Category Archives: Health

Personal Update: Seeing my cardiologist a year later

[Content Note: Health Issues, Heart Disease, Heart Failure, Needles]

Before yesterday, my last appointment with my cardiologist was last May. I’ve seen my GP a few times since then, as well as urgent care doctors when I’ve had a cold that lingered just a little too long for my tastes. So when my cardiologist reviewed my chart at the beginning of this week and saw that the doctors in internal medicine had been playing with my diuretics, He decided it was time to see me again now rather than waiting to the appointment I had scheduled for May.

I showed up at his office a few minutes after my appointment time, a bit frazzled. (A nasty accident on Elmwood turned what should have been a half hour drive to nearly an hour drive.) Needless to say, the stress of being late had my blood pressure up — even more than it normally is due to my penchant for white lab coat hypertension.

After the technician took all my vitals and got me seated comfortably in the exam room, my doctor came in less than five minutes later (the advantage of scheduling the early morning appointments is that they’re usually neither busy nor falling behind schedule yet). He asked me what was going on and I gave him a brief run-down, then gave me a brief exam. We talked a bit more and said I probably need to go for an echocardiogram since my last one was over a year ago. Also he noted the same symptoms they were seeing in internal medicine, so he said he was going to change my diuretic and double the dosage. Then he went to talk to the supervising doctor in the cardiology department.

The supervising doctor came back in the room — as is common — and talked to me some more, then asked me to hop back up on the exam table so he could take a look too. He checked me out and found the same symptoms every other doctor has found. However, he wasn’t eager to blame them on my heart. He noticed other signs that suggest that my heart may just be fine and pointed out that the symptoms I am exhibiting can be caused by other factors1. As such, he said he didn’t want to throw more diuretics at me without a definitive answer. So in addition to the echocardiogram — which he managed to get scheduled immediately after my visit in cardiology — he recommended a chest X-Ray (to determine if there actually is any fluid in my lungs) and some blood work. Which meant spending an hour or two hopping from department to department in the hospital.

Since it was right next door and is the only thing that had to be scheduled, I immediately went over to get the echocardiogram. That’s always a fun procedure, and this was my third time at it.  Basically, you take off your shirt, lie on a bed and let the technician run an ultrasound probe all over your chest while fiddling with the controls. This time, though, the tech also took shots of my abdomen and throat, which was a new experience. I look forward to finding out what that was all about.

The hardest part of the echocardiogram is the contrast dye. They inject it into a vein to get better contrast in the images, which helps them take more accurate measurements. The put it in through an IV port. That means that — unless you have other tests scheduled that also require an IV port — they put one in, take about ten minutes to do that part of the procedure, and take it right back out.

After that, it was off to the outpatient lab to get blood drawn. They needed three vials this time. I joked about that to the phlebotomist and she responded, “Yeah, we only take as much as they need.” I told her that was good, as I kind of like my blood.  I was also pretty impressed with the this phlebotomist. Not only did she manage to get blood with only one try, but I think it was the closest I’ve come to having blood drawn completely painlessly. (Well, other than the time in the hospital when I’m pretty sure I slept through the whole thing.) I barely even felt the needle.

After that, it was off to radiology for chest X-Rays. I was a bit concerned about how long that would take. When I had a chest X-Ray back in October, they were packed and it took them about half an hour to call me.  Even then, they actually took me to a different part of the hospital because they were so backlogged. (I”m guessing this is probably why the radiology department validates parking for their patients.)

However, they were pretty slow yesterday morning. They called me in less than five minutes. After that, it was just a matter of posing for the nice woman, praying that the radiation would give me superpowers instead of cancer, and going on my merry way.

Now the hard part is waiting for my cardiologist to look over the results and call me back with answers. Fortunately, I’m able to see all my results (except for the echocardiogram) this morning. What I can see looks pretty good:

  • My calcium and platelets are both low, but otherwise my blood work looks great.
  • My A1c (I was totally surprised when my cardiologist — who usually doesn’t care about my diabetes — ordered one) is a mere 6.0.
  • The report from the chest X-Ray indicates that both my central airways and my lungs are normal. No mention of fluid, so I’m guessing that means there isn’t any. Sadly, it also doesn’t give any indication as to what’s causing the crackling sound in my lungs, which is what everyone panicking that my heart might be getting worse again.

So unless the echo shows something to be concerned about, this is probably a good indication that my heart is happy. Hopefully the cardiologist will be able to shed some more light on things whenever he calls.

And hopefully we can figure out what really is causing my symptoms so everyone will quit throwing diuretics at me until they’re actually necessary.

1This seems to be the problem with getting a diagnosis of something like congestive heart failure. If a symptom can be attributed to that diagnosis, most doctors are inclined to assume that’s what’s going on and act accordingly. That’s great if they’re right. If they’re wrong, you end up wasting a lot of time treating the wrong thing.


Cook’s Corner: Hamburger and Rice Skillet

As I have a pretty well stocked freezer (as in I have enough entrees to last me at least two months, if not three or four), I’ve decided to take a bit of a break from the heavy duty cooking.  However, I also decided that I wanted to do something special for lunch, so I decided to make the Mexican hamburger rice skillet that I found on Dick Logue’s Low Sodium Cooking a few months ago.

A skillet of yummy goodness!
A skillet of yummy goodness!

I haven’t made the recipe since sometime in November, and I decided to make a few changes it to it this time around:

  1. I decided to add chopped green peppers in addition to the chopped onion, as I’m finding that just about everything tastes even better when I add peppers to it.
  2. I decided to throw the onions and pepper into the skillet with the ground beef while I browned it.  Again, I’m finding this enhances the flavor.
  3. I decided to replace the orzo with another cup of rice.  Since I use brown rice, it breaks down into glucose more slowly than orzo (which I have not found in a whole wheat form).  This makes it a bit better for diabetes control.

The whole thing turned out wonderful, as you can see from the picture I’ve included.  I’m quite pleased, especially with the fact that I finally found the right amount of water (3 cups) to add to the mix.  I don’t know what rice Logue is using, but the 1-1/2 cups of water he recommends isn’t nearly enough for the stuff I’ve been getting.

Of course, I’m also trying to figure out how he came up with the nutritional information he lists on his site.  Again, based on the rice I’m using, the original cup of rice alone divided into four servings makes the carbohydrate count 32 grams per serving.  In fact, I was quite distressed when I realized (only after the fact, naturally) that adding an apple and a yogurt to my lunch put the whole meal two starches over my allowance for this meal.  So when my BG is a bit high when I check it in a few minutes, I’ll know why.  Oh well, I’ve been doing well on that count, so one hiccup shouldn’t be a problem.

I love how it turned out, but I’m still thinking of ways I might play with the recipe.

  1. Add another can of tomatoes.
  2. Cut back to a single cup of rice with no other starch.  (If I do this, I won’t increase the tomato, more than likely.)
  3. Add a splash of red wine for flavor.
  4. Spice it up a notch with a little cayenne pepper or maybe some chopped jalapeno.

Yes, I’m getting obsessed with cooking.  Now if I could just find someone to do the dishes for me.


Personal Update: Warmer weather brings thoughts of walks

It’s already 34*F (11*C) this morning. I think it was a couple degrees earlier when I started my car to come into the office. As I’ve been doing, I started before I fixed breakfast. Back when we were in the single-digit temperatures (and even lower wind chills), that gave my car’ s heater just enough time to get the passenger cabin slightly about freezing. Today, I hopped in a toasty car instead. It made the five minute drive to the office even more pleasant.

What was more pleasant than that, though, was the fact that walking through the parking lot to the back door of the building didn’t involve walking against near-arctic blasts of wind. As I covered the hundred yards on foot, it occurred to me that I almost felt like going for a three mile walk in this weather. That says something about how the polar vortex has changed my perceptions regarding temperatures this winter. It does suggest, though, that I need to get walking again.

Health-wise, it’s time to get walking anyway. I haven’t been going for my near-daily treks since just before Thanksgiving, mainly because it’s been too cold (and despite my rest expectations of what’s “cold” and “not so cold,” it’s still too cold) to do any serious walking outside and the Christmas shoppers made walking at the mall nearly impossible. It’s been okay though, because I’ve been able to meet my health improvement goals without long walks. (Climbing five flights of stairs three or four times a day has certainly helped.)

I think that’s about to change, though. Everything has been completely steady for a week or two now. The weight, I don’t care so much about. While it’d be nice to lose another twenty to thirty pounds, it’s just not something I’m going to pressure myself to do. (My doctors can deal with that.) But my morning BG readings are leveling out in the 80’s. Granted, those are fantastic levels. But since one of my major goals right now is to get off the five units of insulin I’m taking daily, I need them to drop a little bit again (that way they raise back up to the 80’s or 90’s when I go off the insulin). And the return to regular walks should certainly help with that.

To support walking, though, I think I need to adjust my evening schedule. Between taking blood pressure, taking my evening pills, taking my insulin (another reason to get off it), and testing my BG, my evenings are pretty well divided up. It makes going anywhere to walk (or do anything else to exercise) for thirty five minutes rather difficult. I was doing it the week or so before Thanksgiving, but it made my evenings feel full and rushed at times.

The big culprit is taking my blood pressure at 8pm. That’s something I really need to be home to do. Plus it requires me to sit still in the seat where I’m going to check my blood pressure and give my heart time to fully get to a nice resting state. So I’m thinking about moving that to just before dinner. Or maybe late at night before I go to bed.

Taking the medication — which I also do at 8pm — at night isn’t as big a deal. It’s only one pill and I can do that anywhere. Heck, I could slip that bottle into my coat pocket and take it with me on the walk. Same thing with testing my BG. The insulin is more of a challenge, but I don’t do that until 9pm, and could move that even later. That would free up a couple hours in the evening where I could go out. Come to think of that, it would also help me be free to do other things with my evening if I wanted to.


A Personal Update: Sleep Study Edition

[Content Note:  Congestive Heart Failure, Health Issues]

Me (mostly) wired up for my sleep study.
Me (mostly) wired up for my sleep study.

One of the things that the doctors at the hospital did while I was in for CHF back in September was observe my oxygen levels overnight.  Based on the data they gathered, they determined that I had several apnic events (where I momentarily stopped breathing) throughout the night.  The next night, they reran the test while I used a CPAP machine.  The end result was that they arranged for me to get a CPAP machine.  They told me at the time that I still had to go in for a formal sleep study to better understand what was happening in my sleep (also to see if I had any other sleeping issues) and fine tune my treatment.   Last night, I went for that study, or at least the first part.  It’s still not clear to me if there will be a second part.

I got to the Strong Sleep Disorders Center around 7:30pm and was promptly shown to my bedroom.  I began unpacking my stuff and tried to relax while I waited for my technician, Tim, to come in and talk to me.about the study.  When he came in, he asked me a number of questions and then described the various places he was going to wire me up.  The picture on this post shows about 75% of the probe points he eventually wired up.  It doesn’t show the four (six?  I lost count) on the back of my head, the two EKG probes on my chest, or the probes the had me run through my pajamas so he could connect to my legs just above my ankles.  (They also put a cannula in my nose that they used to monitor the airflow out my nose.)

Once he explained everything, he set up the CPAP machine just in case they switched me over to that after the first two hours (I didn’t have the requisite forty events in the first two hours, so they didn’t).  He also had me pull out my mask from home so we could test that with their machine.  He was actually somewhat fascinated by my mask, a Fisher and Paykel Eson, as he had never seen one before.  He thought it was pretty cool.  He then went and did a few things with his other patient for the night, then came back to do the actual job of wiring me up.  I spent that time watching the last few minutes of Futurama and most of South Park.  (Sadly, USA Network was running wrestling rather than NCIS or Law&Order, either of which I would have preferred.)

After that, he had to go wire up his other patient before he came back and helped me into bed.  He than started the computers int he monitor room and ran a bunch of tests that involved having me move my eyes in a certain way, wiggle the toes on each foot, change my breathing pattern, and do other funny things.  Then it was time for me to try to sleep.

I found it somewhat weird to sleep in a room with no windows, which made it pretty dark.  There was no light from outside (like from streetlights or rooms.)  The only light in the room was the couple LED’s on the equipment and the infrared light for the camera.  (Yes, they watched me while I slept.  They also listened in.)  I had an okay night of sleep, though I felt I had a little extra trouble getting to sleep and staying that way.  I’m not sure if that’s because I’m that used to the CPAP machine now or more due to the strange surroundings and being turned into a cyborg.  I did eventually manage to fall asleep, but not before Tim came in and asked me to sleep on my back (this often makes sleep apnea more pronounced).

I also dreamed a lot, and it seemed like I woke up from a lot of those dreams, which was weird.  (The weirdest dream was the one where I thought I had already gotten up the next morning and was talking to the doctor about the study.)  But I managed to make it through the night and don’t quite feel like a  zombie this morning.  Tim got me up around 5:45 so he could disconnect me and I could take a shower to get the probe paste out of my hair.  Then I filled out the questionnaire asking me how I felt about my sleep that night and how I felt about the study and the level of care I received (which was great) so I could leave.

As I said, I didn’t meet the threshold of apnic events for them to switch me over to a CPAP machine.  Tim noted that this doesn’t mean that my home machine isn’t helping or that I should stop using it (the doctor will instruct me when I see him next Wednesday).  At that point, Tim stopped himself.  I think he was getting close to discussing things that technically, he was supposed to leave the doctor to review with me.  (That’s the fun thing about technicians and nurses:  they have to be careful about how much they share despite the fact that they probably know a lot from the data they collect.)

So at this point, I don’t know what’s going to happen.  I may have to go back another night so they can figure out how best to adjust my CPAP machine.  Or they might have enough information to make a call on what to do already.  Or they may take me off it altogether (though I get the impression that one’s not likely.)  I guess I’ll find out the next steps next Wednesday.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight.

A Personal Update, Health Edition

I haven’t blogged much in a while.  Part of the reason for that is that I haven’t been sure what to blog about.  The other part of that reason is that I haven’t been doing well health-wise since at least August.  This blog post is going to be about my health, the (ongoing) road to recovery, and my thoughts along the way.

A collection of five pills.
All but my metformin.

Back in August (maybe July), I started noticing I was getting winded pretty easily.  Climbing stairs took extra effort and occasionally a break about halfway up.  I didn’t think much of it at the time.  I just figured I had been to sedentary, since I hadn’t gone for my walks this past summer like I do most summers.  Things got progressively worse until they got really bad in September.  By the last two weeks of September, it took multiple pauses to make it up a single flight of stairs.  September is when I also started noticing the swelling in my feet and legs.  A lot of swelling.  (We’ll get to the details in a bit.)

At first, I was my stubborn self and insisted things would straighten themselves out, right up until September 17.  At that point, I decided it was time to run to one of the urgent care facilities.  At this point, I was thinking maybe an infection of some sort (I know some infections can cause edema).  The doctor there checked me out and had me get a chest x-ray.  Then she gave me the bad news:  I was experiencing congestive heart failure.  So much for getting some antibiotics and heading home.

Instead, the doctor ran an EKG on me, looked at it and gave me a choice:  I could solemnly swear that I would drive myself to the hospital that day or she could call an ambulance.  I asked her if I could drive myself home first to pick up my cell phone first, which she said was fine.  So I went home, grabbed my cell phone, threw together my laptop case, and called my parents to come get the cat, since I knew I’d be in the hospital for at least a couple days.  I also decided to call a friend and have her drive me to the hospital.

I got to the Emergency Department at around 4:30 and they had me in a bed by 5:00pm. They also began the Lasix almost immediately to start getting the edema off.  They kept me in emergency until 3:30am and then moved me into a room in 4-34.  (That also happens to be the floor where they tend to keep transplant patients, which freaked out at least one friend who came to visit me at first.)  My first thirty six hours in the hospital consisted of little more than eating, sleeping, and peeing as much as humanly possible, thanks to the Lasix they were pumping into me.  (The switched me over to an oral diuretic my second morning there.)

Glucometer with reading.
Great reading!

The first morning, they also took me for an echocardiogram, where they discovered all the gory details about my heart (the left side is enlarged and it’s pumping at around half the strength it should be).  They also started putting me on medications to lower my blood pressure, slow my heart rate, and lower my cholesterol (which actually isn’t that bad anyway, thankfully).  They also put me on insulin for my diabetes which was not as under control as I had imagined.

In all, I ended up being in the hospital for eight days.  That’s mainly because it took my body until Sunday to be able to do much of anything without being on oxygen and they didn’t want to send me home on it.  Then they kept me until Monday so they could do an angiogram (no arterial blockages or damage, thankfully).  The cath lab didn’t get me in for the procedure until almost four, so they kept me one more night.  By the time I got out of there on the 24th, I was ready to get home.

The good news is that things are greatly improved.  I’m feeling a lot better — which isn’t surprising considering that the doctor estimated I went in carrying around about fifty pounds of extra water.  Right now, my doctors are in the process of tweaking my medications to get the best results and making sure my body  can tolerated the medications.

On the bright side, this finally forced me to find a doctor (and a cardiologist now) so I can get back to monitoring my health more closely.  It’s unfortunate that it took such a serious health crisis to force me to do so, but there you have it.  It also forced me to get things straightened out (with countless thanks to my father for helping with this) at home so I can start cooking again.  The low sodium lifestyle just isn’t compatible with eating nothing but delivery and takeout.

Hopefully, in time, I will even find the time and energy (the only problem I’m having right now is I still tend to tire quickly) to return to blogging. Then I just have to work out what to blog about.  😉

Choosing Your Friends

FriendsAs I’ve mentioned a couple of times, I spent some time in therapy back in 2011.  I ended up going because my codependency had reached a critical mass and my life was falling apart at the seams.  I have to say that making that choice and working through some of my own problems with the help of a professional was quite possibly the best decision I have ever made.  It’s certainly among the top five.

One of the things my therapist would occasionally ask me when I got talking about issues with a particular friend or acquaintance was, “Is this relationship really worth what you’re having to deal with?  What are you getting out of it?”  She never pushed me to answer the question in any particular way, but she insisted that I face the question.  I’d say it’s probably one of the best things she did for me.

You see, prior to going to therapy, I never would have thought to ask such a question.  In fact, I’d dare say that I never even considered that I was allowed to ask such a question.  I mean, if you’re friends, you’re friends, right?  Or that was my thinking.  Until I spent some time in therapy.  And then I realized, I get to choose my friends and I get to choose whether those friendships will continue.  That was a wonderful and powerful realization, albeit a scary one.

Sometimes, we’re better off without some people in our lives, no matter what our past with those people may have been.  It doesn’t matter if Roy1 and I have been friends since the second grade.  If he says and does things that tear me down, I have every right to protect my sense of self-esteem by telling him our friendship is now a thing of the past.  It doesn’t matter if Janet and I helped each other through some really tough breakups and a substance abuse problem.  If we’ve reached a point in our lives where we really have nothing in common, it’s okay to wish her the best and let our lives slip apart.

I’ve intentionally chosen two rather different situations in the last paragraph because I want to stress that there are many diverse reasons why I can end a friendship and am empowered to do so.  It can be because the friendship is toxic to me or because the friendship just isn’t what it used to be and trying to recapture the past may be a useless and exhausting endeavor.  My choice to end a friendship may be based on the fact that the other person is a source of pain in my life or it may be based on the fact that the other person is still wonderful, but simply not someone I have that special bond with anymore.  In either case, it’s okay.

Some days, the thought of ending a friendship really is scary.  I wonder if I’m making a mistake.  I wonder if I may regret it.  In some cases, I may wonder if I’ve really given the other person a fair chance.  But in the end, I take comfort in knowing that I ultimately have that choice and it’s okay to make it.

1All names in this post are randomly chosen and represent imaginary people.

Sometimes, you just need someone to talk to

Listening SkillsOne of the things I enjoy doing with this blog is looking over the site statistics and paying particular attention to what search phrases people use that land them on my blog.  Some of them can be downright amusing.  Others can be rather thought-provoking.  Still others manage to be both of those things at the same time.  Then on rare occasion, I run across a search phrase like this one from a few days ago:

i get a funny feeling around my friends gay

Now maybe I’m completely misreading this, but I picture a teenager (or maybe someone a bit younger) sitting at the computer after having realizing that have “funny feelings” (and I won’t try to guess what those feelings actually are) around their friends who happen to be the same sex as them and trying to understand what this means.  I imagine they’re experiencing a sense of confusion and maybe fear.

If my imagination has any resemblance to reality, I sincerely hope that this young person has someone they feel they can trust enough to talk to, and that said person will listen to them.  I know I would have loved to have someone to talk to back then.  Someone who would have just listened to me without passing judgement or telling me what I should do.  Someone would have have just listened without trying to tell me what I was feeling or what I was supposed to be feeling.

In college, when i finally did start talking to my friends about my feelings — I had finally figured out and admitted that they were romantic and sexual in nature at that point — I had friends who were all too happy to offer their advice on what I should do.  Some wanted me to pray away the gay.  Others wanted me to just accept that I was gay.  To be honest, I found both sets of advice to be rather unhelpful, because I knew I had to figure out what I wanted and needed to do.  I wished that more of my friends had been more willing to simply let me talk things out and exploring what I was feeling at the time.

So as I read that search phrase, I found myself hoping that the person who submitted it has at least friend that can do that for them.

As an aside, I have recently created a contact form for anyone who wishes to reach me.  Because I’m always willing to listen too.  Confidentiality guaranteed.


The most terrifying thing my therapist asked me to do

[I feel like this entry might need a Content Note or two, but I’m not sure exactly what for.  If anyone wants to offer any suggestions, I’d be quite grateful.]

I figured that since I’m in a writing mood, I’d schedule a blog post or two to go up while I’m at the Generous Spaciousness Conference Retreat.  This is another personal reflection/tell you a bit about me post.  The events I describe happened a little over two years ago.

I was sitting in my first therapy session and it was almost over.  Felicia and I had discussed a few different things.  Mostly she had asked me probing questions and I answered them, somewhat briefly.  Then she sprung the trap on me.

“We’re just about out of time for tonight, so here’s what I’d like to do.  For the next five minutes, I’m not going to say anything.  I want you to talk about whatever you want to talk about.”

That was it.  She was done talking.  I had five minutes I had to fill with whatever I wanted to fill it with.  Whatever was on my mind that I felt like sharing.

I hated it.  I filled with panic (and it had already been an emotional and exhausting session prior to this point).  I wondered how she could ask that of me.  I mean, didn’t we already establish that I didn’t know what to talk about, that I wasn’t sure what people would find interesting about me, or even if there was anything about me that people would find interesting?  Plus, I didn’t know what to say to her.  I mean, I was coming to her to sort out my problems —  which I felt we had already established and discussed.  What more was I supposed to say?  What was she looking for?  Why couldn’t she just give me some script to follow.  Or at least a general premise I could ad lib from.  I needed a role to play!

I’m not sure when — whether it was days or months — that my need to be given a role to play was exactly the issue she was trying to get me to face (at least I think that was her intent).  Much of my problem was that I tended to think of my life and even my worth in terms of “roles” to be played — often roles assigned by other people.  I think asking me to go “off script” for even just five minutes and choose my own words and my own topic to speak of was her way of getting me to choose my own “role” for the first time in a long time.

It’s something I still struggle with from time to time.  I’m still more comfortable in some situations — especially in situations where I’m around people I don’t know very well — having a script or at least a pre-planned topic of conversation.  But I’m also more likely to have a few possible topics or scripts picked out that I can try to introduce.  I’m also more likely to change the subject or steer a conversation where I’m not enjoying am not interested in the current topic.

And with people I’m closer to, I’m more likely to take initiative in steering the conversation.  Or torture them with talk about the progress on my novel or even excerpts from my most recent writing spree.  I’m more likely to put my interests out there and see if there is any mutual interest rather than automatically assuming there won’t be any.

It’s still a work in progress for me, but I don’t feel the need for a role — and certainly not the need for a role someone else assigns to me — to function or feel included to the degree I used to.  I think Felicia would be pleased.  I know I am.  And of course, I know Felicia would say that’s ultimately what counts.

I’m not doing that anymore, Dave

Given that it’s the last day of 2011, I want to use today’s post to personally reflect on the past year, particularly my recovery with regards to being codependent.  It’s a topic that has been on my mind a lot the past few weeks, and was one of the contributing factors to a recent bad day I mentioned.

This isn’t surprising, as the events that led to me seek therapy and uncover my codependency unfolded around this time last year.  That was when things really began to spin out of control in my friendship/relationship with a young man I will call Dave, and I realized I needed to get professional help for some my own reactions.  Then when things fell apart completely and I threw Dave out of my life, I went into therapy and started to really learned what codependency is and why I’m codependent.

For those who may not know what codependency is, I’d like to start with Melody Beattie’s definition:

A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling the other person’s behavior.

My only problem with Ms. Beattie’s definition of what it means to be codependent is that devoid of any context, it sounds really awful.  That’s because being codependent is awful, in the sense that it’s hell on the person who is codependent and those who are around a codependent person.

What doesn’t come across in that definition very well is that “the other person’s behavior” is not minor behavior.  Ms. Beattie is talking about behavior that is truly out of control and usually committed by someone who does not wish to take responsibility for that behavior.  Codependent people end up taking responsibility for that behavior — usually out of a sense of obligation disguised as love — and trying to rescue the other person from their actions and their consequences of those actions.  We seek to control and “reel in” that behavior, to try to keep everything in that person’s life — and our own by extension — from flying apart at the seams.

Dave was the last person[1] I was codependent with before getting help.  He was out of control, not handling his own past well and acting out in ways that were self-destructive and destructive to those of us in his life.  And for the longest time, I made excuses for him and took responsibility — responsibility that Dave refused to take himself — for cleaning up the resulting mess.  As a result, my life fell apart — which is pretty common for codependent people.

So I went into therapy and began to examine my own behavior, why I tended to put other people’s needs before my own, and chose to attempt control other people who were out of control rather than taking care of myself.  I re-examined my self-perceptions, came to understand and appreciate my own boundaries, and learned to put far more of my energy into caring for myself.

Like recovery from most things, recovery from codependency is a process, and usually a never-ending one.  I still have moments where I slip into the old “care-taker” habits that marked my relationship with Dave and others.  In fact, Dave and I started hanging out again — and even started moving toward a relationship again — as I continued my therapy.  At the time, Dave seemed like a changed man, and I decided I wanted to give him another chance.

Unfortunately, I discovered appearances were deceiving toward the end of June, and that Dave was still up to his old games of deceit, manipulation, and using others (including me).[3]  So I eventually told Dave it was over again and told him I would not talk to him until he got help for his problems.

Before the second separation, I had felt the old patterns come back.  I had started to allow my life to center around Dave again.  However, I can proudly say that things hadn’t gotten as bad that time around than it was at the beginning of the year.  Plus, once I saw the truth about Dave’s continuing out-of-control behavior, I quickly cut it off.  For a codependent person, that is a victory.

I’ve heard from Dave since, and my response has been even stronger.  The last time I heard from him, I laid out the rules of what it would take to prove himself to me and convince me to let him back in my life.  Dave didn’t like the answer, said a few nasty things to me, and stormed off. I haven’t heard from him since, and while I’m a bit saddened he hasn’t changed, I will not accept an unchanged Dave.  I cannot change him, and I do not want him back unless he chooses to change himself.

I hope that Dave will be the last person I get into such a rough and out-of-control relationship.  I’d much rather find a great guy who understands and values his own integrity and a sense of responsibility.  But if I do meet another guy like Dave and even start getting involved with him, I now have the sense of self-worth and the tools to recognize it and put the brakes on.  And that is good enough.

[1]  It’s important to note that my codependency developed over a long period of time and is the cumulative result of taking responsible for many people over the many years of my life.  While Dave was a toxic person[2] and not good for me, it’s important to note that my codependency did not start with him.  Also, I am responsible for my codependency and my recovery from it now.  As Ms. Beattie also says, it may not be my fault that I’m the way I am, but it’s my responsibility to do something about it.

[2]  It’s important to note that toxic people are not worthless or irredeemable.  Saying a person is toxic simply means that they choose to behave in ways that hurt other people and are often unhealthy to be around.

[3]  The final straw for me was that we broke up and agreed to just be friends.  I was crushed by this decision.  While we were out together three days after the decision, a waitress asked if we had considered getting married, and Dave told her that we were actually engaged.  That was the moment that I realized that Dave would tell any lie that suits his purpose, even if his only purpose is to get a little extra attention from a random person in a restaurant.  I didn’t want anyone who had such a low regard of his own integrity.  Someone who can lie so easily for such a pointless reason cannot be trusted to treat others properly.

A possible consequence of slut-shaming

A recent article on Medical News Today reports that there’s a certain class of young gay men who are particularly susceptible to HIV infection right now:

Gay young men in serious relationships are six times more likely to have
unprotected sex than those who hook up with casual partners, according
to new Northwestern Medicine research.

The article goes on to explain how this tendency, combined with the fact that young men often don’t get tested frequently enough, makes those in serious relationships vulnerable to HIV infection.

I’ve seen this in action.  To some degree*, I’ve even been guilty of it.  It’s far too easy to fall into the belief that HIV is a problem that mostly — or even only — affects those gay men who visit bath houses or goes cruising in parks.  It’s easy to tell ourselves that as long as we tend towards serious relationships and only have a few partners — all serially, of course — and only get involved with men who do the same, we’ll be safe.  And to be honest, given the way some of us — even those of who know better and are careful even when we’re in a monogamous relationship — reinforce this idea, it’s not surprising.

How do we reinforce this idea?  By the way we talk about and treat those men who do visit bath houses or go cruising.  I’ve seen so many gay men call these “promiscuous” men irresponsible** and automatically accuse them of getting and spreading STD’s.  And I’ve seen many gay men assume that if a guy happens to be HIV+ or have any other STD, he must have been “promiscuous.”

And that’s how you get young men who assume that HIV and STD’s are a problem for men who cruise or hook up.  Because the rest of us send them that message by our words and actions, even if it’s unintentional.  Those young men don’t hear — at least not as loudly — that they don’t have to have hundreds of sex partners to get HIV or any other STD.  People who only have two or three partners*** can become infected, especially if one of those partners hasn’t been tested because he figures he’s HIV- and STD-free simply because he has only had one or two partners who seemed to be STD-free at the time.

Let’s quite pretending that being HIV+ or having an STD is a sign of “promiscuity.”  It’s unfair to everyone and especially harmful to young men who assume they must be safe if they can still count the number of partners they’ve had on one hand.

h/t Edge on the Net

* Though as a rule, I still used protection.

** Some of them may well be irresponsible, but it’s still an assumption made without evedence.

*** Let’s face it, the likelihood of any of us meeting our perfect life-partner the first time and never having sex again is low.