Busy Day Today


Thursdays are my busy days. In addition to being a shower and shave day, an activity that’s taking up more spoons than usual because of my knee, which is still kind of touchy for long periods of time, it’s CPAP deep cleaning day and radio show day, which means that all the things that I normally do with my day get pushed around to make time for the extra activities.

Showers take a little longer than usual because I shave my head and part of my face in the shower. It uses more water than shaving at the sink, but cleanup is considerably easier and the convenience is worth it. It doesn’t take me a long time to shave, maybe five minutes to make sure it’s perfectly smooth with no extraneous stubble, but certain parts of my head are trickier than others. The hair on the back of my neck grows in some weird configuration and I have never been able to find just one direction to shave to get it smooth. The back of my neck will usually have the lightest bit of stubble on it just because I can’t find all the grains I’m working against. Moving out of the shower and to the sink to shave the lower part of my face and the front of my neck also takes a while, since once again there’s no rhyme or reason to the grain of my hair on my neck. I have a system to get it mostly done, but it’s time consuming.

It should be noted that I don’t shower and shave every day. Even at my peak functionality, I’d never shave every day; my skin is sensitive and shaving every day does damage to my skin. But while I’ve been in a period of extremely low functionality, I got out of the habit of showering every day, something that just doesn’t feel important when you don’t care about yourself and you never leave the house anyway. I’m in the process of re-establishing that habit, so I have alarms set throughout the week to remind me that it’s time to hop in the shower, wash down, and take the stubble off. They’re working, although recent travels have tossed a bit of a monkey wrench in the establishment of the habit and so I’m basically starting over.

The CPAP deep clean isn’t that much different from a regular clean, which I do on Mondays. (I’d do it more often, but the Velcro on my head strap gives out sooner than my insurance allows me to replace it with a daily removal, so I’ve learned to space cleanings out across the week instead of doing them every single day.) The only difference is that instead of soaking my water reservoir in warm soapy water, I let a 1:2 white vinegar/water solution soak in it to descale the inside, then rinse in the soapy water to get the vinegar smell out. I also soak my head strap to remove oils from the neoprene, plus remove the hose nozzle and silicon seal from the machine itself to soak it. But it still takes a little time to do, and it has to be done earlier in the day than later, since everything needs to be dry before being reassembled for use that evening.

The radio prep is a topic I’ve gone into before in my blog, and while it’s not as time-consuming as it would be were I manually programming the show, it still takes a bit of time getting all the segments for the show laid out and ready for air time.

In the broad scheme of things, this doesn’t really add that much to my day, maybe an hour and a half total. But that’s on top of the other things that I have in my checklist to do for the day, and those things can run long on occasion. So Thursdays are a little hectic.

Three weeks from today will be especially hectic. On top of everything else I have to do that day, I’ve got an intake appointment with my new psych med manager, and that has the potential of eating two hours out of my schedule, depending on traffic and length of intake. Still looking forward to it, but that Thursday is going to be a logistical challenge.

That’s enough rambling about how busy I am today. Time to go get some of it done.

Another Sleepless Night


I went to bed around midnight, read until about 1 am, then tossed and turned until about 3. I got up and opened the computer for a few minutes, not really doing much of anything, until I got sleepy around 4 and went to lie back down. I finally drifted off about 4:30 or so. I woke up around 10:30 or so to get on the heating pad, and dozed back off for another couple hours, finally waking up for good around 12:30.

I don’t think that it was the new mask that was doing this to me – it felt more natural than the old mask did and it was much quieter than it was in the fitting. Maybe I was just excited to have the thing, I don’t know. All I know is that I just could not shut my brain down.

I hate nights like that. They throw me off for the whole of the next day, and I can’t really afford to be thrown off that much today, since it’s a show day and I have a deadline to be on the air with a programmed show. Fortunately, I’m somewhat ahead of schedule with my daily checklist, so there’s that. There’s just not going to be that much time that I can devote to leisure and socializing outside of my interactions with my audience during the show. My wife and I are up at 6:30 am tomorrow morning to get the cat to the vet. She’s got a problem with discharge coming from her eyes, plus she’s way overdue for her annual checkup. It’s going to be an early night tonight.

Strangely enough, I feel fairly confident that I can handle the changes in the schedule (my wife’s work schedule is changing for the day to accommodate the vet visit) – that is, assuming there’s coffee in the morning. Not sure I would have been able to handle the change this easily even three months ago. So … progress?

Here’s hoping the rest of the day goes smoothly.

Well, That Was Quick


I wrote three days ago about the battery giving out in the car and then two days ago about my CPAP mask starting to give up the ghost. Today I went to my medical equipment supplier to get fitted for the new mask, and walked out with it. I can’t use it tonight, since there’s a hose that connects the CPAP machine hose to the mask that they neglected to give me today. (I can’t connect them directly as the width of the main hose is a little too wide for the connection on the mask.) So tomorrow I’ll be going by their office to pick up the new hose and tomorrow night I’ll be using the new mask. It’s somewhat louder on the exhale than my current mask, but my wife says that won’t be problematic for her. I hope she’s right.

Later this afternoon I went to get the new battery installed in the car. Short, sweet, to the point service visit. So now both of the things that I was writing about previously are (almost) completely fixed.

Today’s going to be a short post as we’re going out for a coffee date this evening. I’ll write something of more substance tomorrow. It’ll be after therapy, so I’ll have something to write about, most likely. If not, I can always pull up a blogging prompt and wing it. Tune in tomorrow to see what our hero does!

A Medical Equipment Upgrade


As many longtime readers of this blog will already know, I use a CPAP machine when I sleep. It’s a very nice, quiet machine that we can’t even hear over the fan that we have blowing in the bedroom at night. The mask is a version called a nasal pillow mask. The plastic and silicone part of the mask goes under my nose to create a seal against my nostrils, the hose comes out from the center of the mask, and the wings stretch up along my cheekbones to connect with a foam-back fabric and neoprene series of straps, one going across the top of my head, and one – the neoprene part – going across the lower back of my head, just above my neck. This piece of headgear is attached to the wings of the mask using something of a hook-and-loop attachment, like Velcro, only there’s not much of a loop system there. The hooks simply connect to the fabric and stay there. Unfortunately, this means that over time the fabric deteriorates to the point that the hooks don’t want to stay fastened to the fabric without some considerable effort to secure the connection between the two.

Insurance will cover a new headgear every six months, but it seems that the fabric is going to be lucky to make it that far. Last night, at some point in the evening, one of the connections came loose, which in turn broke the seal of the mask against my nostrils, resulting in the CPAP machine blowing air useless across my nose and face. I don’t know how long it was like that, but I’m gathering that it was a fairly long time. I slept off and on – mostly on – until nearly 2 pm today. That tells me that I didn’t sleep well last night and that the mask was off for the majority of the time that I was sleeping.

There’s a new mask called the Dreamwear (pictured above) that’s now available where the wings of the mask themselves act as part of the hose system, which feeds down from the hose attachment at the top of the head into soft silicone chambers that feed the nasal pillows. There’s a minimal strap holding the contraption in place and it looks to be a significant improvement over the mask I currently use.

Fortunately, I can switch masks later this month, I believe, and I’m looking forward to using the new mask, especially since it appears that failures of the headgear won’t be as likely with this mask.

I’m always nervous using a new mask that I’ve never tried before, but I hope that my experience with this new mask will be beneficial. It’ll take some getting used to having the hose at the top of my head instead of on my face, but I’m sure that won’t take long to adjust to.

My biggest worry is that I’m remembering my timeline correctly. I’m not sure now much longer my current headgear is going to hold up, and I really need my CPAP machine to sleep well. If I’m right, it won’t be many more days before I can order the new mask, and I can put this problem – excuse the pun – to bed.

A Concerning Development


I have a recurrence of an old problem, and I’m not sure what to do about it.

Before last August, I would regularly wake up at around my regular time, do my vitals, take my meds, maybe have a coffee and breakfast, and then head back to sleep for the rest of the morning, finally rolling out of bed around noon or 1 pm. Then I got a CPAP machine, and I was keeping VERY regular sleeping hours. I felt I was getting plenty of rest, I would only occasionally nap for perhaps a half hour in the afternoons, I was doing well.

But recently I’ve gotten back into the habit of waking up, doing my vitals, taking my meds, maybe having a coffee and breakfast, and then going back to sleep for a while. This morning I managed to get as far as breakfast and about a third of my coffee plus my reading and part of my learning before the phone rang. It was my mother, who was rambling from topic to topic so quickly I couldn’t really follow her and could only occasionally get an “uh-huh” in between topics. This wore me out emotionally, so when the phone call ended I laid my head back on the pillow at the top of the couch and … the next thing I know it was just before noon.

Yesterday I finally got out of bed for good around 1 pm. The day before it was close to noon.

It looks like I’m back in the habit of sleeping far longer than is really necessary, and it’s affecting my productivity greatly.

I wish I knew what was causing this. I admit, I’m regularly staying up until 1:30 or 2 am reading things on my phone before putting on my mask and turning out the lights, but that still doesn’t explain why I need to sleep for nearly 11 hours a day these days.

Maybe I should call the folks at the sleep center to bump up my appointment from April.

Streaks II:The Streakening


So, back on August 22 I wrote this post about my learning streak coming to an end after 119 days, and how devastated I was that I had let it lapse.

To fill you in, what I consider my learning is a daily round of exercises in Elevate, which is a brain-training app, and at least two exercises in Duolingo, which teaches foreign languages – Spanish in my case. I got a lot of support from my friends who reminded me that it just means that I get to start a new, longer streak.

This morning the streak that I started on August 22 reached 120 days. It is now that longer streak that you all said I could do.

I want to thank everyone who supported me through a brief, but rough time where I was kicking myself for making the mistake of missing a day. That one day is now the only day that I haven’t done my learning exercises in eight months.

But I have some other streaks that are going on, and I thought I’d tell you about them.

Recently I made the decision to go back to school for my associate’s degree, and in preparation for registration, I’ve been brushing up on my math on Khan Academy. I’ve been doing that since the first of the month, so that streak is 19 days long.

I started using my CPAP machine on August 17th, and except for a single night that I was camping in October, I’ve been completely compliant with it .So that’s a streak of 65 days, followed by a current 58-day streak.

I track my mood on an app called Daylio. It helps me track my activities throughout the day as well as my overall mood for the day, and gives me the ability to write notes so I can relay the rough spots to my therapist when the need arises. That particular streak is now 200 days long.

I also use another app called MyFitnessPal to help me track my caloric intake. My streak of using that app is 240 days long, which matches my two long streaks on Elevate and Duolingo plus the skipped day.

And finally, the last day I missed writing down at least my morning vitals was September 20, 2015, which makes that streak my longest at 456 days.

These streaks are simple things in the broad scheme of things. One day I’m going to break all of them and start on a new one. But together they help to provide some structure to my otherwise unstructured day, and I’m thankful for each and every streak that I have.

A Generic, All-Purpose Post


I haven’t written in over two weeks, partially because I haven’t had much to say most of that time, but I’ve also been both distracted and lazy. I’ve been meaning to write since the 2nd, because that day was astoundingly great, way more so than the usual day in my life, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. So let me start there.

On the 2nd, my wife and I went to San Antonio for three reasons. The primary reason for the trip was to see the LEGO Americana roadshow. It’s a collection of ten American landmarks – the U.S. Capitol Building (pictured above), the White House, the U.S. Supreme Court Building, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument in Washington, DC; the Statue of Liberty in New York City; the Liberty Bell (built life-size) and Independence Hall in Philadelphia; and the Old North Church in Boston – plus several smaller free-build dioramas that highlighted a lot of LEGO’s creativity and product lines. The second reason was to visit the newly opened ThinkGeek store, conveniently in the same mall that exhibited the Roadshow. The third was to visit one of our best friends and have dinner with him.

The roadshow was amazing. As you can tell from the photo above, the models were intricately detailed and massive – see the heads of the people behind the model for comparison. The Capitol Building took up most of the space in front of Dillard’s, and if you know anything about the size of the entrance of anchor department stores in malls, you know just how big these models could get. I had a blast and took a ton of photos, and even created an Instagram account to display them all. (There’s a contest that’s going on for folks using the #LEGOAmericana hashtag on Instagram to win a LEGO gift card, and I wanted to participate in that contest.) As a fan of the LEGO Architecture line, I was very happy to see the work that went into these models.

ThinkGeek was everything we could have hoped for. There was an entire wall of Funko Pop! vinyl collectibles, more than I’ve ever seen in one place before. There were myriad fandoms represented – Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, Marvel Cinematic Universe, several video games, and many other collectibles representing so many different movies, games, and genres. We knew our budget wouldn’t allow us to take anything home, but we did compromise and purchase a small stuffed monkey named Timmy,  who is ThinkGeek’s mascot. (It’s become a thing for people to dress their Timmys up in all sorts of clothing and to send pictures to ThinkGeek of Timmy’s “adventures.”) We mentioned how cool we thought the store was and we were invited to pick up and play with the high-end lightsabers that actually light up and make appropriate lightsaber noises. After a couple minutes of doing that, we explained that we were in from out of town, partially to visit their store, and they gave us a pin commemorating the grand opening that was the previous week – it was the last pin in the store.

And dinner with our friend was delightful, as is any bit of time we get to spend with him, which isn’t as much as we’d like.

I feel like I should also give a progress report on my CPAP usage. I’m still meticulously caring for it, and using it every night, and there’s a notable difference in my level of energy. I’m not napping anywhere near as often as I was, and I’m not especially fatigued throughout the day, either. The machine is doing precisely what it’s supposed to be doing, which is helping me get better quality sleep.

And finally, therapy was today. It was a good session, with a revelation that’s going to get its own post in the coming days, once I’ve had time to process it fully.

All in all, things are going well here, which is a very good thing.

The Effects of CPAP Machine Usage on Middle-Aged Males Suffering From Sleep Apnea: A Brief Analysis and an Overly Long Title


So, I’ve had the CPAP machine for nearly two weeks now, and there are some trends beginning to emerge.

In the beginning, there were instances of both waking late and taking naps, but from the first night my body’s overwhelming, undeniable, irresistible urge to lie back down wasn’t there. I attributed the naps to being bored rather than notably tired.

The second night of using the machine was a difficult one, as my body registered the addition of air pressure into my nostrils as me choking, and it took forever for that sensation to calm down to the point that I could drift off to sleep. This sensation was greatly diminished on the third night and has since completely faded away. It now feels a little weird when the air begins to gently blow, but it’s a feeling I’ve become accustomed to, and I no longer feel anything resembling a choking sensation when I use the mask.

As my usage has progresses, I have noticed that I need less and less sleep during the day. Sunday I woke at shortly after 7:00 am and stayed awake the entire day, not sleeping once. Yesterday I awake at around 7:30 am and did not go lie down for a nap all day, although I did take a short, 15 minute long catnap sitting on the couch. Today I slept in, awaking at 9:30 am, and have not returned to bed since, and as of this writing have no urge whatsoever to do so.

The most apparent benefit is an increase in energy. I seem to be more alert during the day, though I’m still waking up very groggy for a time, and I also seem to be accomplishing more with my day more efficiently.

I’ve been keeping a close eye on my blood pressure and haven’t noticed that there’s been much of a change there, although it seems more often that my blood pressure is slightly below 120/80. Blood pressure fluctuates wildly throughout the day, however, and it’s difficult to see any sort of definite trend. I’m going to continue to keep a closer eye on that to see if a notable change develops in the weeks and months that I continue to use my machine.

My compliance has been near perfect. I’m sleeping with the mask on every night, and have only had a few examples of napping without the mask, though that was largely situational, as I had already broken down the machine for its daily cleaning and its parts were drying at the time. I’ve been perfect with my cleaning regimen with the single exception of failing to wash the headgear during the one weekly cleaning that I’ve done (that will resolve itself in a couple of days, however, on the next weekly cleaning cycle).

The only downside that I’ve noticed is that for a while after I remove the mask in the morning, my nostrils are dry and sore. After an application of saline nasal spray, that fades fairly quickly, so it’s not much of a downside.

Overall, I’m already starting to see some improvements in my life thanks to the CPAP machine, and I’m hoping for in the not-too-distant future.


Streaks Both Long and Short


I have two learning apps on my phone. One, called Elevate, provides brain games that help expand vocabulary and quicken mental mathematics skills. The other, called Duolingo, uses a method similar to Rosetta Stone to teach foreign languages – in my case, Spanish. Both apps provide daily exercises and usually only take just a few minutes a day to complete. Both apps also track streaks of consecutive days used. Heading into yesterday, I had a streak of 119 days – nearly four months – of consecutive days used.

And then yesterday, on what would have been day 120, I forgot to do my learning.

When I looked at the clock a few hours ago (I’m up late – early? – nursing a sore back and a glass of water) and saw that it was past midnight and realized that I’d put my learning off long enough to break the streaks, I was furious with myself. Logically, I knew that this was no big deal in the scheme of things, that the 119 day streak started on day one and that today I could start a new, even longer streak. I was exceedingly proud that I had clocked 119 days straight. I was beyond embarrassed that I missed day 120.

My wife tried to remind me that it was no big deal, but the more she kept trying to convince me of that, the bigger of a deal it became, until the streak had been built up in my mind as the most important aspect of the exercise, rather than the incredible body of learning that I had strung together and had only taken one day off of in four months’ time.

I went to bed angry. I hate going to bed angry. In the bedroom there was an exchange of increasingly heated words as she became more frustrated at me for not listening to her and I became more stubborn about how this was a life-altering, unforgivable error that I had committed against the universe. Finally I got tired of trying to make my point and tired of not seeing hers and I strapped on my CPAP mask and laid there, fuming into the night. The longer I stared at the wall in silence, the cooler my temper became, and eventually I grabbed my phone to start a text conversation with my wife laying mere inches away. I apologized for my behavior, I apologized for not seeing things her way, and I apologized for sending her this apology via text and not vocally. (I can say short sentences with the CPAP mask on, but the longer I talk, the more choked I get trying to vocalize while air is being gently forced into my nostrils, and I had a lot of apologizing to do.)

I used the Nook app on my phone to read for a short while, continuing to cool off, and eventually we rolled into position and I spooned her, and that’s how we fell asleep.

Speaking of the CPAP mask, I haven’t reported on how things are going since picking up the machine on Wednesday. I’ve slept every night since with the mask on, throughout the night, and have been waking up with progressively better rest. Thursday I took two short naps after waking up around 9:30. Friday I took an hour long nap after waking at 7:00 am with my alarm. Yesterday I woke at 10:00, but didn’t nap at all throughout the day. We’ll see what happens after I go back to bed, now that the pain in my back has eased off and my glass of water is gone. It’s a streak of three days so far, but it’ll be 119 days on its own before I know it, and who knows what changes will have happened because of the improved sleep?

Tonight’s the Night

I’ve picked up the new CPAP machine and mask. All the parts of the machine and mask that require daily cleaning have been cleaned and are drying at this time. The machine itself has been programmed and is set up, awaiting use tonight. The tracking software that automatically tracks my compliance (which is a bigger deal than it would normally be because of Medicare regulations) has been installed on my laptop and is ready to start accumulating data. I have alarms set on my phone to remind me to do both daily and weekly cleaning cycles. I couldn’t be more ready – or excited – if I tried.
If things go as expected, I will be sleeping very well this evening and will likely notice an immediate difference tomorrow in the lack of need to nap during the day. More long-term benefits will hopefully follow over time, like lower blood pressure, for instance.
I’m really excited about tonight and I can’t wait to see how things go.