Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Never Enough Medical Surprises Department

"Well now, if I gave 'em my money, I would be a SubGenius."

"Yeah, I guess so."

"But what would happen when I woke up the next morning and started breathing?"

HA HA HA.

You may have heard that old recording of the guy calling into the talk show in the 80s when Stang and Drummond were on as guests. And maybe you laughed at his comment. But I bet you didn't fully get that last line. "Started breathing"? Huh? I know I didn't get that bit.

Until now.

St. Thea urged me to go to the doctor because I had a lot of symptoms of sleep apnea, a disorder where you stop breathing while you sleep. It's actually fairly common, but most people have a fairly mild case of it. But in more acute cases, it can lead to lethargy, trouble handling stress, depression, anxiety, and a dozen more symptoms which sounded disquietingly familiar.

So it was that I let a cute Russian girl glue electrodes to my head, tape them everywhere else, and install special straps to measure chest activity, leg motion, and blood oxygen levels. And I slept--or tried to--while in this get-up. Oddly enough, it was the *pillow* that made it hard to sleep.

The next morning, Thea was comparing the glue in my hair to the aftermath of a bukake filming, for which she suffered mightily, giggling despite herself. Or maybe BECAUSE of herself. Hard to tell with that gal, some days.

Two weeks later, I had the results. Boy howdy. They showed me the graphs of my breathing, brain activity, pulse, etc. And then they showed me the average number of times I stopped breathing in my sleep, per hour.

EIGHTY. 80. LXXX.

Every 45 seconds, as I relax into sleep, my windpipe closes up, and my brain has to jolt me "awake" enough that I open up my windpipe again and resume breathing. Then I try to relax again, and get zapped once more. Relax--ZAP. Over and over. Based on that, it's a wonder that I've ever had a good night's sleep.

EVER.

Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Well, the proof is in the sleeping, and for the time being I have become partly cybernetic, wearing a soft silicone mask over my nose while a CPAP machine maintains air pressure--not so much that it's uncomfortable, but enough that the windpipe never closes off. Your lungs get a workout the first few nights, and then you hardly notice it, beyond the fact that you have a mask strapped to your face, and its tendency to make you make weird noises now and then. More on that later as experiments permit.

But LO: I can wake up and not feel like I've been buried under warm Silly Putty. I can wake up without threatening all annoyances with endless suffering. I can deal with issues without feeling overwhelmed. Most importantly, I can decide NOT TO TAKE CRAP FROM ANYONE. It's not perfect yet, but it's been utterly amazing how much easier it has been to NOT act like a total emotional mess, just in the past week since I started using the CPAP machine.

And maybe it's just all the oxygen I'm suddenly breathing, but it seems like I'm bobbing lazily in a warm, clear ocean of slack, IN COMPARISON.

It makes me wonder if I should rewrite that "Misanthropes Anonymous" bit I wrote almost a decade ago.

...NAH. Humans still suck.

(Slightly edited version of my alt.slack post on September 20.)

6 comments:

Jaye said...

Please, please, please get your bi-pap or c-pap machine and start sleeping! My husband has the disorder and he uses a sleep machine. It saved our marriage--he made it impossible to sleep--and his life.

You could fall asleep at the wheel. Very dangerous.

Jaye said...

I just re-read you. You did get it. I am so happy you did.

Popess Lilith said...

Thanks, hon. Now I just need to find out what I have to do to stop my near-constant sinus congestion. As-is I am using more nasal spray than I'd prefer, e.g. none.

scalpod said...

This is the worst case I've heard of. I've read it takes the average person 90 minutes to get into REM state and back.

I'm really glad you've gotten help with this. My snoring is legendary, but at least I'm getting some memory processing done. I'm sure I'm suffering apnea too, but compared to this?!

I know I'm getting into REM as I remember my dreams often and even have lucid ones occasionally...

I hope it wasn't like this every night, else I can't imagine how you've manage to get by so long without?!!

Jen Burke said...

"I can wake up and not feel like I've been buried under warm Silly Putty. I can wake up without threatening all annoyances with endless suffering. I can deal with issues without feeling overwhelmed. Most importantly, I can decide NOT TO TAKE CRAP FROM ANYONE. It's not perfect yet, but it's been utterly amazing how much easier it has been to NOT act like a total emotional mess, just in the past week since I started using the CPAP machine."

This is what has amazed me: the difference that good rest creates in your emotional functioning for the whole day. I hope the relief can continue. Have you tried any of the wakefulness drugs, like Provigil?

Popess Lilith said...

"This is what has amazed me: the difference that good rest creates in your emotional functioning for the whole day. I hope the relief can continue. Have you tried any of the wakefulness drugs, like Provigil?"

Can't say I have, offhand, nor am I convinced I need it at this point. I've made a lot of progress in weaning myself from caffeine--one can of soda in the morning is enough to keep me going all day in most cases. I'm still somewhat vulnerable to stress but not quite as badly as before.