Sunday, January 18, 2015

Breathe, right?

As a stocking-stuffer this year, I received a box of "Extra Strength" breathing strips. This was parental feedback to my various stories of the BPAP breathing machine not being comfortable for me. Readers may recall that I was prescribed a positive-pressure breathing apparatus in the wake of my three nights in a sleep diagnosis center, which lead to me having zero sleep those nights and embarking on a series of introspective, fitful, and eventually quasi-hallucinatory experiences. (Read about them: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.)

My parents heard me saying that I don't really use The Device anymore, so they made me the present of a box of 40-ish little adhesive bands. The band fits across the bridge of my nose, and has enough support in it to attempt to return to straight. Adhere it to the face, the bar attempts to straighten, and it rather-ingeniously helps to hold the nasal cavities open.

A couple of nights ago, I applied the first one. I felt like the small folded sheet of instructions didn't provide me as much information as I needed, but then these are really just fancy stickers, right. How much instruction do I really need?

I bravely looked myself in the mirror and tried my best. It turns out that, when using hands to apply something to the area around your face, it's easy to find said hands obscuring whatever I'm supposed to be looking at. This is old news to people who apply makeup often, but as someone who doesn't usually have my hands up around my face while observing them, this circumstance required a fair amount of thought.

These strips are about the size of a small bandaid, which means that I feel ridiculous taking an end in each hand and maneuvering both of my giant hands in such a way as to still be able to see my nose. I feel fortunate that I have yet to actually stick one of these to my eyebrow or in my beard. Either of these ends would be VERY BAD.

Because when I call these things "stickers," it doesn't convey the actual amount of sticky-power. The adhesive feels like a stronger version of the goop that was used in affixing the sleep sensors to my head, chest, arms, and legs during the sleep clinic visits. It's not as viscous, staying mainly right on the strip, but it still feels very grabby.

So I apply the strip and admire my handiwork. I think I expected it to feel more drastic. When someone says, "We're going to use technology to force your nasal passages open," it makes me feel like there are going to be giant, invisible fingers stuck into my nose. The mask that The Device uses feels a bit like that. Yes, that's right, I was afraid it was going to be the return of Nasal Pillows, my favorite medical euphemism for 2013. Also the name of one of the least successful adult film actresses of 1968.

I wouldn't say that having had my nose "stuck" is comfortable, but nor would I say it is uncomfortable. It feels strange, almost immediately making me feel like I need to scratch the bridge of my nose -- for some reason. But it also feels weirdly "native." The sticker is basically flat, so I can wear my glasses without any problem. And it doesn't feel like an invisible finger. It's such a light pressure that I can forget about it shortly after I apply it. It doesn't feel like the childhood bully, having placed me in a headlock, is trying to pull the tip of my nose back over my head, which is something else I was mentally prepared for.

So having successfully applied it, I had my next thought. "This feels very secure. That's nice!" And then a brief pause. "I wonder how I get it off." Another brief pause. "I probably should have looked at that first."

Fortunately, it's simple. A shower or face-washing will loosen the adhesive and allow slow removal of the mask. Imagine me in the shower, running water on my face. Is it safe to remove now? Tug-tug. Ouch. No. More water running. How about now? Tug-tug. Ouch. Not yet.

Turns out it REALLY adheres. Removing it, even after the hot water has dissolved some of the gripping power, feels like I'm methodically removing my nose. The process is slow and filled with lots of me reminding myself to breathe -- which I fail to see the humor in, even though I can now see the irony.

Did I sleep better? Maybe. I certainly felt like I was breathing better, which is an important step. And super-adhesive aside, I feel like it's very comfortable to wear. It doesn't interfere with me turning in my sleep the way the mask and Device do, and I can smoosh my face in the cool side of the pillow without worrying that I'm going to drive a piece of plastic tubing up a nostril.

Does it help with the sleeping? I'll have to get an external opinion for that. I don't hear any snoring, but then, I never do. Next time someone's sharing the bed, I'll have a questionnaire ready for the morning.

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