Saturday, June 29, 2019

C is for "comorbidity"

Learn more about it here
Books sometimes find me, entering my life just when I need them. Such is the case of A Common Struggle by Patrick Kennedy. Published in 2015, I picked it up for free at our local library book sale in 2016. Where it's languished in my TBR pile ever since. Why did I start reading it now? The reason is astonishingly superficial: it's just over 400 pages long. I recently finished The President Is Missing, which is massive and took me for freaking ever, and I wanted something shorter. No, really. That's why I grabbed it.

Patrick Kennedy -- son of Ted, nephew of Jack and Bobby -- is bipolar and an addict. He is very frank about this. The reason why he called his memoir A Common Struggle is that he maintains mental illness and addiction are something we all face, in way one or another. His family's money, fame and power haven't insulated them. And that, if his readers think about their family and circle of friends, they likely know someone who has struggled with these issues, as well. I am certain he is right about that premise.

This book has introduced me to a problem I never considered before: comorbidity. It's a medical term for having two conditions simultaneously. Frequently the treatment of one complicates the treatment of the other. In Patrick's case, it was the havoc his antidepressants played with his addiction. Introducing comorbidity has me thinking about myself and the people in my life differently.

For example, me. I have both spinal stenosis and kidney stones. When I take an NSAID for one, is it masking the pain of the other? How do I really know, how can my doctor really know, how I'm doing?

My oldest friend is being treated for heart disease and bipolar disorder.

John is dealing with heart disease and diabetes.

Henry is living with depression as well as the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury.

This book is making me more patient with the "patients" in my life. Meds they take for one condition and enable them to function in their daily lives could actually be masking or even impeding the healing in another area. I must remember that everyone, including the doctors, are doing the best they can within this challenging paradigm.


  1. I am on 9 different medications for various things. Sometimes I think about simply stopping them all and seeing what would happen. I suspect if I went off a few it might help, but others, it might kill me. And who knows how they work together, or if they do. I am overweight because my medication keeps me that way, but I can't explain that to every person who looks at me eating a salad. Good post.

  2. Interesting. I had not thought of how comorbidity might be part of *my* treatments.


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