I’ve said it here before…my father was a man of science and fact, exceptionally smart and succinct, especially in his later years when he spoke of the aging process. He simply, brilliantly said… “growing old stinks!” Now that I have reached the same era, I have adopted his slogan and, unfortunately, my body continues to back it up.
I am reluctant to discuss my personal wellbeing within the confines of this blog, but I have always maintained that its premise is one of personal expression without barrier, assuming any such disclosure is done so constructively and albeit with some humor in mind…or something like that!
Last night I was soundly asleep when the worst occurred. BTW that, in itself, is a rare occurrence for me—being soundly asleep. I have had a sleep disorder since my mid-thirties. As I age, it, along with numerous other issues, are growing in intensity.
Over the years, I have slept in several strange rooms with a bunch of wires stuck to various parts of my body. These dictated data to monitors spitting out rolls of graphs the meaning of which I already knew: I don’t sleep very much. I have experimented with just about every sleep aid, both medicinal and mechanical, that doctors have to offer.
Slowly, as I have aged, my lack of nighttime sleep has led to frequent daytime “crashes” as my body declares it has been awake long enough and it finally falls asleep regardless of what I am doing. How rude!
Throughout the latter part of my career I was notorious for dozing during meetings. In fact, it isn’t unusual for me to drift off regardless of what I may be doing. Once I even fell asleep while riding a bicycle. Yes, it is true. I landed in the bushes to the right, luckily, and not into the lake to the left. I have since been officially diagnosed as having narcolepsy, a condition whereby your body may decide to fall asleep at any time, even if it’s in the middle of a conversation with someone. I haven’t done that yet…well, almost yet.
I usually know when I am prone to “crash” and it is more often when my body is in a quiet mode and basically inactive. A good crash time is when I am doing exactly what I am doing now—sitting at my computer, relaxed and writing. I will often “leave” for just seconds, but long enough to “return” and look up and see a row of whatever letter my sleeping finger happened to be on at the moment. So while I write it is normal to see things like “thisgklx’’’’’’’;’’’’fpppdddpddd……d,fffffffffff” show up in the middle of any sentence. Sometimes, one letter will go for several rows.
I am in a period of adjustment currently. I have a very expensive pill I can take during the day if it is absolutely necessary that I stay awake and alert. I save these for days that I may have a long drive or some important project. Meanwhile, at night I am on a combination of two pills that seem to settle me down to a tolerable level of drowsiness. The only problem is that sometimes the medicine is a little too aggressive and I do strange things. Most of these have the family laughing when I retell whatever episode I was involved in the evening before.
Once I came downstairs in the middle of the night and took all the family pictures off this long bench-like table in the living room. Then I proceeded to put down four placemats, silverware and plates. I must have been expecting guests for a midnight snack. Another time I had gathered up all my bedding and I was walking aimlessly around the house looking for the stairs to the third floor because I wanted to sleep in one of the bedrooms up there. I must have become so frustrated that I woke up and had to laugh at myself because the awake-self knew very well that the house does NOT have a third floor.
There is a floor lamp in the corner of the bedroom. I stood clutching it one night as I slowly became conscience and realized that the bus I was waiting for no longer stops there.
These are the humorous side effects of my ailment. The ones that are not funny are the smashing of my head onto the desk as I unexpectedly fall asleep or unconsciously, once asleep, fall out of bed or a chair. I’ve had several of these incidents. Last night’s fall was the first really bad one.
I was, as previously noted, in bed in a rare deep sleep. I awoke as I felt myself falling, but too late to reach out and brace myself. Instead, I met the floor head-on, actually face-on. I not only felt, but I also heard my nose crunching inside, my forehead whiplashing onto the floor and the back of my neck immediately beginning to sense the painful snap it was forced to absorb. Within seconds blood began pouring from my nose. It was a rude and painful awakening.
Like most young people, older folks with all their physical calamities and collection of pills and appliances used to be merely something observed in passing. Sometimes they were even a source for humor. Not anymore. Growing old is fraught with numerous ailments, injuries, pain and frustration. I now understand why the elderly become so preoccupied with their health issues, many of which would overwhelm anyone both mind and body.
There is also a great sadness that accompanies all this misfortune. It has to do with the acknowledgement that you are no longer young and most of what you have to look forward to are more problems, more discomforts and more pain. Attitude will have much to do with how well you tolerate all that is happening to your body. Remaining positive and having a good sense of humor are critical to coping with the stress. And the less time fretting over it and dwelling on the downside, the better off you’ll be. If you must think about it, then acknowledge it and deal with it. One quick way is to simply, succinctly put it all in perspective and then move on. For me, that brings to mind three simple words …growing old stinks!