Dangerous Compassions

my cpap machine and the surprises of life

I heard of sleep apnea and thought I probably had it.  But I was scared to get a sleep test.  I had a medical phobia, and the overnight aspect of the test freaked me out–it seemed like being admitted to the hospital.

I was afraid of feeling trapped.  There’s really a lot to fear.  I need freedom–being trapped is one of the worst feelings in the world, for me.  And in a medical situation, not being in control of my own body.  There’s a lot of poking, prodding, and pain that can happen.  I had a huge fear of infections also, the special infections people get in hospitals and die from.

Well, I’m crazy–it’s common for people crazy like me to have medial phobias and issues.  Fatness is a factor also–I’ve been treated poorly many many times.  Women diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder have some seriously reduced lifespan–I googled it, the worst of the mental health diagnosis lifespans, a reduction of 17.5 years.

I think there are a lot of reasons for that, but if you’re too freaked out to go to the doctor, that might not be helpful, combined with everything else.  You know I used to say I’d rather die than go to the hospital.  Luckily I don’t have alcoholism or drug addiction, and I quit smoking a long time ago.  I have Ming and many people who love me.  So maybe I won’t get the worst of it.

Anyway, when I was in the hospital toward the beginning of the year, they told me I have sleep apnea.  And I partially got over my medical phobia in the hospital, so finally I was able to do a sleep study because there was a place Ming could go with me and stay there–my lovely bodyguard, asleep in the recliner.  We brought my emotional first aid kit, and that was helpful too.

The sleep test was actually worse than I thought it would be.  There’s got to be a better way.  But they found the info they needed, my insurance covered things well, and then I had a cpap machine to wear every night while I slept, something I’d dreaded.

I’d heard so much bad about cpap machines, and I’m a bit claustrophobic, so that was part of the issue also–I thought, why go through that terrible testing to be prescribed a treatment I couldn’t follow through with.  There was no point.

Well, imagine my surprise when…I love my cpap machine!  I had this meeting with a respiratory therapist–he was totally kind, smart, and patient, helping me find the right mask and teaching me the different things to do.  I wrote a letter to his boss saying how great he was.

Ming is the one who helps me keep track of maintenance on my machine, so I should really write a letter to Ming about how great he is.  (I love you, Ming.  Thank you.)

The first time I had the mask on me, pushing air into my mouth and nose, I was a little freaked out.  But I got used to it.

Then at home, I had some difficulties–I would fall asleep so fast, at times, that I didn’t have time to get the mask on.  Or if I cough, it’s confusing because I’m too sleepy to manage to take the mask off at the right times.  Or getting the straps right so it’s tight enough not to leak, but not too tight.

But I really love breathing, and I had this feeling like the cpap machine was my breathing buddy, a little pet who breathed with me and helped me get the oxygen I need for my brain and for all my systems to be ok.  I had no idea I would love my cpap machine.

The feeling that it’s my pet went away, and the difficulty mostly did also.  It’s still bad when I need to cough, but otherwise, I wear it all the time, when I’m sleeping, and have become good at that.

I wish I didn’t need the electricity, and when we went camping, that was hard to manage.  Also, there’s a lot of cleaning involved.  Ming does the filters, but I’m afraid I don’t stay on top of it like I should.

I didn’t mean to tell you this whole story, but I did.  Here is the part I actually wanted to tell you.

One of the coolest things about having a cpap machine is how–well, when I’m cold, I always want to put the blankets over my head.  But then I couldn’t breathe well, and now I know that reducing my oxygen was a bad idea since I wasn’t getting enough oxygen already.

But now, since I have this machine pushing air into my mouth and nose, I can wear my cpap mask and put my head under the covers all I want.  It’s actually very nice that way.  Who knew.  I can be a bundled winter person, wrapped in blankets, with this tube of air reaching into the cocoon to let me breathe.  Clever clever.

So–thank you to Ming for all the help, and to whoever invented cpap machines and the people who made them smaller and lighter so when we travel it’s easier.  I can be a bundled winter person much better now.  The end.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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