I usually do what my wife, Laurel, says. But this morning, after we talked about my health problem, I went to my laptop and wrote just the title to this blog post.
Since I'm typing this now (8 pm), that's a pretty good sign that while I recognize the truth of what Laurel told me -- there are nasty people out there in social media who will make fun of you for being honest about your urinary problem -- as a long-time writer and blogger I feel like I'm in Word Jail if I can't openly express how I'm feeling.
Plus, I've found that when I'm honest about speaking my mind in a blog post, often, if not usually, some people will tell me, "Thanks, that's how I see things also, but usually nobody talks about this stuff in a public way."
So what the hell... now that I've gotten a few sips of wine in my system and loosened my writing inhibitions I'll just speak as if I were at an AA meeting.
"Hi. I'm Brian. I've got a peeing problem. More exactly, a urinary retention problem apparently caused by many years of a gradually enlarging prostate that finally stretched my bladder to such an extent it doesn't work well anymore."
A few weeks ago I got up the guts to talk about this in a blog post, "Given my peeing problem, be warned about asking 'How are things going?'"
Since, I had more testing and a non-cheery consultation last Wednesday with my urologist who basically said that prostate surgery might help me, but even after surgery I'd probably still have to use a catheter to urinate as I am now, just less often.
After the Urodynamics testing my wife and I had to wait for over an hour in an exam room before the urologist gave us the news. Anticipating he wouldn't have much positive to say, I spent much of the hour crying on my wife's shoulder, leaning over in a chair with my hands pressed to my forehead all totally depressed, and looking at my iPhone to distract myself.
And that was the high point of my day.
Now, a few days later, I've gotten a Xanax prescription from my family physician to help me sleep at night. Leg cramps, maybe brought on by stress, have been waking me up. Even though I'm going to get a second opinion on my bladder condition, and I certainly haven't given up hope on recovering, it's just damn tough to face the prospect of not being able to pee properly for the rest of my life.
I'm 68 and otherwise in good health, so I've been envisioning that my "golden years" would be more pleasant than they are right now.
But in my saner moments, which come and go even in my current anxious/depressed/worried state, I realize that, as I said in my first post, everybody is dealing with some sort of problem.
Everybody is struggling with something.
Some ways into my urinary problem treatment, I'd find myself getting a bit irritated when I saw people going into a restroom and coming out in a short time, their peeing business all completed with no problem. Heck, I even look upon our dog peeing a dozen times during our evening dog walk with envy.
I had an obviously erroneous feeling: that most people were living happy carefree lives, just as I had before my urinary retention problem popped up.
Well, here's the truth. My life always has had plenty of problems. I wasn't completely happy before my emergency room visit, just as I'm not completely happy now. There's always something messing up our life, physical, psychological, social, whatever.
On the positive side, I feel more compassion toward people with obvious health struggles now. Someone using a walker, crutches, a wheelchair. Someone battling cancer, heart disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia, whatever.
Life is tough. Every single person I encounter, no matter how cool, collected, and I've got my shit together they appear, has some real problems they're having to deal with as best they can.
Just as I am. My peeing problem isn't anywhere near as serious as what other people have dealt with for months, years, decades, maybe a lifetime.
I'm not saying that we all need to be completely transparent about our personal struggles, just that I've learned, and am still learning, that keeping our problems to ourselves may feel like the right thing to do in our hide in a cave moments, but we need to remember that everyone needs a shoulder to lean on.
And it's tougher to be aware of those shoulders if you don't say, Hey, friend, I could use some support.
So this is one reason I've decided to add a "My peeing problem" category to this blog (in the right sidebar). Dealing with it is a big part of my life right now. Not so much physically -- using a self-catheter to urinate only takes about 5 minutes four times a day or so -- but psychologically.
I'm a philosophical sort of guy. My wife is a retired psychotherapist. Which basically means that we're just as screwed up as everybody else is, but we can maybe describe and analyze our screw-ups a bit more cogently than most other people can.
In future posts I want to talk about how I'm dealing with what might turn out to be a chronic health problem. (Click on the "My peeing problem" category to find them.) For now, I'll just speak a bit about my biggest struggle: getting out of the confining cage of my own self-absorption.
Like others with a serious health problem, I've been spending a lot of time with doctor visits, pharmacy visits, dealing with medical supply companies, adjusting my lifestyle to fit my condition. All that is necessary. Yet it also drives me crazy. I'm tired of focusing on me. I want to get back to relating with the world as normally as possible, like I did before.
I want the part of me that has a health problem to be as small as possible, so there is more room for all of the other people, activities, loves, causes, passions, and such that were my main focus before my consciousness zeroed in some three months ago on what my bladder was doing (or, failing to do).
I'm coming to feel that story-telling is what I've got to work on. Meaning, I'm spending way too much time and energy on making up stories about how my life is going to go from here on out.
Sometimes those stories are positive: "I'll get a second opinion. The doctor will have a brilliant solution to my peeing problem. I'll be back to normal, or near-normal, is less than a year." Sometimes those stories are negative: "I'll never get better. Instead, I'll get worse and turn into an angry depressed old man whose only joy in life is boring other people with talk about how his urinary tract doesn't work right."
(Hey, I'm off to a good start with my blog posts!)
Here's my saner-moment take on this. I wasn't able to predict that I'd get the problem I have now, so why the heck should I have any confidence in my ability to predict what will happen in the future?
Which doesn't mean that I shouldn't plan ahead -- like I am with arranging for a second opinion. That's clear and present reality. However, I'm finding that what hurts my precarious mental health is making up stories about alternative health futures that are almost totally fictional.
Often I feel like commentators on cable news who utterly failed to predict that Trump would become president, yet, now that he is, confidently hold forth on what is going to happen next with President Trump. With them, I think, "Hey, you guys were clueless about how the election would turn out, so why should we believe your prognostications of how the Trump presidency will turn out?"
Likewise, I don't know.
That's one of the mantras I repeat when I'm going to sleep. I don't know.
It helps me a lot. What I know is how I feel right now, what I have to deal with right now, what needs to be done next right now. Yeah, I know this is a cliche for people in tough situations: "One day at a time." But it's a truthful cliche.
Lastly, I've been heartened today by a couple of things my wife and daughter shared with me. Laurel, my wife, has memorized this poem by Wendell Berry, "The Peace of Wild Things," which I found by Googling a line that she recited to me this morning.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
And this afternoon my daughter, Celeste, sent me an Instagram post by actress Lena Dunham.