I am so immensely grateful to have a tool that has given me so much freedom and life back.
“Gotta go put on a diap diap!” I say to my husband as we get ready to go on a walk around the neighborhood.
No, I don’t have a baby, or a child of any age for that matter. So, when I talk about diapers, they’re of the adult variety and solely used by me, Holly Fowler — age 31.
And yes, we really do call them “diap diaps” in my household because it somehow seems more fun that way.
Before I can get into why I am a diaper-wearing 30-something, I really need to take you back to the beginning.
If I’m being honest, I was in complete denial of my diagnosis and spent my college years pretending it didn’t exist until my next hospitalization came around.
There was nothing in the world, autoimmune disease included, that was going to make me any different than my peers or keep me from doing what I wanted to do.
Partying, eating spoonfuls of Nutella, staying up all hours of the night to pull campus pranks, studying abroad in Spain, and working at a camp every summer: You name a college experience, I probably did it.
All while wrecking my body in the process.
Year after exhausting year of trying so hard to fit in and be “normal,” I eventually learned that I sometimes have to stand out or be the “weird eater” at the table to truly advocate for my health and for what I know is best for me.
And I learned that it’s OK!
In my most recent flare-up that started in 2019, I was experiencing fecal urgency and having accidents on almost a daily basis. Sometimes it would happen while I was trying to take my dog around the block. Other times it would happen walking to a restaurant three blocks away.
The accidents became so unpredictable that I would get stressed at just the thought of leaving the house, and then would have an absolute emotional meltdown when I couldn’t find a bathroom in time.
(Bless the people who I have pleaded with, through tear-filled eyes, to use their restroom at various establishments across the Los Angeles area. There is a special place in my heart for you all.)
With as many flare-ups as I have had in my lifetime, the idea of adult diapers as an option never even occurred to me. I viewed adult diapers as something you might buy your dad as a gag gift on his 50th birthday, not as something you actually buy for serious use in your 30s.
But after researching and realizing there were discreet options out there that would make my life easier, I made the decision.
I would order adult diapers — in the most flattering cut and color available, of course — and I would take back control of my life.
I used to think ordering nondairy milk for my coffee at restaurants in areas where that isn’t common was humiliating.
But staring at my Amazon cart with a double pack of Depends was another level of humiliating that I had never experienced before.
It wasn’t like I was in a grocery store aisle in a town where I knew everyone. I was literally just on my couch by myself. And yet I couldn’t shake the deep feelings of disappointment, sadness, and longing for the version of myself who didn’t have to deal with ulcerative colitis.
When the diapers arrived, I made a pact to myself that this would be the only package I would ever need to buy. Don’t you love the pacts we make with ourselves?
I have no control over when this flare-up is going away or when I will no longer need additional “garment support.” Maybe it just made me feel better at the time, but I can assure you I have since bought many more packs as this flare-up soldiers on.
Even though I had the diapers in my arsenal and ready to use, I still felt so much shame over needing them as much as I did. I hated the fact that I needed them to go to dinner or to the library, or even to take the dog for a walk around the block.
I hated everything about them.
I also resented how unsexy they made me feel. I would get changed in the bathroom and wear clothes in a certain way so my husband wouldn’t be able to tell that I was wearing a diaper. I didn’t want his view of me to change.
While I was worrying about no longer feeling desirable, what I didn’t take into consideration is the massive positive impact my husband would have on my outlook.
In our household, we have a tendency toward dark humor, based on the fact that I have an autoimmune disease and my husband experienced a broken back and a stroke before the age of 30.
Combined, we’ve been through some rough stuff, so we have a different lens on life than a lot of couples our age.
All it took was him to say, in his best grandpa voice, “Go get your diap diap on,” and suddenly the mood was lightened.
The second we took the power away from the situation, the shame lifted.
Now we share all kinds of inside jokes about my diaper, and it really just makes it easier to cope with the state of my health.
I’ve learned that, with the right style, I can pull off wearing diapers under leggings, running shorts, jeans, dresses, and, yes, even a cocktail dress, without anyone knowing.
It’s even kind of a rush knowing what I have on underneath. It’s sort of like wearing lacy lingerie, except revealing your undergarments would garner surprise and awe from the audience, rather than a sexy reveal.
It really is the little things that make this disease bearable.
This flare-up will eventually end, and I won’t always need to wear these diapers. But I’m so immensely grateful to have them as a tool that has given me so much freedom and life back.
I can now go for walks with my husband, explore new areas of our city, ride bikes along the beach, and live with fewer limitations.
It has taken me a long time to get to this place of acceptance, and I wish I would’ve gotten here sooner. But I know that every season of life has its purpose and lessons.
For years, shame held me back from living a full, beautiful life with the people I love. I’m now taking my life back and making the most of it — autoimmune disease, diaper, and all.
Holly Fowler lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their fur child, Kona. She loves hiking, spending time at the beach, trying the latest gluten-free hot spot in town, and working out as much as her ulcerative colitis allows. When she isn’t seeking out gluten-free vegan dessert, you can find her working behind the scenes of her website and Instagram, or curled up on the couch bingeing the latest true-crime documentary on Netflix.