Updated Feb 21, 2016
Health problems have turned my life on its head. I’m home with the kids (yeah!) but suffering from a rather unusual form of sleep apnea (boo!). I wear my CPAP religiously (I’d duck tape the mother to my face if it would help), but the machine just isn’t doing the trick. They say my apnea is anatomical meaning my airway is small leaving me with a millimeter to breathe before my brain screams “wake up!” about 20 times in a given hour of sleep. I don’t recall the brain screams that occurred throughout the night, I think I’m sleeping like a baby, but the moment I move to get out of bed my creaky body reminds me of yet another rough night.
My days are spent in a mental struggle, fending off excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) having tried and failed on every trick in the book…too many cpap mask styles to count, Charlie and the Chocolate factory like dental appliance, simple nasal strips/spray on a nose slabbed in lanolin, sleep only on my side. Days are spent chugging pots of expresso so strong they should be deemed illegal, heavy duty ADHD stimulants worth a fortune on the black market, the new class of smart drugs NuVigil/Provigil, aggressive exercise, mello yoga, mindful meditation up the wazoo, and faithful dog walking… but to no avail. This is my predicament.
At this moment I am waiting, praying and begging to be approved for a new implant Inspire Sleep that could potentially CURE this disease. My doc is tops, Chief of Sleep Disorders at Froedert Dr Tucker Woodson, his right hand nurse AMAZING, so come hell or high water I am going to get this implant, or this will be the death of me.
04/20-16 That dream is out the window. I did not qualify for the implant. That’s all I want to say about it at the moment. Its been an adjustment to go from “hope” mode to “no hope” mode. Not in a suicidal kind of way, I just mean quality of life. Sick and tired is an understatement at this point.
Humans NEED very few things, food, water, shelter, and SLEEP. This is not complicated — a human being without sleep is a literal walking zombie. Think I am being dramatic? Try to go one week with with your bed partner tapping you on the shoulder 20 times per hour (thats every 3 minutes) and then tell me what a wonderful outlook on life you have. Can’t be done, while remaining sane.
So I’m writing this sucky journey because I have to do something besides driving myself crazy couped up at home stuck in my sleep deprived head that is completely irrational the vast majority of the time. Plus I figure I will someday finally land on a solution to this evil respiratory condition and then I can look back at these posts and remember how trying life was at this time so I never ever complain again about any silly life circumstance like who said what about me.
My new posts will center around the topic of medicinal cannabis. In the fall of 2015, I started educating myself on the topic after I read the miracles happening for children with epilepsy when utilizing the non-psychoactive form of cannabis called cannabinol or CBD. Wishful thinking perhaps, but when you are down so low you’ve got to find something to hold on to for hope for a normal life. I’ve become an advocate for the State of WI working toward legalization for medical purposes through education. I believe patients should have the right to utilize this natural medicine for various conditions that attack the human body. Its this, or I curl up and shrivel away. I’ve never been the shriveling type.
They say everything happens for a reason. I have no doubt that the experiences I share below were meant to happen, because they made me who I am today. I am forever grateful.
I am sixteen years old in the images you see. These photos were taken just before I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime, I had no idea what was about to happen. After placing well in a local “Most Promising Model” contest, I headed to NYC to compete there. Just after my runway performance, I was approached by an agent to work as a model in Paris, France (amazingly my parents let me go which is a whole other story in itself).
I plunged head first into the fashion scene in Paris, only to discover the lifestyle was unbearable. The pressure to be anorexically thin, and to modify my behavior and body, drained my willpower and self esteem. Still, I continued on, working in Milan and New York, searching for my niche.
Various modeling pics above spanning from age 16-21
At 21, I quit modeling and came home to Wisconsin. It wasn’t a hard decision because I knew I was in deep trouble psychologically and I needed help. I was deep in an eating disorder fixated on eating close to nothing following the demands of my demented modeling agents. I hit the gym hours a day, stress fractures up and down my legs, even wearing a removable cast that I ditched in the bushes when I went into casting calls while working in Milan. Man, I had willpower.
Back home, my mom found me an amazing therapist who helped me get my head screwed on straight with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a technique that was very effective for me, but I had to be completely committed to getting healthy. Recovery came somewhere around 26 — after approximately 5 years of therapy.
My modeling days are long gone, along with my disordered eating habits. I share with you my past, in an effort to set you on the right track, especially if are suffering with an eating disorder. If your greatest desire is to be thin and beautiful, I hope my blog topics and true life stories serve as a voice of reason… be careful what you wish for.
Underlying my eating disorder is what I call “my cross to bear.” The dreaded anxiety beast.
I got the gene. I’m stuck with the gene. So I’ve learned to deal with the gene.
Anxiety disorders and mental illness can be traced back throughout my family tree on both sides of the family. Official diagnosis GAD or generalized anxiety disorder, which sounds rather mundane — but trust me, its all encompassing the brain.
The biggest mistake I made on this journey was waiting to try medication. As I said, cognitive behavioral therapy worked for my eating disorder symptoms in my teens and twenties, but it wasn’t strong enough to defeat the beast underneath.
It wasn’t until after I had my son in 2003, that I knew it was time to give medicine a try. A series of tragic loses in my life triggered a heightened level of anxiety I hadn’t experienced before and I welcomed the opportunity to try medication, after all, if it didn’t work I could just stop taking it
Medication was scary to me, it represented loss of control, or some sort of weakness on my part. The truth is taking anxiety medication makes one a responsible adult, dedicated to both mental and physical health.
Talking about it is another story. Stigma is alive and well, but I’ve always been someone who takes pride in not caring about what others think, so I’m letting it all fly. Hell if I’m going to hide. This topic is simply too important. We need change, so we all need to be brave, and tell our stories. Starting in 2015, I’m expanding this blog to cover mental health as a whole, it should be a fun ride so I hope you’ll join me,
At the left is the real me, at
37 38 39 40 41, 42 43, 44, 45 years old (I’ve been blogging a looonnnggg time) married, two children, successful, happy and healthy. Thanks for reading, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are the reason I write.
-Heather Blessington, aka mamaV