Sleep Studies Suck

When I started this blog, I think the idea was just for me to start a new hobby: writing. I just felt like writing.  But, other than catharsis, I wasn’t really sure what the point of the writing would be.  I thought about what sorts of things I know a lot about or have a strong interest in, and I’m sort of all over the place, but I knew my blog was supposed to have some sort of cohesive theme. So, I picked a topic that dominates most of my life:

Morning Grouchiness.

Which is really All-Day Grouchiness, at least in intermittent episodes, but that doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it. So, A Morning Grouch was born – the expert in waking up feeling like shit every day. Being tired every day.  Being kinda grouchy because I’m feeling tired every day. Tired. Tired. Tired. Bitchy. Tired.  I’ve been feeling this way for about 20 years.

I wrote several posts about some of the issues, like my vivid dreams, my restless legs, and my paradoxical reaction to some sleep medications, but after I became pregnant with my first child the blog has largely veered from the original topic, and I’ve just written whatever comes to mind, without holding myself to expectations about the number of posts I publish, or the relevancy of topics I write about.  I refuse to allow this hobby of mine to become work.  I’m not tied to the blog in any way other than it just feels good to write sometimes, and to connect with some other people out there who get me.

But because of the blog, I’ve found myself exploring my sleep issues more and more and I have finally decided that it is not okay that I am feeling this way, and that I am going to do something about it.  After talking with my osteopath about some of my sleep issues he thought I was a for sure candidate for a sleep study. We both thought I probably had sleep apnea, to him my symptoms sounded like a no-brainer.

A lot of people have asked me what my symptoms are since they tell me they had no clue I had sleep issues (especially my grandma, who once she found out I went through a sleep study has been incessanty asking, “How have you been sleeping?” even though I’ve been sleeping the same way I have for the past two decades. Shitty, Grandma. Every night my sleep is shitty).

My sleep issue is such a big part of who I am, and it affects me significantly on a daily basis, yet I guess if you don’t talk about things enough, or in the right way, no one has a clue what’s going on inside of you.  I’m guessing they just thought I was a bitchy asshole for no reason.  But, see? I have a reason.  Maybe I’d be a nice person if I wasn’t so tired all of the time.

Here is a gist of my sleep crapola:

1.  I never wake up rested in the morning.  More often than not, I literally feel more tired in the morning than I did when I went to bed.

2.  I have crazy, vivid, indescribable dreams.  Every night. Every nap.  I dream before I’m asleep, and sometimes after I just wake up.  I’ve put a few of my most normal-sounding and describable ones here on the blog, but most are so bizarre that I can’t really explain them.  A lot of them are violent and a bit disturbing. The crazier and more vivid the dreams are, the more tired I am when I wake up.  I hate dreaming.

3.  I get super exhausted, almost every day.  Excessive daytime sleepiness. It’s a thing.  It sucks.  There are many times when it takes literally all my energy to keep my eyes open.  ALL OF IT.  No energy left to be very productive, no energy left to be nice.  I have to force myself to move, being idle and trying to stay awake is a horror.  I’m dizzy, I’m weak, I can’t focus. I have a horrible memory. Yea, I know. Everyone’s tired.

4.  I can fall asleep any time.  Any where.  I’m a huge fan of the power nap.  It’s not unusual for me to try to arrive a bit early to appoinments, so I can sleep for 10 minutes in the parking lot. I have never fallen asleep somewhere where I really knew it would be unacceptable, such as a work meeting.  Even though forcing myself to stay awake is often torturous, I can do it. But, given the opportunity, I can fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Falling asleep has never been my issue.

5.  I can not find a pattern, or a cause, related to my level of sleepiness and fatigue.  I’ve tried sleeping for different number of hours per night, I’ve tried no caffeine and even (gasp!) no alcohol.  I’ve tried diet changes and exercise and have seen zero differences (exception: running over 20 miles per week really helps with my restless legs. It also gives me a jolt of energy, perks me up and helps my mood).  Some nights I sleep through without waking up, sometimes I wake up every few hours and have significant insomnia .  Nothing. Matters.

6.  Once I had babies I realized it literally didn’t matter what time I get up, or how many times I get up in the middle of the night, or how long I’m awake – I’m always the same amount of tired. This was somewhat liberating, actually, since people often complain about how tired they are after having kids, but for me, it’s been almost exactly the same as it’s always been, except now I sometimes get up in the middle of the night to soothe a child, or to put away dishes, read, write a blog post, or work on my kid’s baby books.  I occasionally get up at 3.45am to go for a 4.00 jog, though even that seems crazy, even to me, when I do it, it works and I feel no difference to the rest of my day. Same amount of tired.

The biggest difference now that I have kids I feel like I should probably be a functional adult, where before I could sort of be a hot mess and it didn’t matter a whole lot.  It is very hard for me to sneak in my power naps when I’m at home and the days of being able to lounge all day louge binge-watching Netflix are soooo long gone.  If I really need a nap and I can’t get one I am RIDICULOUSLY tired and OUTRAGEOUSLY bitchy. One small thing can suddently set me off or can cause me to feel completely overwhelmed.  My husband knows this all too well.  This has been a large factor in prompting me to try to fix the problem.

My first sleep study was a typical polysomnograph.  They put me in a fake-ish looking hotel room where they spied on me with a camera all night long and were able to talk with me through a two-way speaker system. If I had to pee in the middle of the night all I had to do is say, “Jody, I have to pee” and Jody would come over straight away to unhook me so I could carry the cords with me to the (unvideotaped) potty.  They hooked me up to a million electrodes, including some on the chest and legs, and offered me the t.v. remote if you need to watch a bit before falling to sleep.

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See the little camera they spy on you from on the ceiling? (top left)

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Lovely picture. And bathroom with no camera (hopefully)

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The weirdest thing about THIS is that this the room you meet with the nurses in, even during just an office visit. Sleep study.

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Holy hell. Yes, this is what I looked like all hooked up, ready to go to sleep for the night. The wires are surprisingly light and not nearly as cumbersome as they look. The nose thingey measures air you exhale OUT.

After my sleep study, I felt like I slept like I normally did and was fully expecting a sleep apnea diagnosis within the next 7 to 10 business days. When I got a phone call at work telling me that I did not, in fact, have sleep apnea, I almost burst into tears. I might have frightened my coworker with my emotions.

My husband acted confused, “You’re upset because you don’t have sleep apnea?”

“Yes!”

Sleep apnea you can fix. Fairly easily, with a CPAP machine.  Now, I felt hopeless.

The tech who gave me the test results over the phone told me that the doctor would like to meet to discuss some of the other symptoms I had expressed in the sleep questionnaire. Things like the excessive daytime sleepiness and also one symptom I had no idea was at all a real thing, or that had anything to do with sleeping difficulties, until I checked “yes” to it on the questionnaire.

7. Cataplexy (maybe. Or not).  Which I now know means episodes of sudden, involuntary, muscle weakness, typically triggered by strong emotions. Cataplexy can vary greatly, from hardly perceptible facial drooping and shoulder sagging, to complete muscle paralysis and collapsing on the floor. I have no idea if my feelings are what cataplexy is, but based on the description on the questionnaire, I felt my symptoms fit. I even have a sound that I hear in my head when I feel whatever this feeling is.

I had often wondered if that feeling of muscles suddenly draining was normal, or if other people felt it, but figured it was just me being overly-emotional and dramatic and didn’t over analyze it. After I learned that this was a thing, it made me wish I had paid more attention to it before.

Based on these other symptoms, and a few irregularities he saw from the data from my first sleep test, he wanted me to do another type of sleep study – a daytime sleep test called a Multiple Latency Sleep Test (MLST).  This measures sleep latency (how quickly you fall asleep) during the day, and what stage of sleep your brain slips into.  It’s a pretty cut and dry measure for Narcolepsy – you should not be entering REM sleep during the day after you’ve had a full night’s rest (they have you do another nighttime sleep study the night before, to ensure any daytime sleepiness isn’t due to you being out drinking all night the evening before).

MLST day

MLST daytime study – no hoses up the nose, thank goodness.

sleep study 2

sleep study 3

So, I took four naps, every hour and a half after I woke up.  The first nap I was so anxiety ridden that I had a hard time falling asleep.  I was worried about not being able to and I wanted the test to accurately reflect my typical ability to fall asleep at the drop of a hat.  It took 11 minutes.  The next three naps I fell asleep in 5 minutes, 4 minutes and 3 1/2 minutes.  Pretty short sleep latency times.  While I dreamt during all 4 naps, I never fell into REM sleep, so the result =  no narcolepsy.

Fucking fuck.

I seriously sobbed.

My husband asked, in typical jack-asshole fashion, “wait, you wanted to have narcolepsy?”

I wanted a fucking answer.

So, I got some bullshit diagnosis (severe idiopathic hypersomnia!) that basically means I’m really, really, really, tired all the time but they don’t know why.  Ironically the med treatment they suggested is the same as what they suggest for narcolepsy.

So.  Looking to find other answers now.

Parenting: Reasons to Panic #2: The Sleeping Newborn

I have vivid memories of Mr. Grouch, in his college apartment, during muggy summer months.  I can picture him, stripped down to his whitie tighties, sprawled across his twin bed, with the oscillating fan one centimeter from his toes, the soggy air leaving him too lethargic to move. A sexy, sweaty, beast.  The two of us are different in so many ways but in this way we are oh so much the same.  Wait, not in the sweaty beast way.  Well, actually, yes, in the sweaty beast kind of way.  What I mean is, neither one of our bodies can adequately handle the oppressive heat of July, August, September.  Our air conditioning runs on high all summer long and we keep our home chilled enough to be able to walk around the house in jeans and hoodies.  We do not like to be sweaty beasts.

So, when Baby Grouch was born, in the fierceness that is August, as ridiculous as it seems, we felt the need to put a little heater in her bedroom.  You turn on the heater, and then set it to the appropriate temperature, which, in our case, was around 71 degrees, and it has it’s own internal thermostat.  At the time of this episode, Baby Grouch was a couple of months old and was sleeping 3-4 hours at a stretch.

The first night she slept for 6 hours, I woke up, in a panic.  I got that surge of adrenaline that I had become so accustomed to, every time she woke me with her squeaks and squawks, but this time it was because she was quiet.

IS SHE OKAY?

Shrouded with the fear of sudden infant death syndrome, I hurried to her room, and opened the door and a wave of heat hit me in the face.

Then the REAL panic started.

OMG OMG OMG IT’S TOO HOT OMG OMG OMG I COOKED MY BABY OMG OMG GREATER RISK FOR SIDS WHEN IT’S TOO HOT OMG OMG I COOKED MY BABY “HUN! GET UP! THE BABY’S TOO HOT. TOOO HOOOOTTT!”

I was screaming and yelling and flipped on all the lights; I opened the windows and took Baby Grouch from her crib and removed her from the sweltering room and laid her in the hallway all the while still yelling panicked nonsense at my husband.  I unswaddled her and took her teeny tiny body out of the sack.  My heart was pounding out of my ears.  Just because she feels warm right now, doesn’t mean she’s okay.

She opened her eyes.

OMG OMG OMG “SHE’S OKAY!  SHE’S OKAY!”  I’m still screaming. Out loud, not just in my head.

This all happened within a matter of seconds and Mr. Grouch wasn’t even out of bed yet.  Er…he may or may not have been laying in bed, watching me silently while giving me the, you’re-such-a-freaking-crazy-hormonal-wife-I-don’t-even-know-what-to-do-with-you-right-now look.  He said calmly, “I think you forgot to set the thermostat on the heater”.  Indeed, I did.  It was over 80 degrees in that bedroom (probably 20 degrees warmer than the rest of the house) and for weeks I was sick about it.

Looking back, I think about that college apartment in the summer and how we didn’t have central air.  I realize that many people, in summer months, allow their houses to reach heinously high temperatures (and some even enjoy it.  What??).  Some of them probably even have babies that sleep there with them, that are okay.

What panicky sleep stories do you have of your newborn?

Still Sleeping

An Un-Sexy Sleeper

In the 7th grade, I was skinny and slightly gangly.  I had large rimmed, tortoiseshell glasses, and shiny silver braces (always with gray rubber bands).  For some reason, I cut my hair cut to slightly above shoulder length, which was a poor choice, for me.  It curled under in an unattractive fashion.  My hairdo often involved putting half of my strands up into a ponytail at the crown of my head and then pushing the entire thing forward, creating an odd, offensive little bump of hair above my forehead.

Yep.

I hadn’t yet realized that waxing was so easy, so accessible…so important. Consequently, I had substantial, Groucho Marxish eyebrows. We’re talking thick, thick fuckers (or shall I say fuckER, since there was a bridge of hair above my nose, connecting the two furry beasts.  Look closely).

Image from www.happyplace.com

I was also quite mustached.  YIKES.  After having braces for a few months, my orthodontist gave me headgear.  It was an old school metal contraption in which long, curved metal pieces were pushed through tiny holes on the brackets attached to your teeth, and a cloth strap held the metal piece in place, as it pulled your upper jaw back, leaving your teeth achey in the morning.  Half of the time I would fall asleep with the headgear on, and then wake up in the middle of the night finding myself being stabbed in the neck by the metal pokey pieces; I would often rip out the headgear in my sleep.  Looking back, that seems rather dangerous.

Can you imagine those metal tines poking you in the neck? Ouchie. Image via Wikipedia

20 years later, I’m not too much less of a dork (I do, however, have a LOT less facial hair).  I’m starting to think I may be turning into an Un-Sexy Sleeper.  Much like in 7th grade, I am starting to accumulate horrible sleeping contraptions.

Un-Sexy Contraption # 1:  Bite Guard.  I clench my teeth, which likely accounts for the headaches I frequently wake up with.  As a result, sometimes I will wear a bite guard.  They really do help to lessen the headaches; I hate wearing them though, so avoid it unless absolutely necessary.  What tends to happen is my jaw will be normal/relaxed, and over the course of a few weeks it will tighten up a little bit every day, until it gets to the point where just touching the joint that connects my mandible to my skull results in excruciating pain.  (Today is one of those days, so I highly recommend that you don’t talk to me today.)  Then, I’ll wear the bite guard for a week or two, until it is relaxed again.  The cycle repeats.   Why not just wear it every night?  Issue #1 is that the thing is just effing annoying.  I try asking my husband a question and a series of mumbles comes out. I have to suck up the spit before pulling it out from my mouth, and then hold it in my hand while talking to him.   Not attractive.   Issue #2: is that when I sleep on my side, many of the bite guards tend to create a pool of saliva that builds up and then spills out of my mouth.  Wet.  Gross.  Issue #3 is that I eventually bite through the bite guard and have to buy a new one.  I haven’t gotten one from the actual dentist yet – maybe those would last longer.  Downside = they’re crazy expensive.

Un-Sexy Contraption # 2:  Wrist Guards. We moved into our house a little over a year ago.  The house had been a foreclosure, and the people who moved out left it completely begrimed.  The carpets were soiled.  There were tiny black handprints located 3 feet above the ground, around the perimeter of every room in the house.  There were pieces of cut up straws scattered around (I wonder why they lost the house…)  There were chocolate chips EVERYWHERE.  After the slobs family moved out, the house was vacant for over a year and a half, so a colony of spiders took over and created webs that had to be cut through with a machete every time you entered a room.  After buying the house, I scrubbed the walls for a week straight, until the rags no longer came away black.  We replaced all of the windows, the carpet, much of the plumbing, stripped off roomfuls of flowered wallpaper, removed mold, repaired holes in drywall, gutted and renovated bathrooms, and repainted every wall in the house.

Who the hell puts picket fence wallpaper in their kitchen?! Gah.

The prep for painting included sanding all of the trim.  I sanded trim for hours and hours.  And hours.  It killed me.

Sanding trim = worst job ever.

A result of this torturous act was that the muscles in my forearms turned into burning, feeble, mush.  Finally, I refused to sand anymore, since I was literally injuring myself.  (We ended up just painting over the unsanded trim and it turned out fine.  That really pissed me off.)  Ever since then, my forearms seem to become exhausted very easily.  Recently, it got to the point that they were constantly hurting, and I had trouble typing or doing anything that required repetitive motion.  I couldn’t even practice yoga as much as I wanted, and that totally freaked me out.  I NEED YOGA.  So I went to my OMM doctor and mentioned that I thought I might be getting carpal tunnel.  Dr. Golden (yes, that is his real name) asked me what my symptoms were and checked my arms out.  He said he didn’t think I had carpal tunnel, but he knew what the problem might be.  He thought that when I slept, I was keeping my wrists bent very tightly, so my palm was next to my forearm, and the strain on my tendons was causing the pain.  As soon as he said this I pictured myself settling in at night, (or when I woke up in the middle of the night), and I saw my wrists tucked tightly into my arms. Sometimes my wrist was tucked under my chin, sometimes under my shoulder.  But yes, I was definitely doing this.  I tried keeping my wrists straight, but found this to be incredibly difficult, so I started wearing wrist guards to bed.  I felt immediate relief when I woke up, and even got a satisfying pop when I cracked my carpals in the morning.

Un-Sexy Contraption (?) # 3:  Mismatched, Non-Pajama, Pajamas.  This week is Homecoming week – and thus, Spirit Week, at the high school I work at.  Each day students and staff can dress up in a ridiculous pointless enthusiastic way to show their school spirit. (I dress up solely so I can wear jeans and tennis shoes).  But, Tuesday of this week was Pajama Day.  I thought about dressing up, but…my pajamas?  To school?  No freaking way.  I wear scrubby blue sweatpants that have some mysterious stain on the right thigh (salsa? I do love my nachos…).  They are too big, so I have to cinch them really tightly around the waist.  If they come even a tad bit loose, they start to slide off and my bum crack may or may not emerge.  On the top I wear a mismatched t-shirt from 1999, or, on a good day, maybe a mismatched tank top.  Not school appropriate.  As I eyed the students and teachers in their pajama wear, I realized that maybe I should make at least a tiny bit of effort in terms of looking a little less like a schlump when I sleep.  I mean, I’m not striving to be a snoozing fashionista, but maybe I could…match.  Or, maybe I could wear pajamas that fit properly.  A new pair of pjs, combined with the occasional non-usage of Un-Sexy Contraptions 1 and 2, could go a long way in ensuring I don’t turn into the Un-Sexy Sleeper.  Even though my husband loves me as I am, he might appreciate this gesture.

We Wants It, We Needs It. Must Have The Precious.

I recently received a box from my cousin Maggie (aka my dealer).  I had been anticipating the arrival of this box, which contained My Precious, for many days, and every time she asked me, “Is it there yet?  It should be!”, I’d re-check the mailbox, then have to walk back to my house, in a depressed state, since it was never there.  Humph.  (That’s a lie, I NEVER check my mailbox.  Thankfully, my husband does.  However, did you picture me walking across the street, with slumped shoulders, so disheartened that I didn’t care if I got hit by a car?  Cuz that’s how I felt). The package took ages to reach me.

When I finally saw the box (on the kitchen counter, brought in by my husband), I felt the rush of serotonin, creating a chemical surge of happiness, while simultaneously imagining the sound of a trumpet (do do dah DOOO!), and envisioning an angel in front of me, the box cradled in her porcelain hands. Yes, I was that excited.

This picture illustrates how I felt, opening the package. Image via Pinterest.

I tore that sucker open and tossed the box in the trash.  I let Maggie know that I had finally received the package and she asked me how I liked the stickers.  Stickers??? Hm.  I didn’t notice any stickers?  She laughed, and said, “Atta girl.  You and I will be besties at The Betty“.  But she thought I was kidding.

Curious about what she meant by “the stickers”, I went to the trash and plucked out the discarded vesicle.  Sure enough, in my haste to get to the goods, I missed out on the embellishments decorating the package.  When we go to France, to restock, I”ll have to pick some of these up as well, they’re pretty cute.

Tunnel vision – didn’t even see the Eiffel Tower.

My Pretty, My Precious: An Update

Recently I posted about how I tested a sleeping pill, that my cousin Maggie sent to me as a gift, through the mail, in a beautiful fleur-de-lis envelope.  I was afraid to try the pills initially, since sometimes things that are supposed to make me sleep have the exact opposite effect.  But, after taking one, I found myself pleasantly surprised and perhaps even a bit hopeful about the effects of the drug, which I started calling, My Precious.

Maggie gave me all kinds of advice about what I should do prior to taking My Precious.  She expounded the fact that I should ingest no caffeine or wine that day, and I should sleep with earplugs and an eye mask.  I didn’t abide by all of those rules, I figured I’d just try taking the pills to see what effect they had, and then go from there if I felt they had potential.  No need to skip out on that glass of wine, if the pill wasn’t going to help anyway.  Baby steps.

Last night, I popped two of the little French pills down my gullet, around 10.30pm and shockingly, I didn’t wake up until the morning!  Not even once, just to pee.   I’ve been thinking about this for a good 15 minutes or so, and really can’t remember the last time this happened. So far, so good.  I still had some weird dreams, but they didn’t completely drain me of my energy.  Side effects included a bit of dry mouth, and also dry eyes.  In fact, I think part of my dream involved my eyes burning.  It is highly likely that I slept with my mouth gaping open and my eyes open wider than usual.  Perhaps the eye mask would be a good idea, after all.

Maggie has promised to send me more My Precious (I’m sure she is on her way to the post office right now.  Right, Maggie?!) and is generously sharing her supply with me.  Once “we” run out, we’ll have to take a trip to France, to restock.  I’ve never been to France, so I am hoping these work, not only so I can feel somewhat rested, but also so I have an excuse to travel.

I’m sure there is a drugstore, chock full of My Precious, near the Eiffel tower. Photo courtesy of eiffeltowerfacts.org

Nyquil is the Antichrist

All I want is a good night’s rest.  Really, it does wonders.  You wake up revitalized, you have more energy for the day, and a greater ability to throw on that positive attitude.  You’re nicer.  At least, that’s what I have heard.

I have only experienced this phenomenon on a few occasions, typically one or two times per year.  It’s like I am an entirely different person on those days.   I stare at everyone I encounter that day, willing them to telepathically intercept and answer the burning question running through my head, “Do YOU feel like this today?  Do you ALWAYS feel like this?”   I really can’t imagine.  It is similar to the feeling I had the first day I got glasses.  First of all, I remember coming home after I failed the eye test at school in 3rd grade.  I was livid.  The ladies who ran the tests had no empathy.  They didn’t tell me it was okay, or warn me as we went along that I was getting answers wrong.  They just circled “failed” on a little slip of paper and handed it to me.  Gasp.  What?  I failed the eye test?  What the hell?  Those people didn’t even have any business testing my eyes!   But, those bitches were right.  A few months later when my frames came in, I slid them on and looked around.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  There were individual leaves on the trees (I couldn’t stop looking at trees, for weeks).  Light posts and headlights just look like…lights.  There were no gigantic starbursts extending feet from the illumination.   I was astonished.  I remember thinking, “People actually see like this?”  I experience that same overwhelming feeling of amazement when I arise rested.

I have yet to figure out what it is that results in the rare, unimaginably blissful, slumber.  Is it a particular exercise I did?  Or a particular food that I ate?  Or one I didn’t eat?  Was it great sex?  Or a stretch of celibacy?  Was it the glass of wine I had?  Or the two glasses?  Well, no, two glasses has been tested pretty rigorously, that’s certainly not the magic key.  (Dirty Secret:  I do keep testing it though.  For the sake of science.  Larger n = more accurate data).  Any-hoo, I have yet to find a pattern.

Nyquil is a favorite sleep aid of many.  Even my husband, who doesn’t like to take two naproxen after breaking his nose (he’s done this four times) or pulling a muscle at soccer (he does this weekly), feels that Nyquil is worth taking, if he isn’t feeling well and needs some good rest.

So far, I have found no other nighttime horror to be worse than Nyquil.  Not even the itchy twitchies of restless legs.  When I first ingest the abominable, green liquid, I feel like my normal self.  The terror begins about ½ hour after I fall asleep.  Here’s how it goes:

PING!  Eyes wide open.  Heart racing.  I feel … energetic.  Like I could clean my entire house.  Except, I am simultaneously exhausted.  Like I could collapse if I tried to get up.  I feel slightly dizzy.  I fall back asleep for 20 minutes.  PING!  Eyeballs back open.  Now I feel like parts of my body are awake.  Electrical impulses are traveling throughout my body, but they aren’t very coordinated.  It’s like the impulses that are supposed to fire together, are firing at different times.  Time passes, and somehow, I become both more awake and more exhausted at the same time.   The clock ticks…ticks…ticks…ticks…and I attempt to sleep.  I keep moving around the bed until my head is where my feet go and my feet are under my pillow.  I then roll back around.  My sheets get pulled out and are wrapped around my leg.  I get up, thinking that will help.  But, unlike with restless legs, it doesn’t help.  (And, it annoys my cat, who is trying to cuddle at my feet.  I know I have disappointed him, by moving, and that makes me cry.  Exhaustion makes me emotionally fragile)  I hardly have the energy to stand, but I am way too wired to sleep.  I go to the bathroom.  I look in the mirror.  A phantom stares back at me.  I yell out loud, “UGGHHHHHHH”.  My voice sounds muffled, unusual.  My head is cloudy, my ears are stuffed with cotton.  I lay back down and twist and turn and moan.  Finally, I fall asleep.  Ten minutes later my alarm clock goes off.  My eyes do NOT go “PING”, instead it is more of a “CREEEEAK”, like a very old, heavy door being forced open.  I cry again.  I continue to walk zombie-like throughout the day.   I cannot think or contribute to anything productive.  I am incredibly groggy.  I am NOT NICE.  The bags under my eyes are so large, they would not be able to be checked, if I were to fly Northwest.  It’s ugly.

The first few times this happened, I chalked it up to me just having a particularly bad night.  I thought maybe I was stressed, or ate Mexican food (a gluttonous consumption of nachos?) at too late an hour.  However, after this continued I finally researched the side effects of Nyquil.  Apparently I am not alone, and about 5% of us lucky ones have a paradoxical reaction to medications like this.  Basically, the medications have the opposite effect that they should.  Awesome.  Needless to say, I now steer clear of this medication at all costs.  If I were condemned to hell, I think I would be either be driving, while lost, .in a rainstorm, or be forced to take Nyquil before bed every night.  After the Nyquil catastrophes, I’m pretty leery of trying the other sleep aids out there.

Sleeping On Your Deathbed or Yes, Those Are My Great-Grandfather’s Teeth In A Jar, On My Shelf

Recently my happy-go-lucky, remarkably polite, phenomenal great-grandfather, Ed, passed away.  (How it came to be that someone my age still has (had) a great-grandfather is a story for another day.)  As usually happens, this resulted in a family reunion, of sorts, and a lot of quality time spent with aunts, uncles and cousins we don’t generally get to see much of.  While at my grandmother’s house, a few days before Ed died, we were talking about our individual visits and how Ed looked when we went to see him at the nursing home.  My Aunt Gia said something along the lines of, “What struck me most was how his mouth was gaping open“.  My uncle made a “Hm” noise that seemed to indicate he had no clue what she was talking about.  I didn’t say anything at the time, but I knew immediately what she meant.  I had visited Ed the day before, and when I walked in, I saw him sleeping with his mouth open.  But it was more than that.  His mouth was wide open.  Really wide.  And his jaw was slightly crooked.  His skin clung to his jaw and his lips were invisible.  I actually thought he might have passed away, and no one had yet noticed.  I moved closer, put my hand on his chest – and his chest raised.  We both exhaled.  There was something about that mandible posture that just looked…..deathly.  As his end neared, and his dentures were removed, this just became more pronounced.  His lips were now completely gone, sucked into the chasmal opening of his mouth, his face more skeletal, and the gape even wider.  Still about the same amount of crooked.  It made me wonder, “Is this what my mouth will look like when I am on my deathbed?  Is this just what happens?  Or, did he always sleep like that?”

A few days passed by and then lovely Ed was gone.  But, our brief family reunion continued.  My uncle from California had just knocked out his front teeth (no fun story there, he has had a bridge since childhood, and it broke when he was eating cereal, of all things.  How boring).  As a joke, my dad thought it would be funny to bring him Ed’s dentures. Get it?  He needed teeth? (Sidebar:  There are two types of people.  People who find this type of joke hilarious and people who find this sort of thing repulsive.  If you are the type who finds this repulsive, I probably don’t like you very much.)  Since everyone in my family has a demented good sense of humor, we all got a good chuckle out of this.

But, then I asked, “What will become of the dentures?”  I mean, I’m not a sentimental collector like my grandmother (who would save an empty tissue box for 25 years if someone she loved told her they liked it), but I mean…  these are his teeth.  You can’t throw them away.  He just had them in a couple of days ago.  They were basically a part of him.   These are what could be used by the police to identify Ed, as Ed (I think, although this made me question, could you identify a body from dentures?  Are they as unique as real teeth?  I really don’t know!)  So, the question was asked, “Do you want them?”  I looked around.  Was anyone else looking like THEY wanted them?  I wouldn’t want to take them from someone who maybe was closer to Ed than I was.  Shockingly, no one jumped to claim them.  I scooped them up and put them in my purse.

Incidentally, this all happened right before I was on my way to my cousin’s fancy schmancy wedding shower.  I so respect my cousin, that I followed all of the fancy rules of etiquette and I didn’t even take them out.  Not even once, just to take a peek.  Once I got home, I went into my craft room.  I have about 30 Ball jars on shelves, used as decoration and as beautiful storage vesicles.  I gently placed the teeth in one of the empty jars, as a memory of Ed, and a reminder that even during sad times, it is okay to enjoy one another and to even make a joke.

Do you see them?

Zoom in.

Hello there, Ed!