to sleep, perchance to dream a little less

Boy, am I having a strange year.

Several weeks ago, I found myself in my doctor’s office in tears, telling him that I Felt Like Crap. I didn’t have a much better way to describe it. I just Felt Like Crap, and I had been for months on end. I was exhausted, and my head hurt, and my sleep was terrible, and no matter how much I slept I wanted to sleep more, and I didn’t know if we needed to adjust my depression medication or what but seriously, I Felt Like Crap and I wanted to Not Feel Like Crap.

I think most of us deserve to spend most of our time Not Feeling Like Crap. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask, right?

For a seemingly healthy 29-year-old woman, I’ve had an awful lot of health problems over the last couple of years. I get sinus and ear infections so regularly that you can predict the weather by my ailments. Thinking that I was probably allergic to everything on earth, I had a full allergy testing panel, which revealed that of all the 90 million allergens in the world, I am sensitive to exactly three of them: ragweed, dust mites, and dogs. No tree pollens. No grass pollens. Oh, and by the way, they said, you also have asthma. You should probably carry this rescue inhaler so you don’t die. So I went through a hundred batteries of drug regimens to see what might improve my breathing, and settled on one that sort of did, and that was one thing. Well, two things. Oh, and there was this cyst on my hand that kept me from being able to do a whole hell of a lot of anything. So I had surgery on that. And then, of course, there was that whole depression thing.

The depression, of course, has been around for a while, and the thought that it might be time to tinker with meds was nearly enough to make me throw in the towel. I hate tinkering with meds. Tinkering with mood meds makes me feel like I’m trying to paint my house by randomly flinging pudding at it. But I Felt Like Crap. And so there I sat in June in the doctor’s office, and I asked my doctor if we were going to have to go through the meds thing again, and if by any chance there was a chance that I was just a nutjob hypochondriac, and if that was the case could we please just put me away in the loony bin and be done with it?

No, he said. I think you’re actually pretty stable, he said. (oh happy day!)
He said, You need a sleep study.

My doctor has sleep apnea. He’s had it for a long time. He talked to me about how many years, through college and medical school and residency and whatever, where he thought, “well of COURSE I’m exhausted, I’m in college/medical school/residency/whatever.” He told me about how he finally got his apnea diagnosis and began treatment, and he looked me right in the eye and told me that it literally changed his life. He said he thought we might be on to something here, finally, and that if this turned out to be the problem, treating it could actually improve or even solve a lot of the other problems I’d been having. So he signed me up for the sleep study, and I went.

It was totally weird. There were four other people with me, and they grouped us and walked us to the study area together, where we were offered a choice of caffeine-free drinks and had to watch a video. Of course I had researched apnea to death for weeks before the study, but watching the video was the first time I thought, “this sounds exactly like me.” I could have scripted the video. Then I went to my study room, got loaded up with head goop and electrodes, and put to bed. I’d never stayed overnight in a hospital before, so ringing the technician to help me go to the bathroom or get me another blanket was a totally new experience.

I spent the two weeks after the study alternately wishing I had apnea, and hoping I did not.

I’m lucky, I guess. I have it.

So next month I have another sleep study where they’ll determine the amount of air pressure I need to keep breathing through the night, and then I get a CPAP machine, and then, theoretically, I get the restful sleep that I may have been missing for years.

I worry because it’s all expensive and my medical bills are looking ridiculous right about now. I worry because it seems complicated and difficult to manage. I worry because how am I going to sleep snuggled around my Seth if I am wearing an elephant mask and sounding like Darth Vader? And I’m sad, a little, because the apnea sufferer I knew best was one Frank Lauro, and once again, still, for the rest of my life, he’s not around to give me his sage advice and reassure me.

But I’m hopeful, too. Maybe this will let me sleep through the night. Maybe this will force my dreams back a little to make room for the delta sleep I’m not getting. (Did you know that too many vivid dreams are a bad thing?) Maybe this will let me wake up feeling rested and ready to face the day. Maybe this will help me have the energy to focus on my job, on my health, on my relationships. Maybe this will let me function again.

Maybe. Maybe. We shall see.

Comments 6

  • So interesting! I have vivid dreams just about every night and never thought it could be a bad thing. I also crave sleep on a regular basis.

    I hope this diagnosis and treatment changes your life for the better!

  • Oh, girl, I’m sorry you have to go through all this. When I read about your hatred of the meds shake-up, I knew what you were talking about. The last time I did it was a couple years ago, and I thought I would DIE. I hope your elephant mask takes care of all your problems, dude.

  • What the author didn’t mention is I have a Darth Vader fetish. Breathing apparatus carryng chicks are the sexiest kind (see http://farm1.static.flickr.com/16/22815692_34c6f73395.jpg?v=0).

    I was the kid told daily that my mom knew I wasn’t going to make it home from Iraq and stuff like that. So I benefited from having my mortality constantly externally questioned allowing me to focus on actually proving my folks wrong yet again (moment of honesty: somethings they said and did actually were right). But despite all that, I’m not going to place you in my experiment by scaring you with premonitions of things ending badly. I will say, one foot in front of the other gets you there when you aren’t as likely to swagger down the road of life. And also, I love you, so there’s that too.

  • Can’t sleep, so I googled Frank and found this posting… Lorie, please bear in mind that it’s possible Frank didn’t actually have sleep apnea– or at least, the constant breathing interruptions were not solely attributable to apnea. Based on the damage in his hip, heart, and lungs, there was likely a cardiovascular issue either masked as apnea or happening simultaneously.

    Better safe than sorry. Please give my mom and me a little peace of mind, and if possible, get a cardio evaluation to go along with that CPAP. Had Frank done that, he could possibly be telling you this himself.

  • My Aunt and friends who had prieemes all had issues with apnea. Find out if you can rent an apnea monitor through the hospital or a local medical stuff place or you will make yourself crazy.I would add that infants with reflux usually have less problems by sleeping on their tummies. Talk to your doc about it.

  • Poor guy, it is hard to watch! I remember the first time I woke up gasinpg for air. Luckily for me tho it was almost like a temporary thing because it seemed to all happen around the same time, 6-10 nights, and hasn’t happened since. I still will never forget what it was like.

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