Warning: this is a LONG one. This is just as much for my personal documentation as it is for the education and entertainment of my LOYAL readers =) So here goes…
Last night I had my scheduled sleep study. As the evening approached I started to have more and more anxiety about the whole thing. I’m not sure what I was most afraid of but the short list included not being able to fall asleep while there, doing or saying something weird while asleep, and succumbing to needing a CPAP machine which had been on my mind as a worst-case scenario since I heard that this was part of my qualifying process. Many people are starting to admit to having Sleep Apnea, but not many people are following protocol and sleeping with gas masks strapped on their faces. Sleeping next to my husband while looking about as un-sexy as Darth Vadar (literally! Just picture it!) has not been on my recent agenda.
Still, I knew that this was one more step I had to take to get where I want to go so to the Sleep Institute I went. Hours of operation were 9pm until 5:30am (I know, being woken up at the ass-crack of dawn seemed like it would be the worst part of this experience but little did I know…) My instructions were to have clean hair and skin, to be in comfortable two-piece pajamas, no caffeine for 24 hours, and to bring my pillow/blanket if desired. I chose to wear black and white star-spangled pajama pants, my husband’s very worn and soft as a bear hug t-shirt (which btw says “Titanic Swim Team”) and brought my pillow from our king-size bed and my Snuggie. Before I left for the study I showered, washed my hair and shaved my legs, and took my contacts out. After putting the kids to bed I was all ready to go and drove over to my suite for the night.
When I got there the parking lot has about three cars in it. Otherwise it was a typical medical building that I was familiar with from my doctor’s group, just clearly closed for the night. Once inside I am greeted by young receptionist in a hoodie and sweatpants. A great perk to this job I’m sure. She gets my technician for me and I am escorted to my room which looks exactly like a hotel room except for the medical wires strewn all over the bed. My tech is a woman named Debbie and she is in normal nurse scrubs. She tells me I have to turn my phone off and put it in the closet, so I text my Hubs for the last time and follow my instructions. I am then given five minutes to brush my teeth, pee, and get ready to be hooked up. Before she can start I have to look up at the camera and state my name and the date.
Before the tech hooks me up she washes my face and legs with scrubber pads. I close my eyes and try and convince myself this is like a free facial. She then measures my head with a tape measure and marks my scalp and face with a red pencil. Next comes the electrodes which are applied with a GLUE STICK….six on my head, one on my chin, two on my neck, and two on each leg with the wires sent down each pajama pant leg. Two straps go across my abdomen, one by my lungs, a second by my diaphragm. Once I’m all hooked up I get one last trip to the potty and it’s time to lie down in the bed. I am VERY glad at this point that I have my own pillow, and in contrast to the scratchy bedspread my Snuggie feels soft and warm under my face.
She explains that she will be monitoring not only my sleep pattern, but my breathing, leg movements, and teeth grinding. Depending on how things go (or how my breathing doesn’t go), they may or may not need to intervene in the middle of the night to apply a CPAP machine. A CPAP machine is basically a humidifier that sends moist room air through a tube into a mask on your face to keep your body breathing in distressed sleep. Debbie tucks me in and leaves the room pitch black. I am okay but my heart is racing. I hear her voice on the intercom after she’s left the room and she has me do some “exercises” like looking left and right, and flexing my feet. After that all is silent. It’s time to sleep.
I am told to fall asleep on my back, which luckily is decently easy for me to do. Sometime later I wake up and Debbie tells me I can roll to my side and I do. I fall back asleep for the second time. I have no recollection of anything going on at this point; just these two short sleep spurts.
The next time I wake up is a little startling. Debbie is coming into the room with a goddamned lantern like in the fucking Headless Horseman story and says, “we need to fit you with a CPAP machine.”
“Oh, no!” I say and I can feel the tears start to well up in my eyes. I am trying to hold it together but I feel the inevitable happening and I suddenly hate myself with a passion that I don’t have a Xanax in my system.
“It’s okay, we are going to try the least intrusive one, just over the nose.” She fits me with the mask but my tears are coming faster and faster and now my sinuses are starting to mess with this whole ordeal. “You can only breathe through your nose. If you feel the need to open your mouth, try to resist.”
Seeing as that I have not been able to keep my big mouth shut for over 34 years, I am seeing flashes of RED in the dark, fake hotel room I’m in sending a warning to me that this is not going to be pretty.
“I don’t think I can do this.” I whimper.
“Just try,” she tells me. She helps me lay back down and leaves the room. The machine feels awkward and I am struggling to keep my mouth closed. Every few breaths I open my mouth and take a deeper one to compensate and my eyes are running tears and my nose is clogged with frustration. I don’t last five minutes before I call out and Debbie comes back in.
“Please!” I say, “I need to blow my nose and I need to open my mouth, I can’t breathe!” Debbie calms me down and finds me a full mask that will cover both my nose and mouth so I can breathe however the hell I want. Even though this one is larger, it is instantly more comfortable. I start to relax more but once she leaves the room again I feel the wetness from tears and snot both inside and outside the mask and I keep having to swallow and catch my breath. This is not working. My mind is screaming that I am not going to be able to do this after all and I want to go home. I am exhausted and scared and frustrated and embarrassed. I knock on the headboard with my hand since my face is covered with tubing and Debbie comes in one last time to take off the mask. I don’t even know why I’m crying anymore but I want so bad to wash the icky sticky off my face and go to the safety of my husband’s arms.
No. I am going to do this.
I have not invested the past 8 months into this commitment to have a stupid sleepmask take me down. Time to put on my big girl panties!! Strap it the fuck down and make it happen!! And just like that, somehow by the grace of God, I am able to pull myself together enough to stop crying like a blubbering baby. I say a few “Our Father’s” for good measure and I drift off to sleep…
Debbie wakes me up at 5:20am. She said she gave me a few extra minutes because I was in a dream state. The weirdest thing is that I am awake. Like, really awake. I am more awake than I have been in years and I am done with this whole joint and can go home.
For the optimum success of my weight-loss surgery I have to get this Sleep Apnea under control so I am choosing to get over myself and do what I’m told. My personal machine will be ordered and coming in about two weeks. No, I am not in any way okay with this. I am still sad and pissed about the whole thing. What is keeping me going is knowing that my future health is like a puzzle and when one piece doesn’t fit you can’t see the clear picture. So keep on going it is.