After focusing on his experiences of school toilets for the past few posts, our regular blogger Dan Colegate reflects on a particularly challenging part of school life for a young man with bowel incontinence: PE (physical education) classes.  

A challenging scenario  

Certainly on the face of it, PE presented some of the most challenging scenarios I faced during my time at school. For a start physical activity tended to increase the frequency of my leakages, meaning that accidents accumulated and grew in size much more quickly. At the same time running around, jumping, jostling etc. increased the risk of the accident smearing onto my inner thighs or, worse, some or all of it falling out of my underwear completely. At the same time I would be wearing shorts making such an eventuality far more noticeable and therefore the end of the world since it would mean my peers finding out about my accidents.  

Physical activity tended to increase the frequency of my leakages.

Toilet access could also be even more limited and noticeable to my peers during PE since we were often outside, making the trip take even longer to get there and back and repeat requests more off putting to me.  

Training shoes

The changing room experience  

And I've not even mentioned the changing room experience yet. Having to get down to my underwear, which probably had already been partially (or heavily) soiled by the time I had to get changed was not an enticing prospect. This was especially true when I recall the boys changing room as a smelly, rowdy, noisy and generally unpleasant environment just ripe for some casual bullying. It wasn't unknown for boys to be grabbed by a crowd and forced out into the corridor almost naked. Yes, PE classes were certainly a special challenge from an accident hiding and 'damage' limitation point of view.   

Damage limitation 

Over time I discovered quite a few ways I could do to limit the risk of my accidents being noticed by others. For example, often I would wear two pairs of briefs to increase the tightness of the elastic around my upper thighs and I might use an extra thick toilet paper pad at the start of the lesson. Sometimes I even put a toilet paper pad inside both sets of briefs separately to help raise the chance at least one would be serviceable after the lesson.  

Ball on pitch Clever timings  

At the same time I also learned to push the limits on lateness when it came to PE. If I could show up to the changing room as other boys were already changed and heading to the courts/pitch/field then it would be quieter for me to get changed. Or I might even put my PE kit on at a preceding break in a quiet toilet elsewhere and cover it with my normal uniform so all I had to do was take off an outer layer. The reverse also applied after class if it was the end of day, when I might just slip my uniform on top and leave for home.  

Balancing risks 

There were also other behaviours I found useful, but on the whole they amounted to trying to predict and read a situation and balance the risk of appearing different with the risk of an accident being noticed by others, whether through sight or smell. How successful I was can only be judged on the fact that, as far as I know, none of my peers ever knew about my accidents at the tie. I had a reputation for 'farting' a lot (a lie I probably over used) and being generally a bit smelly, but I don't believe any of them ever guessed what was really happening.  

Looking back, had anyone known I was having accidents then all of the signs were visible.

That said, for all of my efforts, I think a lack of discovery may have been also down to the fact that heavy soiling just isn't the first conclusion my schoolmates would have come to. It was too far off their radar. Looking back, had anyone known I was having accidents then all of the signs were visible. I certainly feared they were at the time.  

ClassroomStaying seated  

The same was true in class situations as well. Sure, while I stayed pressed into my seat not much a smell escaped from my bottom but as soon as I had to stand the pungent, damp, cloying smell of a long sat on accident would emerge from both the seat and my rear end. It also stayed on my trousers to a lesser degree the whole time (and is largely the reason I tried to stay sat down for a long as possible). For anyone who knew of my incontinence it would have been fairly obvious what had happened. But for others the excuse that I had passed wind or had dirty trousers from something outside was just a more conventional and acceptable reason to accept. I guess you could say I relied on my peers lack of awareness about continence issues to help me keep my own hidden.  

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions for things you would like me to cover then please don't hesitate to get in touch by commenting below, via Twitter @IncontinentDan or via my website at www.estheranddan.com

Read tips from other teenagers about how they deal with their bladder and bowel problems when they're at school.