I love September. When I was sixteen my sister and her boyfriend gave me armloads of daffodils and jonquils for my birthday, and for a week or two my bedroom was a a festival of Spring colour and fragrance. I felt very special. When the sun comes back after a long, grey winter, when the air warms and the wattles turn the world yellow I always feel that way again, whatever else is going on in my life.
Spring feels like a burst of hope, in an explosion of warmth, colour, and intense perfume. Sunday’s low temperature was higher than many of the preceding week’s highs. It may well be warmer than most of next week too, as the winter is threatening to return for one last (I hope!) frozen hurrah.
This year my Spring is at least as much internal as external. Though the sunshine has been unusually delayed, the spring has returned to my step ahead of schedule, and it’s all down to my new best friend – my CPAP machine.
For those who have never encountered it, CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Air Pressure. Every night I do a Darth Vader impersonation and attach a hose to my nose via a soft silicone mask, and my beloved machine forces air into my lungs all night.
This may sound like a horrible, traumatic thing, but in actual fact it has been the most extraordinary revelation. Because it turns out I used to stop breathing in my sleep. Not a lot – my apnoea score is a meagre 7, meaning I stopped breathing just 7 times per hour. But in between those 7 strange pauses my breathing was interrupted just enough to wake me up. This happened so often that I never actually went into deep sleep. I snored. I tossed and turned. And I woke every morning feeling as though I had been running a marathon in my sleep.
The impact of this was surprisingly extreme. My health was plummeting. I was becoming more and more depressed. I was struggling on just about every front, and as my desperation increased, so too did my despair. And then came CPAP. And over the course of about two months I experimented with different machines and different settings and finally found my way into deep sleep at long last. It took time. The first machine was noisy and the mask uncomfortable. It took time to find the right mask, the right air pressure, and just to get used to the whole setup. But even as I fiddled with the settings, things started to change.
I found myself singing as I rode to and from work. I found myself joining my kids on the trampoline from time to time. I started to bounce. And play. And feel.
It’s like staring at a black and white photo and finding it suddenly transforming into an immersive 3D interactive experience in vibrant colour.
It’s like being blind for years and suddenly being able to see.
It’s like spending half your life deaf and hearing a symphony for the first time.
It’s like going to sleep in the darkest of Arctic winters and waking on a tropical beach.
It’s like dying and being reborn, but without having to go through teething or puberty again.
It’s like watching a flower grow from seed to bloom in a matter of moments, right inside your own head.
Today I’m tired. I had a huge day yesterday, and a late night blissfully immersed in the kind of conversation that extends for hours beyond the first tentative “I should be going”. I woke at 5:30am and couldn’t get back to sleep because my head was buzzing with plans and ideas. I should be completely wrecked. But I’m just normally tired. And tonight I will sleep. Those words are beyond miraculous to me. I will sleep. And I will most likely wake feeling rested. From there, absolutely anything is possible.
I’m 44 today. My kids think that’s extraordinarily old. I’m told it’s all downhill from 40. I should, apparently, be feeling old and creaky and disheartened. Instead I have my life back. I feel brighter, more energetic, and younger than I’ve felt in years. CPAP is a daunting prospect, and it certainly takes some getting used to, but it has given me a whole new life.