So here we were, the moment of truth. The kids had been picked up by Drago and Carmen so I was alone in the house. I went outside and sat on the deck and had a cigarette, playing some dumb game on my kindle. I was nervous as HELL. I really wanted to go take a bath before heading to the research center, but I was quickly running out of time. Playing my game on the deck, I tried to relax but I couldn’t. All I could think about was what this test was going to be like, what if I couldn’t sleep at all, what if they found out it was nothing (which Joe is betting on) or worse, what if they found it WAS something? Suddenly I looked at the clock. I had 30 minutes to get to the research center, which was 25 minutes away. Shit. I have to go!
I ran upstairs, threw my kindle in the bag I had somewhat packed, and then headed back out to the car. My anxiety was getting worse by the minute, and I chain-smoked two cigarettes on the way there. Because that was going to help things. I don’t even smoke in my car – ever. But that night, I couldn’t help it. Of course the highway traffic HAD to be congested that night, and because I was going a different way than I usually do (I usually go to appointments from work) I wasn’t even 1000% positive of where I was going. I missed an exit that I thought was the right one, and then I wasn’t sure where to go… ahhhh! Seriously, if I hadn’t been so worked up, I probably would have had no problem realizing where I was going but my brain was going a million miles a minute.
I took the exit, and came to a stop light. It was 8:56 and I was supposed to be there at 9:00. I called the number I had and the tech answered. I told him I was very close; I promise, I’ll be there in minutes. About five minutes later I arrived, hurriedly stubbing out my cigarette and grabbing my stuff out the back of the car. Did I want my crochet stuff? Yes? No? Would I look like a dork crocheting? Would it relax me? Ahh – I can’t find the crochet hook! Do I have a few more minutes? Which door am I supposed to go into?! This parking lot is empty. Am I sure I’m in the right parking lot??
Calm the fuck down, girl.
I gave up on finding the crochet stuff and headed for the door. Unfortunately, I really was in the wrong parking lot and had to walk around the entire building to find the security door which would let me call upstairs for the tech to come down and get me.
The tech came down and smiled, letting me in. He was nice – I wouldn’t say I was necessarily relieved by the man who greeted me, but at least I was here and in the building. The rent-a-cop patrolling the main level didn’t help things much. I tried to take a couple of calming breaths in the elevator but all I could really think about was how he could probably smell the smoke on me and was very likely disgusted. It’s always so gross to smell smoke on someone if you yourself are not smoking. Does smoking make sleep issues worse? Is he going to report me to someone, like my doctor? I really should have thought about that before my two cigarettes. Of course these thoughts made me instantly want another one.
Note to you, my sweet reader – I swear to you that all of the things I am typing about here were really going through my head. Who knows how much ELSE I was thinking about that I don’t remember. I was a giant HOT MESS.
So after I gave up trying to take a few calming breaths, I started chatting. I am very, very good at chatting to break the silence. I work in HR, so it’s usually my job to break the ice with candidates, associates, new hires, etc. But tonight, given that I was clearly flying a million miles an hour in my nervous head, I was especially chatty. This poor guy probably didn’t know what to do with me. I wonder what most of the patients that come in are like. Is there a certain “type” that we are, us weird-issue-with-sleep people?
My room was sparsely furnished, and it really did look like a hospital room. I had read somewhere that I should expect that the room would be furnished more like home or maybe kind of like a cheap hotel, designed to make you feel at home and comfy. Not this one. It consisted of a pleather chair (that did not recline, I checked), a full-size bed (better than a twin) with a rainbow-striped comforter, a little night stand with a machine on it, shades drawn at the windows with towels at the bottom (weird), a small tv, a normal hospital-issue tray table, a rolling office chair and a normal hospital room bathroom. Most expensive “hotel” room I’ve ever stayed in in my life.
He left me for a few minutes to check on his other patient. There were two of us that night and I wondered about the other person. Was he or she as nervous as me? Why were they there? Same reasons as me?
He came back in and had me sit down on the chair, where he proceeded to tell me about how he was going to hook me up to all of these electrodes. But the first thing he did was tell me that the first part of the study was to see if I had sleep apnea and needed the cpap machine. He made me try it out so I could see what it was like to have positive air flow coming in my nose.
OH MY GOSH. I could NOT handle it! I felt like I was drowning – in air. I don’t ever breathe through my nose really. My natural instinct was to fight it, and I absolutely could not do it through my nose without opening my mouth. I’m sure I looked like a fish out of water. Pffaaaww. Pffawww. I would blow out the air that was “drowning me” instantly through my mouth. I just couldn’t do it.
It’s ok, it’s ok, he said. Some people just can’t do it through their noses, they are mouth breathers. OK, well then clearly I am a mouth breather. So then he gave me the version that is for people like me, who can’t handle the nose thing. Ugh. I hated it instantaneously. I could breathe, but…. nooooo….. I do NOT want this thing. I would look like an alien in bed at night. I need it quiet at night, this thing makes noise and just… no. No no no. NO.
I told him this and he tried to reassure me. It’s just white noise, you’ll get used to it. If you need it, you just do… it’s ok. Lots and lots of people do. It can be life threatening.
At this point, I am seriously thinking about running. I have gotten myself into some awful wacky shit here; I just CAN’T DO THIS. Please, please, please God, don’t make me wear this for the rest of my life. I eyed that machine like it was radioactive, and contemplated just how much I really wanted to know what’s been going wrong with me. Was it worth getting saddled with THAT, forever?
I think Mike (that was his name) was pretty sure I was ready to bolt because he picked right then to start adding electrodes. You can’t get very far if you’re hooked to a gazillion wires. Remember that rainbow-bedspread I told you about? Turns out the comforter was just brown. All of those rainbow lines were electrodes that he attached to me.
Most of them were in my hair. They used this weird silicone/putty/wax stuff to adhere them to my head. I had them on my temples, my jaw, my chest, my sides. I had weird belts strapped around my chest and waist, electrodes on my legs, everything. I have a picture that I would show you if I wasn’t afraid it would wind up as some hilarious meme on Instagram. So you’re just going to have to go with the head shot.
Yep. Looks pretty cool, huh? Nothing like weird blobs of cotton all over your head. So anyway, he finishes attaching these everywhere and then he leaves me for a minute to go get the other guy set up. I unpack my laptop, my kindle, and a book and get it all situated. Just as soon as I’m done he comes back in.
Alright, he tells me. It’s time for lights out.
It’s like 10:00. I don’t go to bed until like 10:30 – 11:00 regularly. I feel like I mainlined a pot of coffee and I have Rainbow Bright cords coming from my entire body. I’m supposed to just lay down and go instantly to sleep??
But Blue Cross and Blue Shield is paying a lot of bucks for this, so I do what I’m told. Mike explains that for the first two hours of the test, he will be watching to see if I have any sleep apnea issues. If I do, he will come in and put the cpap machine on me. If I don’t, he will let me sleep until 6 am at which time, I will be woken up. He also explains that if I have to go to the bathroom, all I have to do is sit up and turn to the side of the bed. He will come in and get me situated so that I can go use the bathroom. Ok, got it.
He goes out and suddenly I hear him over the intercom. He instructs me to do a few things. First, lay completely still with your eyes closed. Done. Now open your eyes, but still stay completely still. Now flex your feet.
Without moving your head, look left, right, up, and then down. Do it again. Now clench your jaw. Now relax.
The room goes dark except for a red light up near the tv. Mike’s not talking to me over the intercom anymore, and I’m just laying here in silence.
Oh wow. I don’t know how this is going to work. I am seriously like not even kind of ready for bed. I don’t know how to go to sleep on command, unless it’s during the day and I have my book. I feel like a ticking time bomb, too, because what if I can’t go to sleep at all, and the whole study is ruined? Can that happen? He said sometimes people have trouble going to sleep. What if I can’t sleep the whole night?
And that freaking machine over there is haunting me too. I’m sure I’ve been laying here for ten minutes now, which means, if he’s only watching for two hours, I’ve only got one hour and fifty minutes left to sleep. To prove that I do or don’t need that machine. Aaaahhhhhh!!
I roll this way and that. I refluff my pillows. There’s a thing, some kind of air meter or something in my nose and it’s irritating. I keep trying to shift it so I won’t be able to feel it there, bothering me. I pull the blankets up and tuck myself in down under them, so that only my hair is showing. Do you suppose Mike has to be able to actually see me to tell stuff? And … ok… that’s just weird too. It’s just me and Mike and whoever in the room next door. Is he watching me through the camera? What is my brain doing?
And then… I start thinking about how much I don’t want that cpap machine. The more I think about it, the more anxious I get. Pretty soon I feel like I’m not getting enough air, so I’m gulping air. Then I think, what if he thinks I have sleep apnea, so I try to breathe normally. The more normal I try to breathe, the weirder my breathing is. This goes on and on and on. DAMN IT! I cannot fall asleep! And I can’t breathe! And there’s some dude, nice as all get out, but still… watching me on a camera in the dark and that’s just fucking unnerving.
OH MY GOD. THIS IS RIDICULOUS. Get your SHIT TOGETHER, WOMAN.
Deep, deep breath. And then I finally, finally, fall asleep.
(And good luck – sleeping with this thing trained on you all night.)