Over the last several months, I've written about chronic pain, long-term unemployment, and getting a new job. The pain medication was great for a few months, then I got switched to a different medication, which is now losing its effectiveness. The new job is working out okay. Unfortunately, the combination of everyday pain and being back on a full-time schedule (with additional time given to volunteer commitments) has pushed me to the breaking point. The culprit: sleep apnea.
This is not a new problem, but it continues to get worse. Now that I'm working again, I don't have the luxury of napping during the day if I didn't get good sleep at night. I've been at the new job 2 months now, and each week leaves me more exhausted. It's one of the biggest reasons why you haven't seen me posting on OS.
I had a sleep study many months ago, but the experience left me so frustrated and disillusioned that I never wanted to follow up on it. The sleep center gave me such a soft bed for the study that I got a terrible back ache in the first hour. The rest of the night was torture, and I barely got enough sleep to create enough data for evaluation.
The fucktard neurologist who interpreted the test data took his sweet time getting the results to my primary care doctor. (Fucktard is label I rarely apply to anyone. This guy earned it.) When I got the boilerplate set of recommendations, I was furious. He made some suggestions for elimating snoring that made it abundantly clear that he hadn't even read the lengthy pre-study questionnaire I'd completed.
In that questionnaire, I wrote at length about various pain issues that significantly affected sleep. I called his office and asked him why he'd made recommendations that were contrary to what was physically possible for me. He arrogantly said "Oh, I don't even read those unless you make an appointment to see me." My answer: "Guess what? Your ignorant recommendations just ensured that I will never ever make an appointment to see you." I hung up on him.
How could he recommend things like modifying an old t-shirt to create a device to prevent sleeping on my back - after I'd said in the questionnaire that there were many nights when pain prevented me from sleeping in any other position?
I've tried to muddle through since then. Not having a fixed daily schedule for much of that time let me get away with it for a while. One of my concerns upon starting my new job was whether I'd get enough rest and be able to function well. I've gotten my answer: a resounding NO.
The changes in pain medication only helped for a while. I've increased my physical therapy exercise routine, which helps somewhat with the pain - when I have enough energy to do the exercises. My immune system is compromised. I get infections easily now, something that rarely happened before. My short term memory is almost non-existent. Yep, the writing is on the wall.
I had an appointment with my primary care doctor to talk about the return of daily pain, the overall lack of sleep, and declining quality of everything. I've got a sleep study set up for next week to determine correct settings for a CPAP machine.
My gut feeling is that CPAP may not be a long-term solution, but I have to try it as a first step. One of my long-term issues is that pain will not allow me to stay in any sleep position very long without moving. Because I need to sleep on my back and sides during most nights, I wonder how well I'll be able to accommodate that with a breathing mask and hose attached to my face. I guess I'll find out. My gut feeling is that a real long-term solution will involve throat surgery and some weight loss.
A month from now, I hope I'll be on the road to feeling better. With any luck, I'll be functioning better then and have more energy for writing again.