I struggled through five doctors over ten years before one correctly diagnosed me with obstructive sleep apnea.
It’s subjectively difficult to tell if something’s wrong with you because corroboration requires a doctor’s agreement. If they don’t see a problem, perhaps nothing’s wrong. Then again, perhaps they’re incompetent, or perhaps you didn’t communicate it clearly. Most doctors see a lot of patients, and communicating a subjective experience to a second party is very difficult. And even if you can’t get second-party confirmation, it’s still really your experience.
I pee frequently. Frequently enough that my friends comment on it. This causes me concern. I don’t know that there’s a problem, but I suspect something’s up. I could see a urologist, but that’s a minimum of two visits at inconvenient times to someone who I’ll probably conclude is incompetent.
Some doctors are great. Most are god-awful. It’s hard to know before seeing them. I’m delaying, which isn’t the logical choice, but it’s easier than calling medical offices. I’m solving my sleep now—one issue at a time. I hope I don’t come to regret waiting.
I’m on a decade-long journey to improve my breathing. Eight years ago I began meditating; two years ago I had my septum un-deviated. Both made my list of top-10 life decisions.
In dance lessons today, I noticed a clear difference between dancing with my mouth open and dancing with it closed.
- Open, I was calm, relaxed, focused, and accepting.
- Closed, I was jittery, jumpy, and quick to anger.
In short, I learned worse when I could breathe worse.
Medicine is the only industry I know where we avoid optimization. Doctors don’t understand, “I want to improve my daytime breathing.” If they don’t see a clear problem, they refuse to improve. Perhaps it’s their promise to “do no harm,” which doesn’t recognize some large upsides are worth the risk of harm.
More than just doctors, most people think about medicine this way. In every conversation (save one) where I’ve mentioned my desire for surgery, my co-loquitur has responded as though I’m nuts: “Why would you undergo surgery if your life is fine?” Even a 0.001% improvement to a person’s daytime breathing would be transformative. My life is fine. It could be better. And sure, as I tell them, “using a CPAP is annoying.” I just exaggerate how annoying it is.
If I’m lucky, surgery to rotate my jaw forward a few 5 millimeters will be done by February or March. If I’m unlucky, it could take a year more, perhaps even longer, because orthodontists are confusing, deceptive, and opaque… and because I may have chosen the wrong one. Until my cut date, I remain a mouth-breather.
When my jaw is fixed, it’s not as though my whole life will be fixed. It is, however, that my whole life will be improved. I’ll have a new jaw, a better jaw, a million-dollar jaw. I’ll dance with my mouth closed and cry tears of joy.