Could your urinary tract infection be due to the fact that you are "pissed off?"
'Thought is an infection. In the case of certain thoughts, it becomes an epidemic.' ~ Wallace Stevens
When I titled this article, as a "personal" tale of a urinary tract infection, I fibbed a little. The infection in the urinary tract, or UTI for short, was not mine, but it was certainly personal.
The infection was my husband's. Since normal, healthy men do not often get UTI's this story is most interesting. I had to beg my husband to let me tell you the story. Here it is.
Every year I plan a vacation with my husband and his Mom. Sometimes my stepson and/or my sister-in-law join us. Since none of us live in the same town, these trips serve a dual purpose. We can have a nice trip and have a family reunion at the same time. It has worked well for us for many years.
My husband's Mom is an adventuresome and robust elderly woman. Most people marvel at her energy level and enthusiasm for life. Her outgoing personality and laughter are infectious! (No pun intended for an article on urinary tract infections!)
However, the years are catching up to Mom and the long plane rides, time zone changes and flexibility required to travel internationally are taking its toll. She is, after all, in her 80's! What a trooper!
This year’s trip, like never before, we realized what a toll the travel was taking on Mom. What we didn’t account for was the toll it was taking on us.
Our trip to Malta and Germany this year had several stops, several plane rides, train rides and time schedules to meet. We were traveling independently so there was no one but me as the tour director, to keep things moving along smoothly.
As is often true of the elderly, Mom required a strict schedule for arising in the morning, mealtimes and bedtime. Her window for exploration had gotten quite narrow as all her routine activities required quite a bit more time than it had in the past.
It seemed to us that a large leap occurred in the short year since we traveled together last. Everything seemed to take more than twice as long as the prior year. I soon learned that if Mom said it would take ½ hour to get dressed and have breakfast in our unit that I needed to double the time.
Mom did a great job of always making sure her water bottle was full. In fact, she was a bit neurotic about it. I made sure mine was full as well.
Since we were traveling in a hot, dry climate, I soon learned that Mom now clung to her water bottle as if it were a lifeline. I was often unable to get it out of her hands to fill it for her. She would take all the bottled water and squirrel it away in her room without telling us. There were going to be no urinary tract infections for her!
The same was true for food. She squirreled away food and protected it from us. I also learned to carry additional snacks in the rental car at all times. However, the snacks and the stash didn’t always count as "food." When the set meal times of 8 am, 12 noon and 6 pm arrived, she would often go into auto park if we had not arrived at a restaurant!
As you might guess, with this lack of flexibility, the hoarding and the increased time required for meals and all activities of daily living, my husband and my patience started to get very thin. Our anger started to build only a few days into the trip. This was despite having fully prepared ourselves mentally prior to the trip.
I was aware of my anger and I would say many, many affirmations for acceptance of her elderly ways during the trip. I would coach my husband, and I thought he was doing fine. I would try to center us each morning and remind myself and my husband that indeed, Mom was old and we needed to give her an unhurried approach.
Despite our best intentions, we soon learned that Mom's definition of unhurried was something altogether different than ours. A mini-power struggle started to form and often I felt like I was helpless to do anything about it.
It became increasingly difficult to keep all parties calm, and my husband seemed to bear the brunt of it all. The thoughts that were to become the urinary tract infection were also building.
One beautiful, dry summer day near the end of the first leg of our journey, we headed out to see the sights and to hit the beach in the afternoon. I carried extra water in the rental car. The sun was blazing on us for the entire day.
I offered my husband water many times that day, and each time he refused to drink. I would insist he drink and he would still refuse. So I generously helped myself. I was not going to get dehydrated nor get a headache or a urinary tract infection!
It was as if my husband was denying himself water, as an opposite reaction to his mother's clinging to it!
We tried to stay merry as we toured around, trying to see at least a few things each day, when we knew if we were alone that we could cover three times the ground. Inadvertently, our "unhurried" approach didn't always pan out.
I believe that is why it took Mom so long to eat at the restaurants. It was her way to control the pace, to slow the speed down. She would not-so-subtly try to put on the brakes in whatever manner she could. The undercurrents were there, yet mostly ignored.
The second destination was for my nephew’s wedding, and lots of Germans at a social gathering brings lots of beer. So the second set-up for the chronic dehydration for my husband was in place to contribute to the eventual urinary tract infection.
The wedding was a welcome reprieve as all the activities were planned for us. I could just sit back and enjoy it all. The beer and the fun flowed.
After the lovely festivities of the wedding, our final day of touring was a struggle. A train ride proceeded the day and we were all exhausted. The undercurrents that had built in us were back with a vengeance when the three of us were left to our own devices once again. We wandered around, mostly eating and drinking (beer) to get us through the final day.
The third set up for the urinary tract infection: the long trans-Atlantic flight home. I tried to sleep on the flight home, and when I couldn’t, I pretended I was asleep. This way I didn’t have to deal with anyone.
Interspersed with my fitful sleep, I allowed my husband to vent. I tried to listen, but his anger was deep. We agreed that international trips with Mom were over. We agreed that mostly the trip had been a waste of hard-earned money.
It saddened us to give up this aspect of our lives. Traveling to up-state New York where Mom lives, would never be as fun. Yet we could not put ourselves through this anger and frustration again and we knew it.
Several days after we arrived home, my husband stated to me, "My
urine is really cloudy." I passed it off, and said, "You just need to
drink more. Your urine is concentrated." I am thinking to myself, "whatever."
I didn’t even think of a urinary tract infection, because men rarely get them. Their urethras are so long, compared to a female’s that from a mechanical perspective, it is much harder for bacteria to travel up to their bladders. The tube, or 'urethra' from the outside of the body to the bladder is so long in men.
The next morning he says, "It hurts to pee, and it really smells." OMG, now the urinary tract infection bell finally went off in my head. I made him go in a glass jar, and sure enough, his urine was very murky. Off to the doctor for a round of antibiotics!
Over the next several days, during the antibiotic treatment, I monitored my husband's urine for cloudiness. It didn’t clear. Instead, he required another round of a different antibiotic for the symptoms to finally resolve!
All in all it took 2 full weeks of antibiotics, cranberry juice and copious amounts of water (no alcohol!) for his urine to finally clear. Finally, I was in the clear as well!
As we looked back on the events, I couldn't help but tie together the anger and frustration with the urinary tract infection. My husband had gotten the UTI because he was so unbelievably "pissed off" over what had happened. In fact, as we looked back, he was pissed off at his Mom, almost the entire two weeks of our vacation!
When I reminded him of his behaviors on the trip that led to the urinary tract infection, he knew that he had not taken care of himself. In fact, he knew he had refused to take care of himself, despite my pleadings.
I knew I was right in attributing his anger, and being "pissed off" to the development of the UTI, when I asked him, "Why in the world would you choose to punish yourself by not drinking (water)?" Without even a hesitation, he grew sincere and replied, "Because I couldn’t get mad at my 80 year-old mother! I couldn't take my anger out on her."
I could only nod in agreement. No words were needed. We both knew that by being angry for most of the trip that his anger turned inward was his way of coping, albeit very unhealthy. It was his way of not taking it out on his mother.
He chose to punish himself instead of punishing his mother. I only wish he could have seen that along the way. The metaphor of being pissed off had physically manifested in his bladder, creating his urinary tract infection. The UTI was his anger turned inward.
If you are a frequent sufferer of urinary tract infections, and any of my story resonates with you, you may wish to think about whether anger is playing a role.
As I have said before, in my article on C-Reactive Protein, anger is a powerful emotion and equally powerful in the creation of disease. Anger always leads to inflammation of the body-mind-soul. A hostile and inflammatory personality is deadly.
May you never have a urinary tract infection because of anger turned inward. May your thoughts never become infections. If you do get an occasional infection, may it never become an epidemic.
May you always be in tune to your Body Window and may you find health and healing of your body-mind-soul!