waking up.

I’m coming out of a long stretch (six years) of sickness and general not-rightness that involved, among other things, an irregular heartbeat and a sleep disorder. Except for the sleep issue, the chaos was caused by a massive thyroid imbalance. It was significant enough on its own, but I let it get worse by ignoring some symptoms for a stretch before going to a doctor. I say going to a doctor, but what really happened was that I couldn’t breathe and went to the emergency room and ended up being admitted to the hospital for 8 days with my lungs full of fluid. I was stupid, and let fear put me in a much worse position than I would have been in if I’d taken better care of myself. 

I’m lucky, and everything that went wrong with me is treatable; in some ways, this far out from the original event, it feels like not a really big deal. There are much worse and more damaging things that happen to people. But it skewed me off-track in some really subtle, really profound ways that I didn’t really begin to understand until recently. Considering how simple it was to treat the underlying cause, it’s taken a very long time to return to normal. My body changed (even the way my face looked, which led to some feelings of identity crisis while it lasted), my energy was low, my memory was poor, my mental flexibility was bad – all of which I got used to and had sort of fallen into accepting. It sounds like depression, but it didn’t come with other symptoms of depression. It’s just…damage is really the best word I can think of. 

Last summer I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, which was causing me to wake up partially several times an hour, and never really get deep sleep. I felt like I was sleeping fine, but I wasn’t actually getting any rest. I started the treatment for that at the end of the summer. It’s basically a machine with a mask that forces air into my nasal passages and keeps my breathing deep and regular. So, a mask with a hose that I have to wear while I’m sleeping. It’s pretty much the least sexy thing imaginable, and I don’t care. I have some hope that as I get better and stronger, I may be able to use something less dramatic, but even if that never happens I’m ok with it. Because you know what’s sexy? Sleeping. Reading something and remembering it six months later. Mastering increasingly difficult levels of sudoku (or Angry Birds. What.). I need a lot less sleep now that the sleep I get is actually effective; I’m adjusting to suddenly being a morning person and occasional insomniac. 

Better sleep has also started to reverse the damage from the thyroid episode in a truly incredible way. This past winter, something somewhere turned a corner and everything seems to be firing on a level I haven’t hit in years. When I first started to experience this sense of rightness and alertness, I thought of it as waking up. Several months later, waking up still seems the best way to describe it. It’s amazing and complicated and it comes with some conflicting feelings. Sometimes I feel doubt that it will last, and that makes me feel almost panicky. It’s not that I’ve been unhappy during the past several years, or that they’ve been insignificant, because they haven’t. I started my business, I met wonderful people who have changed my life, and I’ve learned so much about who I am and what I can do. But I suddenly find myself thirty-eight years old with a mind and sense of self that I last remember seeing when I was twenty-nine. I feel connected and alive in a way that’s eluded me for a long time. So I’ve spent a lot of time this spring accepting that things are different and that it’s very good that they’re different, and that I’m someone both familiar and new to myself.

This feels like an abrupt place to end this post, but I think that’s all I have for this one. Part of what I’m practicing with this blog project is learning to worry less about making it perfect, so I’m going to stop here. Maybe there will be more to this later.

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