Saturday, October 30, 2010

Beginning a Life's Change

If you were to check back to my post on 6 October 2010, you'd read about my sleep apnea diagnosis. Well, earlier this week I received a CPAP machine -- and the beginning of my life's change.

It takes some getting used to. The mask I wear looks like the ones fighter pilots wear. The sensation of having air blown into me is ... different: I can't exactly describe it. If I open my mouth when the mask and machine are on, my cheeks actually inflate and puff out like a balloon! The worst part, other than the discomfort of the mask itself (which I've heard I'll get used to), is when the seal isn't fitting tightly against my face. Then air leaks through the tiny gap and makes a sound that's similar to ... um ... "cutting the cheese." It's funny in a way, but it also wakes me up -- and keeps me awake until I mess with the thing until the sound stops.

I haven't had a full eight hours of sleep a night this week, but I've noticed I already have more energy, even if I'm a little sleepy. I'm been doing things again, including working on a painting after a significant break. (I hope to finish it tomorrow). And I have more in mind that I want to do.

The change has begun. For a long time, I thought I was too burned out to make art anymore. Turns out I'm not that burned out after all -- just sleep deprived. The machine is helping even though I'm still adjusting to using it.

What a difference.

I just may survive yet!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sleep and Nature at Its Best

Ah...some good news since my last post: apparently I'll be getting a CPAP machine (100% covered by insurance) to treat my sleep apnea problem. HURRAY!!! I know it'll be an adjustment at first, getting used to having a mask on my face. But I've heard from other artists I know that once the patient gets used to it, they won't go back to sleeping without it. It'll be interesting.

Meanwhile, The Wiffee and I took a trip around SoCal this week, although it rained a good part of the week. It figures. But at least I was able to take a few worthwhile pictures to use in painting some artwork. Some of these were plants like tree ferns and cycads, which will appear in any additional dinosaur paintings that I make. And then there are views like this desert mountain west of Palm Springs, CA. No comments needed:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Asleep at the Easel - Literally

Ya know -- it's been a busy and tough year. January through May I was working hard trying to stay ahead of my students to teach microbiology at the local community college. After the semester ended, I felt wiped out. All I really wanted to do was rest -- and definitely not paint. I'd sit in front of a new canvas or panel, or in front of a piece I had already started, and mostly just -- sit. Painting had become an unbelievably difficult activity, and I assumed it was from working so hard at art over the years and from feeling a tad discouraged about the slow sales. Those still could be factors, but another factor came into play:

I was diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Apnea is a condition (if you don't already know) in which parts of the throat and roof of the mouth collapse during sleep, partially or completely blocking the air passage. This results in a slight arousal with each blocking episode, and apnea patients don't get the really deep sleep we need to function.

I always suspected I had this condition but never knew for sure. But so much makes sense now -- the lack of energy and motivation, the sleepy feeling I have all day (no matter how many hours I slept the night before), and falling asleep in front of the computer and even finding myself asleep at the easel when I do paint!

I'll be meeting with my doctor tomorrow to find out what's next (and, on another note, to find out why my sinusitis issues have become so painfully headachey this week). Unfortuantely, I had trouble sleeping at the sleep center (kind of ironic, huh?) -- the idea was to sleep for three hours -- the time it takes to get measurements -- and another three hours of sleeping while being hooked up to a CPAP (let's see -- that's Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine, which inflates the throat area and keeps it open. Unfortunately, I only slept for three hours that night. The tech got the readings (and told me it looks like apnea), but we weren't able to do the CPAP machine during which the tech would have determined the optimal settings for the gizmo and increase the likihood that my insurance would pay for the danged thing.

I know apnea patients who swear starting on a CPAP machine was a life-changing experience: more energy, better sleep at night, and less at risk for health problems caused by longterm sleep deprivation. The idea of having a mask strapped on my head seems like something that would keep me awake -- but I've heard sleep comes more easily, and it's better sleep.

I should get some guidance tomorrow. Wish me luck. And more energy to paint again.