You know I like life-changing things, be they marathons or new jobs or wacky eating habits. But this one may take the cake for being most AWESOME.
Let’s back up to: I was having difficulty concentrating on writing. Like, a LOT of difficulty. It got to the point I went back to the psychologist to get re-diagnosed with ADHD so I could get some meds to help me focus. (I’m on hyperactive side of ADHD, if you hadn’t noticed. Diagnosed at about 5 years old, still running hyper these many years later.)
Ah, you say, life-changing. Sure, Ritalin.
But that’s not it! (Ritalin is very helpful — it’s like aspirin, only used when needed, which is only when writing, and only on days when I just can’t stay in my seat long enough to get to the end of a single sentence without wiggling to the floor like a dancing squirrel.)
Here’s the zinger: The psychologist said, “Do you have apnea?”
“No, I have insomnia.”
“Is it caused by apnea?”
“No, I don’t snore. I just wake up every ten minutes all through the night, but not because I’m gasping for air or anything. It’s just simple insomnia, I think. That’s what the other doctors have told me.”
“Apnea and ADHD can be related sometimes. Might be where your migraines are coming from, too. Go get tested.”
So I did. And I have it. (Mild apnea — I stop breathing between 5 and 15 times an hour, for 10-30 seconds at a time.)
One month ago, I got a CPAP. Yep, one of those crazy mask thingies (only mine is only a nose pillow, very low-profile. I still feel like the dude in Mad Max with it on).
Honestly, I was surprised at how scared I was to try wearing it. See, it blows air into your nose. When you’re asleep and your palate falls, obstructing your breathing, the machine blows air harder to open it and you start breathing again, rather than what happens naturally (your heart beats faster and harder to make up for the lack of oxygen until you wake up with a gasp (or, in my case, no gasp) and start breathing again — this is, obviously, very bad for the heart and blood pressure over time).
But with the nasal mask, you have keep your mouth closed, or the air goes in your nose and RIGHT OUT YOUR MOUTH, none of it reaching your lungs. When I asked what would happen if I accidentally opened my mouth while I asleep, my too-cavalier respiratory tech said, “Well, you’ll suffocate. But that will wake you up.”
This did not inspire confidence.
But even though the first few minutes were stressful (I actually started hiccuping from fear, something I’ve never done before), it turns out that sleeping with a CPAP is AMAZING. The first night was all right — I slept a bit — and the next few nights were a bit rough as I trudged sleepily around the learning curves (wrapping the tube around my neck, waking to the mask blowing my eyeballs dry), but on the fifth night, I hit sleep nirvana.
I just slept and slept and slept. And slept some more. I slept without waking up for hours at a time. (Keep in mind, I usually sleep for ten or fewer minutes at a time. To wake up hours later? Oh, my god. The best.)
And THIS IS THE BIGGEST NEWS:
In the month of using the CPAP? I haven’t had one full-blown migraine.
I had the start of a migraine for two days, but both days I was able to fight it off with medication.
This is a bloody miracle. Lately I’ve been fighting migraines at least once every two or three days and losing the fight at least twice a month.
Things I’ve done to relieve my migraines over the years:
- Full hysterectomy (found out afterward I was allergic to estrogen, so I hit full menopause at 39)
- Botox (lost the use of an eyebrow for 3 months but had very young-looking shoulders!)
- Alternos: Acupuncture, yoga, meditation
- Triptans – all
- Triptylines – all
- Medications – all: opioids, barbiturates, caffeine, NSAIDs – if it exists, my doc has given it to me to try.
- Supplements – all (including B2, butterbur, ginger, feverfew, magnesium, etc.)
- Dietary changes – gluten-free, anti-inflammatory, paleo, no dairy, no sugar, no caffeine, no fun
It’s not possible that this whole time my migraines were triggered purely by sleep apnea. The cyclical migraines, for instance, stopped after my surgery. But the rest of them? Is it possible they’ve all been due to the fact that oxygen wasn’t reaching my brain and my brain was rebelling against that fact? (This would explain why I always got migraines after drinking—even a little bit of alcohol makes muscles relax even more than they normally would, exacerbating sleep apnea to a more dangerous level.)
Is it too early to get excited about this? Because if I could really get my life back… Check it out: usually when I get too tired, I get a migraine. Auto-trigger. But on Saturday, I worked eight hours, then flew to San Diego and went to the zoo all afternoon and evening, then went to see fireworks, and NO MIGRAINE.
I rate my headaches by level of pain. 10 is better-pick-out-a-casket. 1 is a lightly-stubbed toe. Most good days for the last few years have been 2 or 3.
Now I’m just zero, all the time. Lala keeps asking, “What are you at now?”
And being zero means I’m running a hundred everywhere else. My energy is back. Instead of napping, I’ve been hiking in the afternoons. I’m writing my ass off, and not needing Ritalin to get it done. I’m just LIVING. And sleeping.
Clementine, exhausted after big hike
It’s absolutely tremendous.
(I realize that writing about my migraines isn’t very exciting, but if someone in the future googles migraines and botox, for example, and comes up with possibly undiagnosed apnea and it helps them? Yay.)
PS – are you on my mailing list? I’ve been chatting about fun things on it, MUCH more exciting than migraine talk, I swear.
Get a Free Short Story!
Subscribe to get a free copy of Socks for Alex, a Cypress Hollow Short Story, compatible with all devices!