Let it Lie

A monster that devours peace
Fosters weakness, pains increase
Draining Joy from all around
Stealing smiles wherever found
Slumbers now just out of sight
Banished using all my might

What e're you do, don't stir the beast
Or give it reason in the least
From it's lair to venture out
Again to rampage, cry and shout
Just let the sleeping demon be
So I can heal the happy me.







Helpless

How do you soothe an injured soul just clinging on to hope,
Who just was dealt a deadly blow and is struggling to cope,
With private loss and shattered dreams all ruined in one blow,
And anguish, guilt and sorrow grave that none can ever know,
A  frightful future looming large looks nothing like the recent past,
Deep wondering if strength's enough and endurance can outlast.

While looking on I see the pain I nearly once went through,
Wishing against reason there was something I could do,
But knowing that there is no way to really comprehend,
Or anything that I could do to comfort my poor friend,
So I give my prayers and fervent hopes since that's all I can do,
And look for ways to lend a hand to him or his small brood.


The Troubled Deep

It's said that shallow waters always rush and rumble on their way, 
But slowing down and running deep they promise calm and happy days.
Yet deepest waters in the seas are subject to the wild storms,
Tossing, turning, blown around, sharp and rough like roses thorns.
Depth is no protection from the winds and storms of life,
No matter where we navigate we're never free of strife.

Malpractioners

People who know me well know that I have a deep and enduring distrust of medical practitioners.  It doesn’t matter whether they  are conventional or not, I question the motives and quality of data behind the “scientific studies” and the actual knowledge of the practitioners.  In every case I’m aware of, there is a strong profit or other motivation to identify “conditions” for which there is a magic pill and convince you, or even better, your insurance company to pay for the magic potion indefinitely.  Several years ago I was dealing with some unexplained and fairly scary symptoms.  Over the course of about a year and a half, I bounced from specialist to specialist, each one prescribing their preferred magic potion for each symptom.  As time wore on, my collection of pills started to look like the kind you see in the hands of hypochondriac old men who need a small truck to haul all their stuff home from the pharmacy.  My symptoms didn’t improve either.  In fact, new ones started creeping in.

At one point, I was in a neurologist’s office and mentioned that my nose had been itching a lot for several weeks.  Consistent with established routine, he prescribed a magic pill.  However, this time he cautioned me to come see him first if I decided to quit taking it.  That caution, combined with growing unease with the number of medications I was on, prompted me to look closer at the information on this drug.  The results were frightening…  Side effects of use were fairly significant, but withdrawal looked terrible.  One of the more common results of quitting was suicide, and 100% of users experienced the feeling of burning knives stuck in their brains.  The problem this pill was supposed to help was an itchy nose…  I couldn’t find a single argument that would justify the risks and side effects just so my nose would quit tingling.  I decided to throw the prescription away.  At that point, I went through the rest of my stash and one by one considered the risk/benefit calculus, ultimately opting to get rid of all but one — including the heartburn and cholesterol pills I’d been taking for years.

Within a few months, the more frightening symptoms had subsided.  I still had residual issues, but those were there from the start and had never been addressed by all that the doctors had tried to do in the first place.  A few years later I was diagnosed with and treated for sleep apnea, ultimately resolving most of the remaining issues.   At this point, I’m convinced that most of the problem started out as a result of untreated sleep apnea or as side effects from the cholesterol and/or heartburn drugs.  Ever since then, I’ve been what the doctors would call a non-compliant patient on the rare occasions I end up in their office.  They tell me to take a drug, I ask why, how does it work, what are the risks, who did the research, what are the demonstrated benefits, how long has it been on the market, what have longer-term follow-up studies shown, why can’t my body take care of this itself, etc…  And then I decide if it’s worth the risks.  Generally, they either can’t answer those questions, won’t answer them in a form other than what you might tell a six year old, or the answers aren’t satisfactory.   As a result, I generally refuse to comply since the doctors rarely provide me with enough information to understand sufficiently.

Aside from a broadly broken body for which the only options are long-term pain medications I won’t take, all I’m left treating medically at this point is apnea and low T.  Courtesy of unfortunate circumstances, I’ve had to experiment with dropping treatment for sleep apnea — with profoundly disappointing results.  I am medically dependent on treatment, and the only alternative is highly invasive surgery.   I have accepted this fact, and fear power outages and going off​ grid as a result.  However, I’ve long been suspicious of the testosterone I’ve been on for over a decade now.

A few weeks ago, I decided to let the prescription expire and see what my body would do if I left it alone.  Today, I went in for lab work to see what happened, but I don’t think I need the results to know.  I feel awful.  I ache all over (including shooting pains in my chest and arms), have had a terrible headache for a week, have no energy or drive, am cranky beyond justification, am not sleeping well, and am having trouble concentrating among other things.  In stopping testosterone, I was trying to reduce the risk of negative side effects, and encountered substantial new ones.  The question remains as to whether or not the trade is worth it.

When I started testosterone over ten years ago, the belief was that it increased the odds of heart attack due to higher cholesterol and other factors.  This was on my mind when I decided to quit.  However, when I started to experience withdrawal symptoms, I started to do some research to find out how long I would have to live through them.  The results were disappointing.  For someone like me who’s been on testosterone for over a decade, the odds are that my endocrine system is so screwed up it will never recover even to the marginal level of function it had when I started treatment.  If it wasn’t hard-broke back then, it almost certainly is now.  Even if it will come back online, it’ll likely take years to get back to where I was when all this started — and I was miserable back then.  Two years of this is an unbearable prospect if the payoff in the end is only marginally better that the pain along the way.

There is a bright side though…  According to a 2009 cross sectional analysis of a large number of studies, the long term risks of testosterone replacement to clinically normal levels by transdermal or injection routes appear to be truly minimal, and are dwarfed by the positive benefits (including reduced mortality from heart disease).  So while I still would rather not take any medication, it seems this one is worth the cost.

Had I been more sceptical back when I first started talking it, I may have been able to successfully try alternative approaches including lifestyle and diet changes.  I might never have been in the position I’m in now.   I want to be rid of the leash tying me to a doctor’s office and pharmacy, but actions taken years ago with the best of intentions have resulted in a situation where I have to choose between long term health risks like osteoporosis, frailty and a quality of life so bad that suicide looks viable; and taking a medication for the rest of my life.

Unless my lab work comes back different from what I expect, and everything I’m experiencing is in my head, I’m pretty sure I’ll just suck it up and continue taking testosterone for the foreseeable future.   Even if the risks are greater than currently believed, I’d rather have a good 20 or 30 years followed by a heart attack than be miserable for 30-40 years.

Damn this sucks!  I’ll know for sure in a few days, but I’m pretty sure this is the last time I try to quit testosterone.

There is an answer…

It’s no secret that I’ve struggled greatly for most of the last year and a half.  Depression has gotten the better of me for a lot of that time and pains, difficulties, setbacks, and heartache that would have only been a mild irritant under normal circumstances have stacked up and thrown me well off balance — leaving me unstable.

Last Sunday, I was sitting in fast and testimony meeting listening to the traditional flow of shared testimony and experience with no intention of taking part in more than a strictly passive sense.  Sundays, in particular, have been very hard for me, and last Sunday was no exception.  All I wanted was to crawl in a hole and sleep until Monday.  The last thing on my mind was sharing anything with anyone.  However, what I want rarely had any bearing on what actually occurs, and this was no exception.  I spent several minutes convincing myself that the promoting I received was authentic, and a few more trying to rationalize ignoring it.  Ultimately, I submitted.

Generally speaking, I like talking to an audience, and have no issues sharing a message.  However, what I was prompted to say was something I didn’t want to share.  I didn’t want to air my feelings and struggles in public, but that was exactly what I was being directed to do.   Standing there in front of a ward full of strangers who knew me as nothing more than Liz’s husband who left his wife and family alone for seven months immediately after moving in, I was called on to admit how I felt and what I’d been through — even if in an abbreviated form.

However, I was not there to complain.  The details of my struggles remain my own.  However, the part I needed to share depended on what bit of struggling I did share.  This year has taught me to be empathetic to those who decide it’s easier to believe that the answer to the question “why” is that there is no God, and that it is all just random chance.  It would seem be easier to give up everything rather than believe in a God who could inflict such pain on one who he nominally loves.  Standing in front of that congregation as an emotional wreck, I testified that this view was very short sighted.  While I can understand how one could reach that conclusion, and how it could be appealing to just give up faith in exchange for not wondering why anymore, I couldn’t bring myself to take that step.  As much as it might temporarily ease some pain, I am perfectly confident that it is wrong.  While I don’t understand the purpose in pain, I do have hope that there are several, and that they are all worth it.  Even seemingly pointless suffering has a purpose, and I testified that I was certain we would see and understand that in it’s fullness in the end.  I declared that I have faith in the Lord’s timing, unbounded love, and deliberate purpose.

I didn’t know it at the time, but there were many more there beyond myself who needed to hear that.  One of my young men had been admitted to the hospital with what was reportedly a minor bug, but I found out later that the situation was very serious and the family was struggling.  Another thanked me for reminding them their fight with an aggressive cancer had a point.  The most poignant example took a week to evolve.  A friend confided in me that his wife’s health had been rough lately, and that she had been diagnosed with a heart condition just recently.  He was confident that it was treatable, but was obviously weighed down by the reality of his present.  I shared with him a little of my experience when Liz got sick, and we parted ways.

Yesterday morning Liz got a phone call telling her that our friend had died that night of her heart condition.  Her husband had been out of town.  This fantastic 31 year old wife and mother was called home to heaven and her husband now faces the full anguish that I only contemplated several years ago.  My heart aches for him and his children.  I doubt anything I said will help him.  Logic and reason cannot penetrate that kind of sorrow, but I think that above all else I needed the reminder.  Grief and pain exist in a very real way, and cannot be compared between sufferers, and much of what happens makes no sense given our mortal perspective, but I do believe there is another, more perfect, perspective where all this makes sense.

Saddle Sore

It's Been a while since I rode
More than just a spoon and fork
But today I switched it up
And rode my bike clear in to work.

My aching joints all creak and groan
They tell me I was such a nut,
And oh my legs complain and moan,
But not as loudly as my butt.