GASPS(!) of Reckoning and Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!
I’m taking a moment to pause and reflect on the week so far. I’ve been “off” all week, and that’s figuratively true–I haven’t been at work since school’s closed, and literally true, too: from 9:30 Monday morning, I’ve learned one truth after another that has me somewhat “off.”

Gasp # 1
At my Well Woman Physical on 9:30 on Monday, my doctor made me aware of a…let’s call it a mechanical issue…that I need to see a specialist for and try to have corrected before the end of the year. I learned that the pain I’ve been attributing to my hips has NOT been ALL in my hips…it’s in primarily in my pelvis, because of the mechanical issue. I do also have arthritis in my hips and the 75+ pounds I regained has not helped my joints.
The mechanical issue that had been repaired a few years ago has made its comeback at least in part because of my extra weight, too.
In fact, even though my doctor told me he wanted me to get this repaired before the end of the year, he also said the specialist he’s sending me to may want to wait until I have my sleeve surgery so the weight doesn’t cause the problem all over again. Just writing that takes me back to the moment he uttered those words, because I blasted, “Goddammit!”
I was so angry at myself.
I see the specialist on December 5, which is also the day I have the pre-sleeve Have-to’s of the fitness assessment and nutritionist appointment # 2 (and the big weigh-in to prove to Aetna that I have not gained weight). I try to cram all these appointments into one day so I don’t end up having to pay for my sub days if I run out of my paid time off.

If it can be scheduled and IF the specialist concludes that the weight I’m carrying won’t undo his work, I’ll have it done over Christmas Break. That said, I was in shock at my doctor’s strong reaction to my mechanical issue [HE GASPed], AND, I was not expecting to have surgery over Christmas vacation [I GASPed.] On one hand, I’d like to get it over with and hopefully begin to get relief from the pain I’ve been in for over a year and a half–maybe even the last 2 years–but I thought it was hip pain from my weight gain and I was too ashamed to go to my doctor about it…so I told myself to buckle down and lose weight and THEN if it still hurt, ask for help. Here’s the thing, though: I have soothed myself with food when I was in pain, and so I was in this cycle of pain-eating-shame-more pain- eating-shame…but I told my doctor everything that’s going on–I think planning to have the sleeve gave me courage–and then I found out that, yes, it is from weight, but the mechanical issue is so far gone that it’s like “Oh my God” on their scale of “Meh” to “Oh my God.”
I’d like to note that my doctor was very compassionate. A few years ago, he read my book, Big Fat Disaster (I always give him a copy of a book when I write it), and I think that gave him greater understanding of BED and me.
Let’s pause here shall we? Because I’d be remiss not to note that SHAME kept me from asking for help earlier, even though I trust this doctor, because I’ve been stuck in this eating disorder that is rocket-fueled by SHAME.
Binge Eating Disorder is a mind fuck. Never forget that.
Oh, and by the way, GASP.

Gasp # 2

A few hours after I went to my primary care doc, I went to a sleep disorder specialist. The “co-morbidity” that will qualify me for sleeve surgery is sleep apnea. I knew I had it again because of my husband thumping me to wake up since I stopped breathing in my sleep, and have done so for a while. But I would not accept it at first when he told me, because I did not want to believe that I was so heavy once more that I had relapsed into this condition.
The doc and I visited for a long time, discussed my symptoms, Daniel’s report of being my sleeping partner, my history of sleep apnea many years ago, then losing weight, no longer snoring/gasping/not breathing, and its resurgence after I piled on the pounds again.
The doc said it’s a “no brainer” that I have severe sleep apnea, but the insurance requires a sleep study. However, insurance companies prefer that patients do home studies, which are cheaper than in-house studies where you spend the night at the doctor’s office or whatever facility they have. There will be a second study with the C-PAP machine so that a tech can titrate it, IF the insurance approves. If they don’t approve, we have to do a trial and error to find the correct air pressure to keep my windpipe open. But, oh, yes, he will definitely be reporting that I have sleep apnea–I’ll tell ya about that in a second.

When people stop breathing when they sleep, they do it because the soft palate in the back of the throat collapses and cuts off the air flow. Then the brain goes, “Oh, shit! We’re not breathing!”- and causes one to startle awake over and over again, often as many as 100 times or more a night. This prevents the person from being fully rested and, surprise surprise, this can also contribute to obesity in part because people like me are exhausted all the time. ALSO, and this is poorly understood, but the doc told me that scientists believe that the connection between obesity and sleep apnea may be that when one carries a lot of extra weight, the nerve in the back of the throat that is in charge of keeping the soft palate from collapsing stops working. He said after I lose weight, there is a 75% chance that I will no longer need the C-PAP machine, which, if you don’t know what that is, provides a constant blast of air to keep the windpipe from closing.

I took the home study device home: it’s called a Unicorder, and it is a headband with a box that presses against the forehead and has a canula that fits in your noise and connects to the little box so it can sense your respiration. Here’s a pic of one: I will tell you what happened the first night, and you will conclude that I am an idiot. Don’t worry: I already concluded that about myself, so you will not be alone. I did not realize the headband was adjustable. And that night, I was in extreme pain because this box was digging into my skull. Imagine how stupid I felt when I woke the next morning, peeled the headband off, and looked more closely (read: with my glasses on) at the headband. It was like a version of a hat headband, only more locked down.



As if being a complete stooge were not enough to keep me awake that night, my daughter called me, hysterically weeping, a little before 10 PM, to tell me that her cat, Gally, who has been with her since she was an undergrad at the University of North Texas, was missing. He darted out the front door and had been missing for hours by the time my daughter arrived home from work. I consoled her; told her that if she hasn’t found a body, that’s a good sign, AND, that cat is such a little psycho that it’s not like anyone could pick him up (my daughter is the only human this cat tolerates picking him up without growling), and any dog that approaches him would find out quickly that it’s better to just back off and leave while the dog still has all his body parts.
I am not much of a praying person any more, but every time I fitted and startled awake because of the Unicorder carving a dent in my skull, I threw up another prayer that that damned cat would come home. My heart hurt for my daughter.
I was supposed to sleep at least 6 hours that night. I slept no more than 3.
Oh, and the little shit of a cat waltzed in the door around 5 AM when my daughter opened it to go out and start looking for him again.

Luckily, when I called the doc’s office that morning and told them about me being stupid and worrying all night about my daughter and definitely not getting a good study done, they were very good natured about it and let me keep the Unicorder another night so I could get a good reading. And did I ever.

Likely due to the extreme fatigue of not sleeping the night before, plus the meds I was given for the (sleeve have-to) endoscopy (examination of my upper GI tract by using a long tube with a camera on it, for which I was knocked out), I stopped breathing repeatedly that night. I know this because I WOKE UP–GASPED–not just stirred–but WOKE UP–GASPED–when my brain said, “Oh, shit! We’re REALLY not breathing, like, this is some serious shit!”

The next day, my husband assured me, “You had a very good test.”

So now, I wait for the doctor’s office to read the results and report to my insurance company and let me know if they will approve the overnight titration, which is even more important than the diagnostic study.

Once again, I would be remiss to not note this reckoning that I’m having because I regained this weight: sleep apnea is called a co-morbidity because it can kill you.


Gasp # 3
This last [GASP!] is a good one. I am consistently awed by the love and support my husband gives me. When I was apologizing about the mechanical issue and how I blamed myself and the unexpected possibly-very-soon surgery, he was totally supportive. Actually, he said, “You’re just falling apart. It’s okay”–but he said it in a very loving way. (You had to be there.)
And, I’m awed, too, by the love and support I get from my daughters, too, because when I texted them about this mechanical issue and how angry I was at myself, all 3 of them told me not to blame myself. Which is sweet, but I need to own the responsibility I DO have for this happening. The weight made it worse. There is no doubt about it.
At the same time, when my daughter, a nurse, gave her studied medical opinion: “Your body is seriously done fucked up,” she said it in a very loving way. (You had to be there.)
On this day of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my family and for the opportunities I have for a do-over, to use the miracles of medicine to not only correct my mechanical issue, but also to provide me with a tool to help me get this weight off and keep it off permanently.
Oh, and the sleep doctor told me I have a tiny neck. I suppose it matches my tiny wrists and tiny hands.
Somewhere, under these layers I pulled back on by making choices that were not healthy and allowing myself to becoming stuck in my eating disorder again, there exists the person I was before, whose weight fit her small skeletal structure in a friendlier way, and who was able to function without daily pain from her body holding up its hands in surrender and saying, “I give. What’s it gonna take to find the way back to the light?”

For the opportunity to find the light, I give thanks.

In fact, I can already see rays of hope around the edges of the darkness I have been walking around in for way too long.