Monday, January 14, 2008

Almost back in gear

Well, Christmas is almost put away, but the sewing room is still bare. Tomorrow night I start another 3-night stretch, and those just wipe me out. Seems all I do those days is work and sleep, so sewing will have to wait until the weekend, and then I HAVE to get my Four Seasons Quilt done. But things are looking up.

For the past 6 months or more, I have just been not physically or emotionally right. It was nothing I could put my finger, so I blamed it on work, and taking on a leadership position in our quilting group, and the knee injury. The anti-inflammatory I was on caused me to have GI bleeding this summer, and dropped my hemoglobin, so that made me a little tired, but it came up again after stopping the medication. Seems the irritation brought on some problems with acid reflux, and I'm taking care of that. In addition, I have gained back the 40 pounds I lost 2 years ago on the South Beach diet, so THAT makes me feel sluggish and rotten, too.

But the most difficult thing to explain or understand was the irritation to the point of constant anger, the inability to cope with situations, the perpetual tiredness. Most of the time I could get to sleep, but couldn't stay asleep, though sometimes I couldn't fall asleep. I chalked that up to working nights, but I've worked straight nights since 1993. My sweet husband is so laid back and understanding. He'd just say, "Well, if you're tired, go take a nap." It didn't matter to him if the house was messy, clothes were clean, but in the basket, and suppper was fast food probably once a week or more. He's such a good man.

Being a nurse, I tried to self-diagnose, of course. I decided it probably wasn't hormones, as I am 5 years post-menopausal (thank you, Lord). But maybe it was my thyroid. Maybe I was still a little anemic. Or it could be depression, but why now? As far as I know there is none of that in my family, and I haven't had most of the events on the stressors scale: divorce, death in the family, job change, move, etc.

Finally, I came to my senses just before Christmas and scheduled an appointment with my physician's assistant, Julie. My blood pressure that day was 150/100--and it was mid-morning, I hadn't worked the night before, I'd been taking my BP medicine, and there was not much traffic out there (I confess to a bit of road rage at times.) That alone could make me feel lousy, she said, so she doubled my dose, but in the meantime, ordered some lab work. We discussed the possibility of depression, but decided to rule out physical causes first. SHE brought up sleep apnea, and gave me a script to sleep with a pulse oximeter one night.

Well, my thyroid is fine, I'm no longer anemic, and I am feeling some better since my blood pressure is down to almost normal. But the pulse oximeter showed my oxygen saturation level is dropping below 90% at night. I started paying attention to the many times I wake up at night. I noticed I sometimes wake up unable to breathe out, and it doesn't seem to matter if I'm on my side or not. And occasionally I wake with my heart racing.

So next week, I have my first appointment with a pulmonologist (lung doc) who runs a sleep clinic. I will need to fill out a questionnaire and meet with him, and then will set up an appointment for a sleep study. Funny thing is, J-Man was diagnosed with sleep apnea several years ago, and I remember helping him fill out the questionnaire, thinking some of the questions were kind of silly. After all, doesn't everyone get sleepy mid afternoon or when they watch television?

In retrospect, I think I may have had the beginnings of this for a while, but managed to function until this summer. REM sleep refreshes your mind, while the deep sleep oxygenates and heals your body. Not getting enough of both would explain why I can't seem to cope with anything any more, and why I'm still having trouble with my knees and don't have the energy to exercise any more. And when I'm tired, I eat.

It is such a relief to think this will all be taken care of soon. The sleep study will show how much and how often my level drops, and suggest what we can do about it. Probably a C-Pap machine, and it may take 2 months to get the sleep study scheduled, then the follow-up appointment with the MD, etc. I know things will be rocky for a while, but I'm trying to be smarter about this. Julie gave me a prescription for a sleeping pill, and that has helped. And I am trying to keep my cool at work and not bite my co-workers' heads off. Just knowing it's being taken care of, helps a little.

Moral of this (rather lengthy) story? Don't procrastinate if you don't feel right--go see your physician (or his P.A.)!

Edited to add: There are so many people who have gone through so many things, that I originally felt rather foolish going to my PA with such vague complaints. If it hadn't been for a couple of co-workers confronting me with my irritability, and the fact that I couldn't stand myself, I might have gone on ignoring my body. But you know, no one is going to take care of our bodies but ourselves. Help is out there, and I don't think God intended for us to be so busy taking care of our families and friends and things that are less important, such as committies and such, that we neglect the life He gave us. So, please, pay attention to your minds, your bodies, and nurture yourselves as much as you would your child. Besides, you can't take proper care of others if you are functioning at less than optimal levels.


Morning Glory said...

Oh, you poor thing. This must have been so frustrating, but I'm glad the doctor is zeroing in on it and taking you seriously. I wish you the best.

Pinky said...

Gosh, this is right up my alley. Thanks for the reminder, Stephanie!

MightyMom said...

sleep apnea is insidious and vicious!! I know several folks (both diagnosed and not) who are suffering greatly. Wishing you all the best dearie.