I am a "hormone replacement" patient. Or on "hormone optimization"... or "testosterone replacement therapy (TRT)"... or whatever else you want to call it.
Twice a week, I inject Testosterone Cypionate into my buttocks. I also take HCG to keep my balls alive (another injection), and Arimidex (a pill) to keep my estrogen from getting out of control and causing me to grow breasts and cry uncontrollably (read up on aromitization of testosterone). I've been doing this for over four years now.
Why do I do this? Good question. Let's look at a very brief version of DSO's hormonal history and see if this rings true with any of you.
Puberty hit me HARD and early. I started shaving at the age of 11. This was probably also due in large part to my swarthy southern European background. I started working out around the age of 15 and realized I could stay lean and put on muscle pretty easily. I was very active. Lots of basketball. We lifted weights in the off-season for "conditioning" and I was the number one lifter in terms of weights AND repetitions (granted, all of the football players weren't part of the conditioning program). I was a stud. I sucked at basketball, but I could make weights go up and down really well.
I have no past blood test results to back it up... but I'd say I had an abundance of testosterone at this time. Maybe more than the average kid. My libido at this time was, understandably, off the charts.
After high school I went to college and continued lifting weights. I worked out regularly with some college football players as well as steroid-taking competitive bodybuilders. What I learned from this brief time period:
I continued lifting weights and never dipped into the world of steroids.. I was strictly a "eat right and work hard" kinda guy. Because of this, my physique never went beyond "In pretty good shape" levels of development. You could tell I worked out... but nothing that said "bodybuilder" by any means.
During this time I was very much a go-getter. Hard-working in the classroom plus several jobs at the same time. It was a tough grind. It exhausts me to look back on that time, but I did it with ease. I ended up at a pretty nice job with the university my senior year and that led to a really great job waiting for me for a large Fortune 50 company right out of college.
I had drive. I had energy.
I left school and entered the workforce and quickly found a gym in my new city. I lifted and played a lot of basketball with coworkers. I kept in really good shape. I was also pretty successfull, career-wise. Upward trajectory. I was all about self-improvement at this point in my life. Always hanging out with friends. Starting a family wasn't on my mind. Wife was there... but I was still very much my own person and so was she. This worked out well for us both.
More drive. More energy.
Then It Happened:
Kids. Especially the kids... they took the biggest toll on me. It was as if human nature said "Hey, you won't be needing this body for anything anymore!" and sapped me of my inner drive. The gym went bye-bye. Energy: GONE. My sense of well being went south. I was a mess. This happened over a period of several years.
Divorce. The whole world I knew crumbled. Time for self-discovery and reinvention. Time to get back to the guy I was before the big change.
I hit the gym again and ate right. Not much is happening, really. I don't like what I see in the mirror. I read up on ways to improve and keep coming back to articles about the supposed epidemic of low testosterone amongst men. I read more and more and end up getting a blood test that confirmed my testosterone was low and my estrogen was a bit higher than normal range. All this stress and kids and father time has turned me into a woman. Nice.
My research leads me to a clinic that specializes in hormone therapy for men and women. They are pretty liberal with their dosaging (especially when compared to endocrinologists or GP's), but they do a good job of drawing blood every 8 weeks, looking at my symptoms and adjusting dosages accordingly.
So, overall... sounds pretty good. Just more MANLY in general.
Then I had to go OFF of the testosterone temporarily.
When you cease testosterone, you don't just go right back to "normal" levels. You go WAY down and then eventually things even out and you go back to your baseline levels. Some drugs can help with this "recovery" period.
My overall drive and oomph were gone. Like somebody turned the lights off.
Libido way down... but still there with some direct stimulation. More of a milder REACTIVE libido rather than the normal "ready to go at any time" level of horniness. I still recognized that my wife was hot and I wanted her.. but I wouldn't feel bad if she said "Not tonight honey". Thankfully, my penis still worked. No "erectile dysfunction".
Mentally, I wasn't clicking. Words weren't coming to me. I wasn't mentally in the "zone" I was in before. Almost like a fog was constantly in my head. This surprised me the most.
Just overall... I was a lazy fuck.
Gotta fold laundry, unload dishwasher, help out with homework and go take the boys the basketball? The chores can wait until tomorrow. "Testosterone me" would knock those chores out in 20 minutes. "Low testosterone me" dreads the work and puts it off until tomorrow.
High testosterone me only watched a select few television shows with the wife. Low testosterone me would planted on the couch and watching whatever... just to pass the time.
I'm more reserved and introverted when off. Happy to stay at home and do nothing. I'm not necessarily super outgoing extroverted guy on testosterone, but I'm open to hanging out with anyone, going out for drinks and will actively seek out new experiences and adventures. Not so much when off of the juice.
Physically, my muscles were deflated. I noticed it most in my arms and shoulders. My upper chest development disappeared. Strength down. Joints started hurting. My cardio endurance did not seem to be affected.
Going on Testosterone Made Me Look at the Nature/Nuture Argument Differently.
All it took was the injection of one chemical into my system.. and I was a different human being. Seriously, it was that drastic for me. I was back to the old me I had long forgotten about. Is the level of one hormone really THAT important and crucial to your overall sense of well being?
When I talk to guys and they tell me about them being in their 30's and 40's, out of shape, no drive, everything looks grim, etc... the first words out of my mouth are "Have you had your hormones tested?" With most men, they just dismiss the idea immediately. No, they're not some dumb musclehead moron... and they're not even going to go down the road of putting stuff into their body.
Meanwhile they drink beer, eat pizza, eat cookies, take ibuprofen like it's candy, and never get up from the couch.
Women have been altering their hormonal balance for many years.
For decades now, women have been able to pop pills or have hormonal devices implanted that drastically alter their hormonal makeup. All of this is done in an effort to allow them to have sex without fear of getting pregnant. These drugs can have HUGE number of side effects... some as mild as weight gain and irritability, some as drastic as suicidal ideation and complete loss of libido.
Any woman can walk into a clinic and say "I want to go on the pill", and around zero percent of docs will say "Are you sure? There are some very real negative side effects with these drugs." Nope. Instead, they will say "Well, you have the pill, depo shot, implants, the ring, etc... which one do you want?
Hormonal manipulation in the woman's world is empowering. It gives them control over a body that, in their mind, everyone from their spouse to the government seems to want to exert control over. For once THEY get to decide when to get pregnant and if/when to have a period. They get complete control over their own hormonal balance and are given many tools to do so.
For men, going to the doc and asking to boost your testosterone is instantly met with scorn. "WHY?! You're healthy. A testosterone level of 200 is now normal. You'll just increase your risk of prostate cancer (wrong) and heart disease (wrong).
More often than not, you will be immediately dismissed. The doctor will spit back at you antiquated "facts" about your health risk and shame you for even trying to be some kind of Superman.
Dude... you're a typical boring dad. It happens. Stop with this midlife crisis B.S.
YOU: "But, I feel like total shit. I have all of the symptoms of low testosterone. My levels are 275... and they should be around 700 - 800 for a healthy guy. I've done lots of reading on the subject. I eat right and workout and still feel like shit."
DOC: "No, levels that high aren't necessarily healthy. That will put you at risk for all kinds of problems. Sounds like you may be depressed. I can put you on a script for Prozac if you'd like to give that a shot for a few months."
"No testosterone for you. You're fine. Take this happy pill if you want. Go away. I have 34 other patients to see today."
So why the stigma against Testosterone?
Well, I think there's a deeply ingrained thought process in the mind of society: "Know your role". In other words "If you need this stuff to feel good and be more manly, then we don't want you taking it. We need to know who the real men are... not you imposters." It's the same reason why people hate the pickup artist type of guys. They're not naturals. They're just nerds who learned some simple psychological tricks of persuasion. They're cheating.
By taking hormones, you're cheating, too. A woman is looking for a true all-around good man to settle down with. Society needs to know which men they can depend on to keep the machine running. Once you inject the man-juice, you're putting on the Superman costume... but one or two missed injections and the world quickly learns what your cryptonite is.
"Wait... so you're not really the tough, no-nonsense, handsome stoic guy who really fills out a shirt and bangs me like a Viking warrior 10 times a week!?"
People want the natural. If that's not you... that's perfectly ok. That's why we have stay-at-home dads and computer programmers (sorry, guys). Everyone has their role. Just don't fuck things up and come over to this side of the table. Stay over there.
"But, women fake it all the time!" Yep. They sure do. They slather on makeup to make themselves look younger. Tights to smooth out their cellulite. Hair coloring to cover the greys. They shave a few years of age off their online dating profile. They take the total number of men they've slept with and divide by three. Being disengenuous in the mating game is the realm of women. It's up to men to figure out the real from the fake (who are we kidding, with think with our penises and get fooled all the time).
Everyone is cool with this. It's just part of the game.
Is there a danger to taking testosterone?
Absolutely. Remember the estrogen side effects I mentioned at the beginning? That's for real. You absolutely can grow breasts, get hyper-emotional, increase anxiety and increase your risk of heart disease ... but these are all from the ESTROGEN your body will produce to counter-balance all of the testosterone now in your system. This process is called "aromitization". There are ways to combat it, of course. Drugs like arimidex, for one. Staying very lean, for another (fatter people have more aromatase in their system). Not taking too much testosterone, for another. The ideal situation is to dial in the amount of testosterone just right (not too much and not too little) and get your body lean enough so that you don't need an aromatase inhibitor.
Every body is different, of course. Some men can take gargantuan amounts of several different steroids and never have an issue. Other men, like myself, can just look at a vial of testosterone and our nipples start itching.
Want to improve yourself? You may NEED testosterone.
For all of the people yelling at you to "just do it!" and "Man up!", you may have every reason to say "I can't." Take a man with testosterone levels of 100, and he will feel every bit like the 90 year old man his blood work says he is. A guy who has to psyche himself up to go check the mail is not a guy who you just say "Go to the gym. Lift. Gain 20 pounds of muscle" to. That won't work. At all.
If your foundation is weak, no amount of mental and physical work will do the trick. You gotta get the basics down first.
Testosterone is the most basic component of all.
At least get it checked out. You may be surprised.
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