sleep apnea

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.