This Year: Life, the Universe and Everything.

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Even though I’ve been wiped out for this entire week afterwards, my birthday outing was worth it. The day before, I had found a third-hand mobility scooter (at a third of the price) on Craigslist. I have been looking for one that could handle rough dog park terrain (big wheels, decent suspension, strong motor), but could still be dismantled and put in a car (ie: not the fun Harley-esque one I had my eye on, similar to my friend Jak’s). My husband drove two hours round trip to buy it and I was able to take it to my favourite off-leash dog park: 40 acres of trails, fields and river access.

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The weather was sublime. Actually, that was the only blip in our day: as soon as I arrived, I had to park in the shade, strip off two layers of shirts and have my husband reach up my yoga pants to peel off my compression stockings. Plus, I was drinking hot chicken soup. I was kicking myself for not bringing sunscreen. But, after that, all was well, if a little harsh and bumpy on my bones. This 4-day payback headache I have is probably from jostling my spine on the gravel and mulch (and I won’t mention the horrible nausea that hit me at 10pm and the relentless barrage of nightmares that followed that night because this is meant to be a happy post).

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Big smiles. :)

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I couldn’t get a photo, but there were huge blue herons flying into the nests and babies up in the trees.

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My boys playing with a new friend.

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That evening, my sister and her boyfriend came over and she suggested getting take away food from a nearby restaurant, which I hadn’t even considered. So, we ate dinner at the table (as opposed to my usual on the couch with my feet up, reclined) and I had a delicious beef tenderloin and coconut rice. They accidentally put some Gorgonzola on my steak and, oops, I forgot to scrape it off. That was a celebratory taste explosion that I haven’t encountered in 2.5 years.

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“The hills are alive….” Pretend I’m spinning…

Then, to top everything off, two days later, I got a visit from my dear friend, Z. She came bearing flowers and a bag of gifts for me to open and, the best part, her little girl, whom I consider a niece. Baby A chatted away, which is all new! The last time I saw her she hadn’t quite found her words around me. What a treat.

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42, the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything.
It’s going to be a good year. I have faith.

Kinda.

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Birthday (or) Bust

My first plan for my birthday tomorrow was to make a return trip to the coast so I could see my dogs run on the beach. I’m acutely aware of time passing. Facebook showed me a photo of my Bowie that I’d posted this day last year and he has hardly any grey. Today, he is a grizzled old man.

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My boys don’t have a lot of years left and I missed three of their most active years while I was busy trying not to die, so, if I could get them out of the house to the coast a few weekends a year, that’d be my dreams come true. Or, at least, one of my dreams. The really low-shooting one. I also dream of being able to have an extended conversation, but that’s getting pretty ambitious.

I’ve been watching the weather on the coast constantly, knowing there’d be no point in making the trip just to get rained on and succumb to the bone chills to which I’m so susceptible. As soon as the 10-day forecast was available, I knew it probably wasn’t going to happen. That was the first birthday plan to be doused.

But I had a plan B: I thought perhaps we could go out to eat for the first time in years. I’ve reintroduced many foods (most nuts and seeds, milk, corn, oats, nightshades) and I’d had a stretch of days where I didn’t need to go to bed in the afternoon, so I thought maybe I could risk going out to a restaurant, indulge in someone else cooking for me… you know, an early-bird dinner on a Monday, so the place is quiet — somewhere close, that uses fresh, local ingredients…. I haven’t worn a stitch of makeup in almost three years and, about a month ago, thinking of my birthday, I ordered a “sampler” of makeup online: a cheap case with a shallow circle of powder, eye shadow, blush. I thought maybe I could put on a birthday face, put some colour in my cheeks, make myself feel normal, maybe even attractive. I even rescheduled my haircut to be before my birthday. Dinner, dolled up and a do. This was a big deal.

Then, plan C: I decided maybe I could have a few of my old work friends over on the Sunday for an hour or two. Surely I could manage a very low-key visit Sunday afternoon and a very low-key dinner Monday evening… after all, I go to multiple doctor appointments every week. Plus, my birthday is falling during the follicular phase of my cycle, which is, historically, my least reactive time. I invited my work friends over for today and made a dinner reservation for 4 people for tomorrow, hoping our best friends, Z and J, could join us… But, it seems the very thought of an occasion is enough to kick off a roller coaster of symptoms. 

My throat spot started to itch when it hadn’t bothered me in months. Headaches returned when I went weeks without one. My sleep got worse and heart palpitations were constant. Then, while I was sitting in therapy, my tongue started to swell. I bit into a Benadryl in between bitching about my doctors and my isolation. That kicked off this last week of trouble. I had no appetite, my body felt swollen and inflamed. My neck was stiff and I was chilled to the bone every day. Things calmed down a bit just in time for my second round of bowel tests a few days ago, but that appointment stirred up gut problems that stopped me from sleeping again and the roller coaster started another run around the track. 

I gave in and cancelled the dinner reservation a few days ago during the second tongue swelling episode. If all my normal home-cooked food has become suspect, how can I heedlessly stuff my face with Carnaroli Risotto or Mini Duck Burgers? Plan B was scratched. I warned my friends that Sunday might not happen, gave them daily updates. I said, I still have faith that we’re on, but… we might not be on. I scrambled for backup plans D and E.

I decided, at the very least, I’d like to go to my favourite dog park, which I haven’t visited since becoming housebound. It’s huge, with fields, paths, bridges and a river and there are always tons of dogs. I would need a mobility scooter, but it might be worth the money to rent one. It’s meant to be sunny and warm and I immediately get tears in my eyes thinking about how happy my dogs would be to go there. When I really think about joy — freedom, nature, happy pups — this is what I want to do for my birthday. My sister and her boyfriend offered to come over on my birthday, too, so at least something would feel special if I were too sick to move off the couch. 

Yesterday afternoon, I finally gave in and called my friends off, so they weren’t being strung along and could make plans for their Sunday. There goes plan C. But, ever the optimist, I told my sister that maybe, if I felt good today, I would get ballsy and jump on a late brunch or early dinner at an actual restaurant, actually dressed (plans F and G?). I slept a long time last night and awoke hopeful, but my body wasn’t cooperating and, at 2pm, I let her know brunch wouldn’t be happening. At 5pm, I texted her from bed and told her dinner wouldn’t be happening.

Tonight, I’m not doing well. I’m flushed and have cold sweats, my entire body feels swollen. Tomorrow, I won’t be putting on any makeup or eating any fancy food, I won’t be chatting with old friends or smelling the ocean air. But, I’m going to try my hardest to sleep peacefully and spend an hour outdoors, in the sun with my family and then watch some telly with my sis in the evening. Out of my 7 ideas, I have faith 1 or 2 will make it a special day and, if for some reason those plans are scratched, too, I’ll still be celebrating that Whoohoo, I made it to 42!

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Driver License Dilemmas

I had to renew my driver license for the first time since being sick and, thankfully, I could do it online. However, when this question came up, I stared at it for a long time:

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I wanted to select yes. I’ve always been an organ donor. I imagined they’d harvest everything in my body and many people’s lives would be enhanced or extended. But, with this illness, I can’t risk it. I won’t give blood and I won’t donate my organs and it kind of breaks my heart. I wouldn’t be able to donate a broken heart, anyway.

But, let it be known, that I want my body donated for ME/CFS research. I’m not sure how to make that happen, but, if anyone knows, please give me details. Worst case, I suppose I can donate for medical research like my mother has organised with University College Dublin.

After the organ donor question, I got this. This one I stared at for a very long time:

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Riding a motorbike was my dream. When I was a teenager, I got a second- or third-hand 50 cc moped which gave me incredible freedom and convenience. The Dublin bus system was unpredictable and I would crank that hair dryer engine all the way up on the dual carriageway to get to classes or get around after the buses stopped running (see previous post about being a nightowl).

During the very first conversation I ever had with my husband, he asked me, “If you could do anything right now, what would you do?” I had been telling him that I’d planned to move back to Dublin that summer, but, because of an upsetting situation, I didn’t know if I could. When he asked me that question, I answered, “Ride a motorbike across the country.” Unbeknownst to me, he was passionate about motorcycles. He hadn’t owned one in a while, but had recently been researching his next bike. I think maybe it was right then that he took a shine to me.

A few years later, I was tipped a brand new motorbike by a regular customer at the restaurant in which I served tables. He had been coming in for months, maybe years and, one day, he and his brothers pulled up on Harley-Davidsons. I got excited and whipped out the postcard of a Low Rider that I’d carried around for years: my goal, but I’d never actually sat on a Harley. Over the subsequent months, he tried to convince me to let him buy me a bike. I told him he was crazy. He told me he was a Microsoft millionaire (I’d never known that) and his wealth came to him like “stepping in shit.” He said it was luck and he had bought four or five motorcycles for his brothers and he wanted to know that he could altruistically buy one for someone who wasn’t a family member. I still told him he was crazy. He said he wanted to do it and I could sell it the next day and he wouldn’t care at all. He sat with my husband for hours and convinced him that he had no ulterior motives. One day he invited me to the Harley dealer and I thought it’d be fun, so I went and discovered I could reach the ground on a Sportster. He asked me what colour I liked and I said, “Black, definitely. Black and chrome is sexy. And a matte black helmet.” But, it was an off-hand question and an off-hand answer. I was just fantasizing. I had no idea what he was going to do that day; I think I couldn’t let myself accept it. While I was browsing, he was signing the papers. I tried to get into the office to stop him, but his brother stood in my way, grabbed my shoulders and said, “You gotta let him do this.” The next thing I knew I owned a brand new 883 Sportster, a helmet, custom-tailored leathers and a year of insurance. I used to stroke that bike, like it was a pet panther.

When I took the motorcycle safety course (which every driver on the road should take, it is so eye-opening), I dropped the bike twice, which should be an instant fail. They passed me, though, because the Honda Nighthawks they used were too tall for my wee legs and I had a perfect test besides keeling over at the stop signs.

I was never comfortable on a motorbike the way my husband was. He would leave for weeks at a time on long-distance trips, driving I-don’t-want-to-know how fast on country switchbacks. I would ride to and from work. Although I drove like a Pole Position speed-demon in a car, I was a granny on my bike. But, oh, I loved that feeling of freedom. One of my favourite memories of my life was driving across the Cascade mountains during the summer. Having taken off my jacket, which is such a no-no, I was just in a tank top and that rush of hot air, the empty road, the mountain scenery and the fear-adrenalin from not having my protective skin… it was like I’d sprouted wings.

But how can I justify $25 to keep the motorcycle endorsement on my driver license? The truth is, even with significant recovery, I will undoubtedly never want to tax my body and brain the way motorcycles do. My muscles were always tense, my hands lost all their blood supply from the vibrations, my brain was never not on high-alert, watching every car in every direction, scanning constantly for hazards in the road, animals, idiot drivers. It was stressful riding in the rain or driving over oil puddles or over grated bridges. I’ve never had an accident in a car, but I have on my bike, injuring my knee in the process. So, of course I will never ride again. It’d be like running up stairs instead of taking the escalator… and M.E. patients, even if they can stand up and walk, take the escalator.

So, I stared at the screen for a long time and, in the end, I kept the endorsement. If for no other reason than to have a beacon of hope for the future.

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With my friend, Z., and my Kawasaki.

 

The Gods Are Smirking

The chronic illness gods did not take kindly to my advertising their kindness and flaunting my good sleep luck.

After writing my last post, I had two tossy-turny not-restful nights that left me depleted and suffering brain drag.

THEN, the next night, my husband closed my blinds and curtains, but failed to notice that one window was wide open, so I was woken by planes, trains and automobiles at daylight. Plus, wind punching the closed blind in and out set up a sort of strobe light effect in my room.

THEN, the very next day, my husband untaped one of my curtains (they’re taped to the wall to block out every sliver of light) in order to fix something, but forgot to tape it back up, so I was woken at daybreak again by the bright line of sunlight on the wall.

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THEN, we had some glorious weather and I sat for hours in the sun for the first time in 7 months and the burn on my back made sleep very difficult for two nights in a row. Every time I rolled onto my back or the blanket slid along my skin, I woke up.

THEN my painful spasming bowels and extreme swollen distension from constipation gave me no rest for two nights. Like sleeping with concrete pumped into your gut.

AND it all culminated in a terrible 7-hour drenching-sweats-and-night-terrors sickness last night. I woke up over and over soaked from my forehead to my toes and finally, at 7am, I woke myself sobbing. I’d just held my dying dog in my arms while I begged someone to help. He had two bloody stumps for front legs and half his face was gone and nobody in the crowded room was helping (people’s lack of competence figures prominently in my nightmares. I think my loss of independence has shaken me to the core). My entire system felt as if I had just gone through that. I heard myself wailing before I was even conscious of where I was and I had called my dogs into my bed before I was fully awake, holding them, crying.

Such is this dis-ease.

I stayed in bed until 5pm, feeling wasted and shaky, and only dragged myself up so my husband could wash my bed clothes. I really hoped the poisoned nights were behind me (it’s been 3 months since the last one) and I have a different theory every time. This time I think it must be my body detoxing whatever my bowels can’t. I have that new sleep drug, Belsomra, but I really don’t want to mess with drugs when things have been going so well. So, fingers crossed the gods are a bit thick and this post makes them think, “Oh, you’re going to speak of your bad nights? We’ll put an end to that!”

SLEEP: Chief Nourisher In Life’s Feast.

Sleep has always been hard for me. My very first memory is being in my bed at the age of five, cuddling with my mother, while we were surrounded by a chilly, damp fog. The doctors had told my parents I needed a cold humidifier to treat my asthma, which now seems like the last thing I’d want since I’m most comfortable in a warm, dry room.

I never wanted to go to sleep, even as a kid. I remember my brother, who was 12 at the time, would voluntarily put himself to bed at an appropriate time while I, an 8 year old, would fight tooth and nail to stay up late. It wasn’t about watching TV — our only television was in my mother’s bedroom and Irish channels all went off the air late at night, anyway. It wasn’t about being scared, either (that came later). It was about enjoying the witching hour; wanting to listen to more music, read more books, write more poems…

A few years later, while visiting my father in America, I discovered MTV. It was one of my first addictions. I remember the physical excitement I had waiting for the next video to start. A breathless anticipation. It was like a gambler who just keeps putting the money down, hoping the next hand will be a winner. If I didn’t know the band, I couldn’t tear myself away because what if the next video is a good one?? Night after night, I would stay awake until the sun came up. It was my secret life: the thrill of not living a normal routine, of being alone and able to do anything. There was always a disappointment when the windows grew lighter. My father got up very early for work and I was always scared that he would catch me, black circles and spiral-eyed, glued to the television at 6 in the morning. When I heard his footsteps upstairs in the morning, I would silently slink up to my bedroom and go to sleep. A few times, I didn’t hear him until he came downstairs and, quick as a ninja, I would have the TV off and lie down in a convincing position to make it look like I’d fallen asleep on the couch. My brother, as usual, had gone to bed at a decent hour, even during the summer holidays.

One time I woke up to a sound in my bedroom: a zippery repetitive sound, and, when I opened my eyes, I saw the glow of a flame under a ghoul’s face. Then the flame went out and I heard the zipper sound again and the flame came back. It was a man at the foot of my bed, holding a cigarette lighter, lighting it over and over in the dark. It scared the shit out of me. Those seconds, while my sleep-slogged brain tried to wrap itself around this scene and comprehend what was happening, seemed very long …and have never left me. It turned out, it was a drunk friend of my cousin looking for the toilet. He’d somehow managed to find his way down the stairs to the basement and through two closed doors into my pitch-black room.

I don’t know if my nightmares started before or after that. They weren’t chronic and didn’t concern me too much, but, when they happened, it was memorable. I would wake up screaming or yelling or arguing. I would sleep walk and sleep talk. They were mostly obvious stress nightmares: dreaming I’d fail exams when I had exams coming up, dreaming I couldn’t get to all the tables and I was the only server in the restaurant, that sort of thing.

At some stage, I began sleeping very lightly. It was more or less a conscious decision. We had a few break-ins in my house and I conditioned myself to be on high alert, even while I slept. I wanted to know if anyone came in my room. I would awaken to any odd sound, even faint, and, once I became a self-conscious teenager, I could never sleep properly at friends’ houses or on planes or anywhere visible because I didn’t want to be seen drooling and slack-jawed.

Once I got dogs, my sleep became even lighter. I wanted to be able to hear my kids in distress since my husband sleeps through everything. In the first few years of their lives, there was a lot of needing to pee in the night and puking in the early mornings and injuries that required nocturnal consoling. And I can’t discount the sleep interruptions caused by 185 pounds of snoring husband and 175 pounds of scratching, licking, readjusting dog in the bed beside me.

Just as I can count on one had the memorable, incredible meals in my life, there are a few memorable, incredible sleeps of my life. One was in Germany, the first night I was there as an exchange student. The room was silent and had heavy metal shades on the outside of the window that you lowered with a crank on the inside. The door was solid and soundproof. It was like being shut into a dark, silent prison cell and I slept like I never remember sleeping before. Of course, for days afterwards, the family with whom I was living made fun of how late I got up, so I never again during my stay let myself sink that deeply asleep.

Another time, I was visiting my oldest brother in Tennessee. I had just arrived from Ireland and he put me in the spare room and said, “Rack hard, Elizabeth.” That was a term they used in the Air Force, I guess. There was something about his permission — his COMMAND — to sleep long and hard and, also, the knowledge that my two family members that were there — my brother and mother — routinely slept 10+ hours, so they wouldn’t judge, that allowed me to let go into blissful slumber. Their plush bed probably helped, too.

As an adult, working in bars and restaurants, I never, ever went to sleep before 3am and regularly stayed up until daylight. These were the heady years of booze and fun. I could drink and talk all night. One night when I had just met my husband, we were staying up late, listening to music and talking — sharing really important stuff like you do with a new love — and he fell asleep mid-conversation. I was aghast. How rude! And who wants to stop the revelry before sun-up (or before the wine runs out)? What a weirdo. But, it’s one of the reasons he will never have M.E. He has an off-switch. Another reason is, he’s not a Type A perfectionist the way I am. I was always pretty obsessive about succeeding, but, once I quit drinking and became a full-blown workaholic, sleep got worse. I worked late, wound down from work even later and got up early to do, go, be… In between, I had responsibility-laden, over-achiever stress dreams.

But nothing… none of it compared to what happened when I got sick with M.E. Night terrors are very different to nightmares. Not sleeping much when you’re healthy doesn’t come close to a the lack of sleep caused by a broken immune system and a poisoned body. You’ve heard about it ad nauseum in this blog, so I won’t bore you more. All of this is just to set the stage to explain the incomparable joy of the last few months. I’ve been sleeping. I’ve been closing my eyes, falling asleep within minutes and not having conscious thought again for 7 hours, sometimes more. I haven’t wanted to shout it from the blog rooftops for fear of jinxing myself, but this is big. This is healing. This feels like what a normal person must experience. I’m still suffering from the lack of circulation, pain and nightmares, but it’s SO MUCH BETTER. I still don’t feel recovered in the mornings, but there’s SO MUCH HOPE. Every time I look at the clock and see 9am or later and my body is dry and soft and the last thing I remember is turning out the light the night before — no waking panting, heart-hammering, no drenching, trembling sweats, no full-body muscle spasms that twist my neck and crack my jaw — I break out in a shit-eating grin. Pure celebratory joy. A feeling I want to bottle and carry around with me. A swig here and there of rested jubilance.

My top tips for making some headway in this area: Feeling safe in your home, sleeping alone, never drinking so much before bed that you’ll have to get up to go to the loo in the night, balancing hormones (really, this may all be a consequence of topical progesterone and pregnenolone), and good ear plugs (life changing).

Also, when you have felt that you truly might die, every day afterwards is gravy. Going to bed excited that you got another day and you get another one tomorrow — but not so excited that your nervous system is jazzed up — that’s the key.

Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

Two More One Offs

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Doctors, for me, are like one-night stands, only not at night and not fun. I meet them to scratch an itch, to see if maybe this person, with their unique knowledge and background might offer me something different… Trying not to have expectations, but, always, this dim hope flickering in the back of my mind that maybe this will be The One.

I didn’t see the neuro-opthalmalogist for 16 months after I was first given his name. I knew it was a silly referral and would be a waste of time, but I kept having niggling thoughts: What if they find something? You have neurological symptoms, after all. What if the problems with your eyes shouldn’t be dismissed just because there are bigger problems? What if this is thyroid eye disease? You won’t have good insurance forever. Maybe there was a reason you were referred to this doctor. Maybe it’s meant to be. Leave no stone unturned.

So, I finally made the appointment and waited 3 months to be seen.

I was in the clinic for 2 full hours. He was with me for 9 full minutes and spoke 5 full sentences. He thinks I have dry eyes.

Although I’ve been given the yellow ophthalmology eye drops twice before, this time I had a reaction to them, my throat and sinuses swelled up while I blew and coughed neon yellow all over a paper towel.

The doctor had never heard of that happening.
Of course not.
The doctor thinks, if I’m having a reaction, I should go to the emergency room.
Of course he does.

6 full hours later, I still can’t see properly from the drops they used to dilate my pupils and I feel like I was hit by a truck for no good reason.

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3 months waiting for an appointment with the fancy gastroenterologist at the University of Washington Medical Center Digestive Diseases Clinic, an hour waiting in the exam room and another hour telling my sordid bowel history and what was the recommendation?

… Wait for it…

Eat prunes and papayas and take Miralax.

Are you kidding me? Another one bites the dust.

Will someone please stop me from continuing this relentless search?

I should just stop and smell the flowers, instead.

New in the garden. Finally!

New in the garden. Finally!

Sleep Study

Last Friday, I had my third sleep study in as many years. This one was to see if my oral appliance was helping my sleep apnea. I’m a pro at these studies by now, but it’s still an awful night’s sleep, no matter what. Check in is at 9pm and they wake you up between 5:45am and 6am the next day. My sleep has been a lot better in recent months, but it’s also gotten later and later. I haven’t gone to sleep before 2am once this year. I haven’t tried to change this because I don’t want to mess with whatever is working about my sleep. For example, last night I slept from 2am to 10am. My sleep is still fraught with problems and awakenings, but actually having my eyes closed for 8 hours is miraculous.

So, I knew I was in for a rough night during the sleep study. This time around, I wore my pajamas to the clinic since I would just be getting straight into bed; I brought melatonin, since I knew I’d be trying to sleep earlier than usual; I brought an electric blanket since it’s always cold (stroke of genius, it turns out, because I have a very hard time sleeping with icy feet); I brought both of my pillows (one for my head, one to support my legs when I sleep on my side); I brought water and snacks (didn’t need the latter); and, most importantly, I brought ear plugs. During my last sleep study, I was woken by the crackling of the speakers, the water in the pipes, the hissing of the air conditioning, the closing of doors in other rooms… Ev.eRy.Thing woke me. I can say, without any shadow of doubt, that finding ear plugs that block all sound and are comfortable enough to sleep in (i.e: NOT the $100 custom-fit hard ones) was the best thing to ever happen in my health life. The key was, my husband had to teach me how to put them in properly. I didn’t realise there is an art to this. Silence is pure bliss, even if it’s filled with various pitches of shrieking tinnitus.

Another trick I had learned from experience was to shower (and not put on any lotion) right before coming to the sleep study, so the sticky pads would stay stuck through all my nocturnal thrashing. In the past, the tech had had to wake me to restick sensors that I’d ripped off. It was also a pleasant surprise that the huge brick that connected all the wires, which used to be strapped to my stomach, has been eliminated.

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Once I was all hooked up to the wires and monitors, I read for a bit and then tried to go to sleep at around midnight. I had to call the tech in twice: once to move the massive cord of tethered wires coming from my head and gathered together at the back of my neck like the brain plug-ins in The Matrix — that’s a design flaw when they want you to stay on your back — and another time because of the bright green speaker light reflecting off the ceiling and blaring through my shut eyelids. She got on a chair and threw a washcloth over the speaker light. Can’t believe no one else had ever complained about it.

My night was terrible. It felt like I was awake the whole time and I remember at one stage thinking I just needed to call the tech in and tell her I was going home because I obviously was never going to fall asleep for more than a few minutes at a time. Turns out, I was wrong about that. I did sleep, but spent an inordinate amount of time in stage 2 sleep, during which, my doctor said, you can be slightly aware of your surroundings. Was I ever. I also remembered snippets of about 5 dreams. It felt like I would doze for 10 minutes, have a dream, wake up and lie there thinking about it for an hour, before dozing off and having it happen again, over and over. Dr. M confirmed that I did wake up after every REM cycle, but said this wasn’t that uncommon. We surmised that my problem is, because I’m often having stressful dreams and nightmares, when I wake up it isn’t a slight surfacing and then back under, it is, instead, a fully awake, heart-pounding episode that I have to come down from. He said my “sleep architecture” was terrible (how I progress through sleep) and my brainwaves showed that I spent most of my time in flight or fight mode. I’m hoping this was exacerbated by being hard-wired into a foreign bed. I’ve done so much bloody work over the years trying to calm my nervous system and feel like I’ve made progress. The ear plugs are a good example — I spent years not even considering wearing them because then I wouldn’t be able to hear the intruder/dog whining/crackling of flames or any one of the other million crises that can strike in the night. I’m not on high alert anymore. Usually.

The biggest revelation to me that night was how much pain I am in when I’m sleeping. I thought I was just an extremely active sleeper but, just like my experience during the tilt table test when I was forced to lie on my back and stay in one position, all hell breaks loose in my limbs when I can’t move. Blood pooling, pins and needles, numbness, cramping, sore muscles and, worst of all, skeletal pain — deep aching in my joints and bones. I had to move to alleviate the pain and get my blood flowing, so, as much as I tried to stay on my back (where the apnea is a real problem), I wound up flipping from side to side, just like I do at home. I’d never equated the tilt table test to sleeping — while I was supine, there was no blood in my extremities at all and they went from numb to excruciating. I was almost in tears. I don’t know what to do about this particular problem, though. It’s not a painkiller issue. I think I need stronger muscles to help the bone and joint pain and, for the circulation issues… what? Would Florinef or Midodrine help with this? Can I just hire a gaggle of elves to rub my arms and legs all night long?

Anyway, there is some great news. I managed 3 short cycles of deep sleep during the night, which blows my mind when I didn’t think I’d slept at all. My oxygen saturation was 96-97% (that’s good). And… sound the trumpets… I had ZERO apneas or other breathing events. Picture me kissing my ResMed Narval oral appliance like Jimmy Stewart kissing the newel post knob in It’s a Wonderful Life. Mmuah mmuah mmuah! I love you, my uncomfortable little OA. I’ll never speak ill of you again. Even though you destroy my jaw every night, you are a much better friend than the CPAP mask.

So, with ear plugs and the OA, I’ve tackled 2 of my sleep issues. Now, I just have to work on the hypersensitive nervous system, temperature dysregulation, cervical spine injury, the night terrors, muscle aches, bone pain, joint bursitis, blood pooling, photosensitivity, intermittent drenching night sweats and the awful mast cell poisoning reaction events and I’ll sleep like a baby. Yay!

But, seriously, this is really good news. Sleep is absolutely the key to my healing. Oh, and Dr. M prescribed a newish sleep drug called Belsomra, which works on brain neurotransmitters. I think I might give it a try. :)