sleep apnea

Long time, no see

2:11 am on Sunday, July 17, 2022

Insomnia has struck again. So, I decided I need to start blogging again. Not for anyone other than myself or any reason other than I miss writing…even though I don’t really know what to write about anymore. I just looked and realized it’s been more than a year since I wrote anything here. I’ve written posts on FB and IG. Many of those have been essay length. But, nothing like blogging.

I miss the blogging community I used to be part of. I miss that sense of connectedness through language. So, here I am, wanting to rebuild my writing self. Who knows, maybe I’ll build something new inside of me.

For anyone who followed me in the past, I’ll try to give a quick synopsis. For any who are reading me for the first time, I’ll introduce myself.

July 16, 2022

Hi, I’m Lillian.

I’m a 53 year old mother of three and grandmother of four. My youngest child is 13 and experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum. My two oldest children are 35 and 29. The 29 year old and their 29 year old partner have four children: 8, 7, 4, & 2…their family lives with me. So, when my teenager is home, there are eight humans and one canine…in a two bedroom, one bath apartment. Yeah. You read all of that right.

After not being employed since mid-2012, primarily due to mental health reasons and the special needs of my youngest, I was finally able to rejoin the workforce in April of 2020. I started as a Residential Counselor in Supported Housing for adults experiencing mental health challenges. A year later, I transitioned into my current role as an Adult Mental Health Peer Wellness Specialist. Basically I get to use my lived experience of coping with mental health challenges (and navigating all the systems which impact a person living with those challenges) to walk alongside others going through similar challenges.

Who knew my trauma history and mental illness could be a positive force in the world? I certainly didn’t for most of my life. Now, here I am, doing the work my life has equipped me for. I’m turning the excrement of my life into fertilizer in the lives of others. That gives me a sense of purpose…something I lacked for a very long time.

All I could see were my limitations and defects.

It’s Disability Pride Month. There isn’t a fully official flag…yet. I did some research on what the colors represent and put together a flag which represents what I live with on a daily basis.
Black = Sleep issues = Sleep Apnea
Purple = Chronic/Acute Pain = Fibromyalgia & Neuropathy
Red = Heart issues = High Blood Pressure
Blue = Thyroid issues = Hypothyroidism
Yellow = Obesity
Green = Mental Illness = Bipolar 2 Disorder, Depression, cPTSD, & Binge Eating Disorder
Black = Sleep issues = Chronic Insomnia

My Disability Flag

Currently there are two main things I’m struggling with out of this laundry list of ailments: Diabetes, type 2 & Bipolar Disorder, also type 2.

Back in February, I found out that my A1C was 11 and my non-fasting blood glucose level was almost 500. If you don’t know what these numbers mean, that’s actually great for you. It means it’s likely you don’t have diabetes concerns. On the other hand, if you research it and check out the symptoms list, you may discover you need to learn more about it. Anyway, basically, I should have been hospitalized…and my doctor of that time actually requested I go to the ER to get checked out, three days after those tests were done.

In March, I started a rigorous (and expensive!) nutrition program. It worked. I lost seven pounds the first week. By week three I had to reduce my insulin intake by 15 units. On April 1st I rejoined WW (Weight Watchers). I was on a roll and doing really well with my activity, my eating, my thinking, and my creativity. I had more energy. I gained more confidence. I was feeling really proud of myself. Then my bipolar brain started going haywire.

All those feel good things and lifestyle changes, along with seasonal changes, impacted my neurochemistry and sent me into manic mode…but I didn’t recognize it until several weeks had passed and I was completely off the rails with risky, out of control behavior. I couldn’t face the truth until I realized how much I was risking: my health, my mental health recovery, my relationships, and my future. It was very demoralizing once I faced the truth.

I talked to both of my therapists, my prescriber, and my newest doctor. Adjustments were made and it took another few weeks to come down. Then, I spiraled down. I stopped moving. I reverted to old patterns and the binge eating began. I quit the nutrition program…I couldn’t afford it and the “health coach” I had was really aggravating me. Then, I stopped attending the WW virtual workshops and skipped the in person studio workshop, after two weeks of weight gain. Additionally, financial changes out of my control started happening with my employer and a creditor. So, I realized I wouldn’t be able to continue with WW, once my initial membership commitment expires in September.

I very nearly gave up.

Friday night I logged into my first workshop in nearly two weeks. I showed up at the studio yesterday and weighed in. I had gained almost eight and a half pounds in two weeks. My heart plummeted and I felt nauseated. It was very disheartening. At the same time, it was motivating. I went home and decided I was going to something to make me feel good about myself and I did my makeup, which I hardly ever do. I used color, which I never do. I used green to represent the Bipolar I’ve been battling.

I’m still committed to taking the bad and using it to do good.

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Health Scare

01/13/2021

You can’t tell from my picture above, but I have sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, out of whack cholesterol, am 150-175 lbs overweight, half Hispanic, and over 50. It seems my blood pressure, which has always been really good, is on the rise and that I probably have what is the very earliest stages of fatty liver syndrome. Apparently, all these factors make me a really great candidate for a heart attack.

When my state went into the “Stay Home, Save Lives” protocols last year…aka quarantine, I was staying with friends. Even though I had my own apartment, I stayed with friends from mid-March through early November. Why? Because a lot of things, but, mostly because I love my family and I’ve worked very damn hard to be able to have a relationship with my adult children that reflects how important family is to me.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2019 my adult daughter’s family became homeless…a few months after she found out she was pregnant with baby number four and had a series of jobs that fell through shortly after she started them. There was remnant rental debt, which had been accrued when she had left her previous apartment to share a house that she genuinely thought and expected to be a safe and stable place to raise her family.

It turned out to not be either safe or stable.

So, her family wound up coming to stay with me and my youngest daughter – who experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum and is in active puberty.

Eight human beings and assorted animals in a small, 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment.

Yikes!

I was finishing up two vocational training programs: Mental Health Peer Wellness Specialist and H & R Block Income Tax Course. The second was to be a “survival/bridge” job until I could get the state certifications and a position for the first. So, I was working face-to-face with the public when the pandemic began. There were three kids under six and an unborn. I couldn’t/didn’t want to risk their health, but I absolutely needed to keep working. So, I stayed with my friends who I would visit on the weekends to give us all a little respite and space.

One of those friends started the year with a stroke in January and blood clots in her lungs in February/March. I wanted to be available for her and her wife, as well. So, it worked. Then, for a couple of good reasons, I left the tax job…I’m really not the one you want going over your finances. I can barely manage my own. It took me another month to find a job in the mental health field that I was qualified for. The pandemic basically ended, for however long, my goal of doing peer work…social distancing and all that.

Four days before starting my new position, my fourth grandchild was born…and her mama nearly died. That was towards the end of April. By the end of May, my friend had two heart attacks within two weeks of each other. The thought that my daughter or that my friend could have died during any of these events weighed heavily on my heart and mind.

In the midst of all of this, I was both consciously and unconsciously “letting my health go.” I’ve felt overwhelmed and out of control. Not having or being in my own space, determining what food comes in, etc. is difficult when health management is primarily about nutrition. There’s a negative feedback loop/cycle that those of us experiencing mental health diagnoses can fall into regarding our physical health. The two are inextricably intertwined. What’s good for my mental health is good for my physical health. What’s bad for my physical health is bad for my mental health. However, like all things in life, it’s not that clear, cut, and dried.

We made it through summer, then, Distance Learning.

My 11 year old child on the “higher functioning” end of the Autism Spectrum was expected to start middle school, doing online classes with the General Education kids, using Zoom to attend four alternating classes, four days a week; Advisory five days a week; and two “specials” a week…as well as expected to do Applied Learning (Independent Study) an additional eight hours a week.

So, I changed my work schedule and dropped my three day shifts for three weekend graveyard shifts. Doing this wound up really messing with my ability to get and stay on track with all my meds. Then, the behavior issues with my kiddo wound up disrupting the household of my friend who’d had all the health events. She didn’t handle seeing and hearing how out of control and physically aggressive my kid could be. It didn’t end well and by the end of the first week of November, I found myself moving back into my apartment.

I love my daughters. I love my grandkids. I value the dad of my grandkids. I tolerate the dog and the cat. However, I really can’t stand living with ANY of them. There’s a super busy and demanding nine month old, a threenager, a five year old supersonic bouncy ball, a six year old happy, gregarious, dance monkey, and an irascible, 12 year old lazy, iPad/My Hero Academia addict with her days and nights reversed. They almost have us outnumbered 2:1 and I don’t think there’s any moment of complete silence in the entire space.

Essentially, my chronic insomnia has gone into overdrive and somewhere, there’s a painting that shows deep, dark lines, sagging, sallow, wrinkled skin and yellowed, bloodshot eyes, with white wisps of hair sticking out of an otherwise bald head that’s showing all the signs you aren’t seeing here of how unwell I actually am. That’s a better explanation for how I look at my age, with my issues than the one my oldest daughter has…that I’m secretly a vampire.

Anyway, all of this led up to me waking up from a sleep, which didn’t feel that deep or that long, choking and gasping, barely able to breath, and coughing so hard I had an incontinent moment. It took what felt like forever for me to catch my breath. I felt completely enervated and incapable of doing more than walk to and from the bathroom for the rest of the day. I also wound up with a severe headache that the Excedrin Migraine generally knocks right out, but didn’t really touch. I felt achy and mildly nauseated the rest of the day. Since I often feel these things due to the fibromyalgia (which I forgot to mention above) I didn’t really think too much about it. I was kind of too out of it to think about anything, really.

The next day, I started thinking about what had happened and started doing some research. It seems that the symptoms I just experienced could have been nothing other than a momentary reaction to an apnea event…OR they could be symptoms of a “silent heart attack.” It would seem that is a much more common thing women experience than men. The only way to know for sure is to have the doctor run some tests to see if there’s any damage. So, I sent an electronic message to my doctor.

We’ll see what happens next. I’ll keep you posted.