One night, I lovingly looked over at my sleeping husband, touched his unshaven cheek and whispered in his ear, “Stop your freaking snoring!”
As you’ve probably gathered, it was more of a scream than a gentle whisper, but at the root of my nighttime expression of sleep deprivation was concern and good will.
My brother, a physician, had told me that because my husband was overweight, snored loudly and was always exhausted, he should be checked for sleep apnea—a potentially fatal condition.
So my free-floating anxiety found something new to address: I became convinced that the moment I was able to fall asleep, Mark would suddenly expire.
I urged him to go to a pulmonologist to check it out, but my husband resisted. He didn’t like people telling him what to do, and beyond that, doctors intimidated him because they were usually people who had done better than him in school.
But he let me make an appointment, after which I spent a week worrying that he would cancel it.
He went through with the visit to the pulmonary doctor and even an overnight sleep study. The study revealed that he did, indeed, have severe sleep apnea, and the doctor told him that he needed to wear a wear a C-Pap machine at night.
Insurance paid for the device, so things were going well, but when my husband put the unwieldy contraption on at bedtime, he looked like Tom Cruise strapped into the fighter jet in Top Gun, or an astronaut in one of those cramped Gemini space capsules.
After a few nights, my husband was so uncomfortable he gave up on the C-Pap machine, and it made its way to the back of a closet next to the shoes he hadn’t worn since his cousin’s kid’s Bar Mitzvah.
My worrying resumed.
I did some additional research and suggested that my husband go to our dentist to find out about getting fitted for an oral apparatus that would help keep his airway clear.
“Apparatus? That sounds serious,” he said. Then my husband pointed out that he didn’t think he could wear anything in his mouth because as a kid he almost gagged when he tried to wear a retainer.
He also noted that every time either of us walked through our dentist’s door, the visit cost us at least a down payment on a small island. So we nixed that alternative.
But I couldn’t nix my worrying.
I suggested my husband begin some type of diet and exercise regimen to take off some of the weight that the doctor said was at the root of my husband’s nocturnal dysfunction. I said since I needed to lose weight, too, maybe we could come up with something together. This could be a turning point in both our lives!
My husband looked like he wanted to nod, but was being held back by some type of invisible force field.
“I’m too exhausted to exercise,” he finally said.
Then, he went to the freezer and got ice cream bars I had bought in a moment of weakness. We ate them.
For penitence, I went outside to take a walk. It was an overcast day and looked like it was about to rain.
I worried that I would get stuck in a downpour. The sky got darker and darker and raindrops started to fall. I was sure a downpour was coming.
I was about halfway back home when suddenly I had this tremendous urge to, of all things, take a crap.
I forgot about the drizzle.
All I wanted to do was make it home to the toilet without soiling myself or making a major excrement scene on my street. I frantically tried to regulate my sphincter muscle as I power-walked along, sweating profusely.
I made it with only seconds to spare.
Then I thought, “Isn’t that the way of life? You worry about one thing and then something completely unexpected and out-of-the-blue happens, and it is never what you were worrying about in the first place. So, it just doesn’t make sense to worry obsessively about any one thing.”
Thereafter, when I began ruminating about my husband’s condition, I distracted myself with phone calls to girlfriends, books and problems that were actually solvable—like using Kaboom to remove make-up I had inadvertently splattered on the shower door (don’t ask).
One day, after I had been busy doing all these things, my husband came home from work looking like he wanted to tell me something. He quickly confessed that he had fallen asleep twice in the last week—once in the lunch room at work and once at a stop light.
He said he was ready.
We went to a different pulmonologist and got a more comfortable mask for a device known as a BiPap machine. The doctor gave my husband instructions on how to gradually acclimate himself to the machine before trying to use it overnight.
This time it worked.
Now, my husband sleeps next to me wearing something that makes him look like Tom Cruise strapped into that fighter jet in Top Gun. I say to myself that Tom Cruise didn’t look that bad in Top Gun. Plus, we are both getting a restful night’s sleep.
Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I lean over and whisper in his ear, “Thanks.”
And it really is a whisper.
Wendy Aron has written for publications nationwide, including The New York Times and Newsweek. She is an award winning humorist (Society of Professional Journalists) and comic memoir author. Wendy is working on a collection of humorous essays for Baby Boomers. Samples of her work can be read at www.wendyaron.com.
Editor: Lara C.
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