I worried about permanent nerve damage for the first time today.

I worried about permanent nerve damage for the first time today.

On Monday I underwent sleep apnea surgery. I wasn’t afraid. I trusted my surgeon.

I had my first post-op visit today. I’m healing a half-week ahead of schedule. My surgeon removed most of the rubber bands holding my jaw closed. He said my muscles were still too weak to hold my jaw in place. He showed me how to replace bands that snapped.

Two hours later, I moved a band to make my right and left sides symmetrical. My maxilla, lower lip, and parts of my chin went numb. I had recently regained feeling in these parts, having lost it after surgery. Losing it again concerned me. My speech deteriorated. I sweat in fear.

I sent a message to my surgeon. Those can take days to return. I called his office. They close at 5. I called a doctor I knew. She said permanent nerve damage can’t be done overnight.

I believe her. I still feel panicked. Each sensation in the chin prompts terror. Sure, they remind me I have sensation there, but they also feel like a stretched nerve. Worse, I still feel pain from the surgery and can’t separate the normal surgery pain from any pain I might have caused. My mind spins:

  • Will a stretched nerve always regain sensation over time, just as happened in the days post-surgery?
  • If properly-placed bands are holding my teeth in the right position, will I definitely be all right?
  • How much leeway do I have in the band placement? (I.e. I am pulling my jaw forward slightly more than when I left the doctor’s office. Is that safe?)
  • Did I cause myself permanent nerve damage?

I’ve never dealt with questions like this before. They terrify me.

If I die Monday, may my tombstone read,“Died doing what he loves.”

On Monday I go in for Jaw Surgery. If I die, I want my tombstone to read, “Died doing what he loves.[1]

I’ve never seen a footnote on a tombstone. Nor ellipses. I’m updating the medium. The joke makes it more palatable.

I joke because I’m afraid. I’m afraid because it’s frightening. I’ve never been closer to death than I will be on Monday.

I’ve always mused on death. I wrote my first auto-obituary at 13. The same way some people use the largesse of space to decrease their anxiety; I use death to accept depression. When I wake up late enough that I feel grumpy, the phrase “death and taxes” echoes in my mind. It reminds me of two crucial elements – timeliness and humor. One makes today matter and the other makes life worth living.

I’m spending tomorrow and Sunday advising a local high school youth group, and Saturday with my dad. If I die, let it be known I went out doing what I loved.

 

[1] Self improvement.

Okay, cocaine.

When is it okay to avoid the world?

At 9:11am, the morning’s not-funniest time, I slipped 50mg of caffeine past the tape on my mouth before crawling back into the safety of my dreams. Another hour-and-a-quarter passed before my bunkmate awoke, only after which did I first leave my bed. How much of this time was spent avoiding the world?

I’m coming off a cold. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been sleeping so much. I’ve also been emotionally exhausted, overcoming a childhood trauma and rebuilding after a breakup.

My bed is warm. My bed feels safe. In it, the world feels far away. My mind moseys, wisting aimlessly from place to place. I like that safety. I like that oblivion. I live for that vacuum between conscious and gone.

I understand hypochondriacs.

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.

Self-Portrait of the Author as a Hungry Man

At sixteen, Julian could eat a whole pizza in one sitting. He’d be stuffed before downing those last few slices but finish anyway, because he hungered for achievement long after satisfying his hunger for pizza.

Yesterday, twenty-five-year-old Julian stayed awake for twenty-six hours. As he puts it, “one should spend times of plenty preparing for times of famine.” He calls it a “sleep fast” and planned to reach a whole day-and-a-half, but ended it early when he realized sleep fasts should be undertaken on days that don’t require driving.

Julian is most familiar with this style of self-disciplined self-deprivation from his multi-day foodless fasts, the longest totaling one hundred thirty-six hours (five-and-a-half days). He has completed a total of fifteen foodless fasts (each a minimum of three days long). There are known health benefits of foodless fasting. There are no known health benefits of sleep fasting, but he feels a calm sense of power for the following few days.

To cap off his sleep fast, Julian devoured a large $10 Costco pepperoni pizza. While you technically don’t have to be a member to eat at the food court, you certainly don’t have to be a member if you walk past the ID checkers when they’re not looking. If you employ this method, you also get to feel smug. There are no known health benefits of eating a whole large $10 Costco pepperoni pizza, but he did anyway. What a rebel.