Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You Should Probably Disregard the First Line of This Post

I am not crazy. At least, not in the textbook way. I do, however, have an entire myriad of ways that I am interesting. I have become used to most of these interesting quirks of mine, but throw me into a new or stressful situation and things can quickly get out of hand.

A few weeks ago, I had a visit with an ear, nose and throat specialist. Depending on your point of view, he had news that was both super and supremely crappy. First off, all of my airways are far too small for a grown woman to receive adequate air flow. He actually used the word petite, but I think that he was just trying to soften the blow by using a complimentary word. What woman doesn't want to hear that she's petite, right? Add to the petiteness of my airways a severely curved septum, a soft palate that is too long and a too-large tongue base and you get what he called a "poster child for sleep disorders". I have so many obstructions in my airways that it is difficult for me to get enough oxygen, especially when sleeping. Which makes for a very sleepy-all-of-the-time Julie. He actually said that my condition was so severe that he would like to have students come take a look at my messed up airways. At least I know I'll always have the option of sideshow freak as an occupation.

Fast forward one week: I am headed to the sleep study which has been scheduled for me. I'm a little freaked out by the thought of going to a strange place for the sole purpose of having people watch me sleep. I posted a facebook status saying something along those lines and this is the gem that my friend Sterling commented with:

So, as you lay down on a squeaky cot a group of doctors assembles in the room with those reflective light thingies on their heads. One of them says to you "Mmmkay, just go ahead and fall asleep. We will be right here watching you, taking notes on whatever weird, funny or strange thing you do. Don't be nervous. Only about 3/4 of our patients actually fart when they fall asleep... and you don't look like a farter to me."

Thanks for the confidence booster, Sterling. That doesn't make it worse at all. Also, I have completely awesome friends.

So I showed up that night, was told to change into my jammies and then wait for the sleep technician, Pauline, to get the other woman hooked up and then she would come take care of me. I laid on a super comfy bed and read for about an hour. It was total bliss. No kids, no diapers, no responsibilities, just quiet and my book. Then I noticed the cameras. I quit looking for them after I saw two. I knew that I would be filmed because I had to sign a consent form for the process, but actually seeing cameras mounted on the wall, aimed at my bed made me feel like this was the worst hotel room in the history of ever.

Pauline showed up and began the process of attaching 28 different electrodes to various parts of my body. She explained what she was doing as she went, telling me that she had to attach this electrode to my scalp over this part of my brain and these electrodes to my face to track the muscle movement. As she worked, we talked a little about ourselves. It took nearly an hour, so I learned that she had two children and was five months along with her third, which I hadn't even noticed because I was pretty nervous about the upcoming night when I met her.

She finished hooking me up and then told me that if I need to get up in the night for anything to call her so that she could help me unhook all of the wires. Glancing around for a call button, I asked how to call her.

"Just say my name. I'm going to be watching and listening all night so I'll hear you."


She then had me get in bed and get comfortable. She told me that she would go back to her room, call me on the intercom and have me do some movements so that she could ensure that everything was hooked up correctly. Then I was free to relax and go to sleep.

I followed the instructions that her disembodied voice gave a few moments later, opening and closing my eyes, looking up, down, right and left. I opened my mouth, closed it, held my breath, moved each leg in turn and then was told, "Okay! Go ahead and fall asleep."

The following is the mental conversation that I had with myself. What? You don't have conversations with yourself? Well, you see, no matter how sad, angry or totally nuts I feel, there is a woman in the back of my mind. She is the sane me. Her name is Julie and she is very well dressed, completely rational and has the most calming voice. She never shouts or raises her voice. She is the sane, perfect me. I think of her as my very own Jiminy Cricket. The prevalent voice in my head is Jules. She is way more fun, but she is also way more neurotic. Jules is who's in charge most of the time. She is louder than Julie and usually forgets that Julie even exists. Jules is kinda weird. But I like her.

Jules: Okay. Fall asleep ... How do I fall asleep? It's not really something that you can do on command, you know. How do I usually do it at home? Relax, breathe deep ... She's watching me on that damn camera, wait, TWO damn cameras. And those are just the ones that I saw. How am I supposed to sleep with someone watching me?

Julie: It's fine. She's just doing her job. You signed up for this. Relaaaaax.

Jules: Yes. Relax. These electrodes stuck on my scalp feel weird. I wonder if it will pull my hair out in the morning when she removes them. She said that she had to place them over certain parts of my brain. Different parts of the brain are in charge of different parts of things, different emotions ... I wonder if she can tell what sorts of things I am thinking of right now ... OH. MY. GOSH! She can read my mind! She knows what I'm thinking!

Julie: She can't read your mind.

Jules: She most certainly can! If different parts of the brain control different parts of things, she can tell if I'm sad or happy or totally freaking out, like I am now. She also can tell if I'm looking up or down, or if my mouth is closed. She could tell if I laid here and stared at the toilet all night long. Then she would wonder what sort of toilet fascination I have.

Julie: She can't read your mind. You just need to calm down and try to sleep.

Jules: Try to sleep? That's like telling someone not to yawn, or not to scratch themselves. They'll immediately yawn or have something start to itch. *big yawn* Crap. Now the electrodes itch and I can't scratch them. Telling me to sleep makes me completely unable to do just that ... Okay, clear my mind ... No thoughts ... Just a blank space ... ... ... That was pretty embarrassing that I didn't realize that she was pregnant. I hope that she didn't think that I thought that she was enormously fat ... FRICK! Now she can read my thoughts and she can tell that I'm thinking that I thought that she thought that I thought that she was huge! What if she only caught part of that thought and just saw that part that said "Pauline is fat". ARGH! youarenotfatyouarenotfatyouarenotf-

Julie: Stop it. She can't read your thoughts. That is not possible.

Jules: You're probably right. But I'm sure that she can tell what sorts of emotions I am feeling. Like what does she see on her monitors if I think about my kids? ... Now I'll think about Moe ... okay, becoming X-rated ... moving on ... I'll think about this bed ... now I'll see if I can remember where I parked ... Oh, you are a wily one, Pauline. You think you can mess with me? Watch this.

I then began to focus on the image of my friend Sterling stomping out a flaming bag of dog poo that I had threatened to mail to him. (It was a continuation of the facebook thread. This post is long enough without including that here.) The image was so awesomely clear that I actually giggled out loud. Crap. She must know that I'm still awake because of those blasted God-like electrodes and now she can hear me giggling to myself. She must think that I'm absolutely insane.

Julie: She doesn't think that you're insane. Just take deep breaths, please try to clear your mind and sleep. The purpose for you being here is not to be made fun of, but if you keep this up that may not matter anymore.

Jules: You are absolutely right. And this is all being recorded, and if it gets out of hand, this may be the video that Pauline saves for the technician who comes in to replace her. She'll say something like, "Oh my gosh! You will not believe the woman who came in here last night! She was totally off her rocker! Check out her video - all fifteen angles I captured on film. Plus, her mental images were so vivid that I was able to get clear video of those as well." Then he'll show the next guy, and the next thing you know, they'll be posting it on YouTube and showing it at the company Christmas party.

Julie: Jules? Really. It's all okay. Just relax.

Jules: *takes deep breath* Aaahhhhh. I can do this...

Eventually I did fall asleep. But I woke up several times during the night and it would start all over again. I could barely meet Pauline's eye the next morning when she came in to unhook me from everything.

I have an appointment next week to discuss the findings of my sleep study. I have no idea what the doctor will say about my oxygen levels or airflow obstructions, but I would not be surprised at all if he hands me a pamphlet on mental disorders, along with business cards for several psychiatrists.

But really? I'm not crazy. If you want to be technical about it, the clinical term is insane.