would hurt. And I just didn’t want to do that.

Because of my embarrassment and unwillingness to be uncomfortable, I left my issues untreated. And just like the sinus infection that I tried to take care of on my own, my marriage was getting worse.

Because I didn’t deal with it right away, instead of dealing with just the original issues of my views on sex and my hurting heart, I was dealing with all the fallout that was covering the marriage bed just like all the kleenexes and pill bottles and dishes.

Although something may be embarrassing and uncomfortable to us if we haven’t shared it with anyone before, pastors and counselors may have heard similar stories countless times. It isn’t new to them, even if it’s new to us. They are people with compassion who may have walked in our same shoes.

Quite often, they can give us some things to work with right away as well as send us home with tools that we can use to carry on the treatment.


So here I am on some might powerful medications. I am already starting to feel better.

I’m a little jittery from some of the meds, but I can breathe without coughing. (I am taking a deep breath right now.) I should be able to sleep tonight.

Once I got past the embarrassment and discomfort of going to the doctor and coughing, I began to feel better.

If you avoid seeking help because you want to avoid the embarrassment and discomfort, I completely understand.

Do it anyway. Otherwise, you take the risk that the issues you have now will just spread and get worse. Trust me when I say that when the professional care-giver asks you to cough it all up, it’s a lot more pleasant if you’re not having to do internal contortions to try to avoid the inevitable simply because you put it off too long.

Just do it, and let the healing begin.

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14 Comments on “A Tale of Sinuses, a Bladder, and Avoidance”

  1. This is hilarious. I gotta admit I was just a tad bit skeptical how you would tie these things with marriage, but it’s perfect. By the way, I sympathize. Today, I tried to jog instead of walking. It want pretty either, LOL. Running will have to continue to be for emergencies.

    Thanks for being brave . 🙂

  2. Thank you so very much for your openness and honesty and willingness to talk about all of the things you have struggled with. I’m sure that many people have and will benefit from your posts.
    Did the doctor say anything about Kegel exercisesto strengthen the muscles and prevent the stress incontinence.

  3. Thank you, Chris. The “get help early” message is crucial and cannot be overstated. I think couples should have counseling as a preventive measure from day one.

    By the way, I always cross my legs when I feel a sneeze coming on. 🙂

    1. It’s so hard to admit when there’s a problem, and preventive support makes good sense. Even if it is a matter of experienced married couples reaching out to those who are in the early years of marriage–building relationships so they can ask the uncomfortable questions–there is much that could be headed off at the pass.

  4. Maybe an on-going frank, “married life” study group in each congregation. But probably most Christians couples would not participate. We mostly keep these things private, to the ruin of the marriage.

    And men tend to sometimes suffer from the same, ah, sneezing/coughing difficulties–unfortunately from the “dark side.”

  5. Lol! Love your comparison. …saw it coming right away. Unfortunately we are at the place of never having dealt with anything, only making it worse and now I’m clawing my way along with a distant hubby.

    1. Yes, it would definitely be better if I were laughing with you! I’m feeling better today. I’ve still had some coughing, but it hasn’t been nearly so bad (in several ways).

  6. As usual, you created a perfect analogy for marriage! Sorry you have been so sick and hope you are starting to feel much better.

  7. You have a beautiful ministry going on here. I checked out a few other pages too! What a gift in the way you open up your life and share it for the hope and healing in others. I can relate to much of this, actually. Great blog topic! Blessings from “Espressos of Faith”!

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