In which I finally have a proper night’s sleep

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been tired. Most of the time I could deal with it; there was just a nagging sense of fatigue tugging at the edge of my consciousness, and if I didn’t focus on it then it would be fine. But every morning I would wake up wanting to go straight back to sleep, and no matter how long I slept for, it was never, ever enough. Offer me a nap and I would take it. Put me as a passenger in a moving car and I would zonk out, no question.

I just thought this was me, though: that I was sleeping too much, or not sleeping to the right patterns of time; that I drank too much coffee, or not enough water. A few years ago I went to the doctor to see if he could come up with something, but while he was very sympathetic and nice, blood tests showed nothing and all he could suggest was reading Frank Lipman’s book Spent.

It wasn’t until S was having trouble sleeping last summer and noticed that I had very erratic breathing — I would gasp and sputter, he said, as if I had been holding my breath, and never seemed to have the regular, deep breathing you associate with sleeping people — that something clicked, and I started to Google symptoms, putting two and two together (plus the Darth Vader-esque heavy breathing/snoring I did) and thinking that the answer of apnoea could well be the magic four. Convincing my GP (a different one) wasn’t the easiest: when a 32 year old womansays she might have apnoea, it’s not the typical overweight middle-aged man you’re expecting, so it’s understandable that there was some scepticism. But after completing an Epworth sleepiness test, which I’d already done for myself, the doctor realised that I may well be a candidate and I was referred to the sleep studies unit at the hospital. For two nights I wore a pulse oximeter strapped to my finger, which measured my pulse and breathing, recording these onto a USB so they could be mapped out as a graph on a computer. I saw the consultant two days later, and was fully expecting her to declare that I was a malingerer, a fraud, and not to waste her time anymore. Instead, she told me that there was no doubt I had apnoea, and she could diagnose the reason why straightaway – my very narrow jaw, which when relaxed in sleep closed off my airway, restricted my breathing and caused my brain to come out of deep sleep in order to get more oxygen. This was happening 6 or 7 times an hour – I was never getting enough of the deep sleep my body and brain needed and craved. Finally, the mystery was solved and I had an official diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).

Treatment options were discussed – I’d read about CPAP machines, devices which blow constant pressurised air down your throat, which didn’t sound appealing, but the consultant said a mouth device would be the best thing to try first. An appointment was made at the dental hospital for me, and now five months later, I’m the proud owner of a Mandibular Advancement Device, aka a very large gumshield. I wear this at night, it pushes my jaw forward into the correct position, and voila, I sleep properly.

The first week was tough in terms of jaw pain, but no worse than when I’ve had braces in the past; a few days of softer foods and ibuprofen did the trick. And any pain was cancelled out when I woke up and for the first time in over twenty years, I didn’t want to go back to sleep again. It’s a miracle.

There was a blip: on Monday morning, for some reason, I was exhausted again. I could have fallen asleep straight away (and in fact did), and had to have a nap in the afternoon. I panicked that the magic had worn off; that now my jaw had adjusted to the device and it wasn’t hurting, that it somehow wouldn’t work. But luckily it seems to have been just a one-off (touch wood), possibly because I lost an hour of sleep when the clocks went forward on the Saturday.

After finding a forum for apnoea sufferers, I feel incredibly grateful that mine was diagnosed so quickly and easily, and that I was referred to a sleep consultant without having to fight for it. Being told not to make a fuss, come back when you’ve lost weight, you’re just depressed seem to be common themes when people ask for a diagnosis. I am also extremely lucky that I didn’t have to pay for any of my treatment; having to pay for the MAD seems to be a normal thing too. And my OSA is classified as mild, which is great as it means an MAD is suitable for me and I don’t have to try more extreme measures such as the CPAP or surgery.

I think I will always be a ‘sleepy’ person who loves a lie-in and given the opportunity, will always steal a snooze on the couch. But the relief of not being tired is so unbelievably sweet. I feel like a new person, and it’s great.

In which that was the month that was: March issue

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Spring still feels a long way off as the weather this month, apart from one glorious weekend, has been chilly and grey. Today though, I finally wore my light jacket for the first time this year (albeit with a pair of wrist warmers and earmuffs) and smelt that scent in the air that announces yes, the season has definitely shifted on from winter.

So this month I have:

Enjoyed my first proper night’s sleep in twenty years

Farewell sleep apnoea — more on this to come!

Started hacking our garden into pieces

We’re extremely lucky in that we have 100ft of garden to play with, but we need to start from scratch by removing the huge amount of random rubbish, breaking up the acres of concrete and digging out the (mostly overgrown and wild) plants. Our neighbours on both sides did a dance of joy when S sawed down the leylandii that has been blocking their light for years. My friend and I also cleared more of our allotment (did I mention I now have a share in an allotment now? It’s very handily at the back of my house) and transplanted some raspberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants from our house to a new home there.

Celebrated my friend’s forthcoming wedding with a 30s style hen do in London

I wore a red satin dress I found secondhand on eBay for £15 which I adore (and am now looking for the next excuse to don it) and we had a vintage hairdresser style our hair — mine was Marcel-waved. We then aired our amazing ‘dos in a vintage club in London Bridge called Cecil’s, which is where I also went on a hen last year, and which I can thoroughly recommend — great music, fab outfits and a cocktail on arrival in an enamel mug.

Done a dolphin in the air

I’m top left!

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Made my first crochet granny square

This was a lot easier than I thought it would be — I think, in a similar way that I found snowboarding easier than skiing, crocheting is more logical to me than knitting. But I did also knit yet more booties this month as well as two of my friends (and ex housemates) give birth, on the same day — what are the odds of that?

In which that was the month that was: February issue

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February has gone past in a lightning flash, probably due to the ridiculous amount of work I was doing until the 18th. I am very proud of having got six magazines to print in six weeks, however: that is definitely an entry for the CV. I saw one of them in the airport WH Smith yesterday which still gives me a little thrill.

So this month I have been…

Having (part one) of a balcony installed

Yes, finally! Good things come to those who wait, and we’ve been waiting a long time. Still no balustrade or steps, but the platform is built, so we can at least sit out there. As can Olivia, who finally has the height to lord it over Billy, her nemesis next door.

Hanging out in Amsterdam

Beer, bicycles and batter (pancakes and waffles, a tenuous B!) — a fab three days away and lovely to travel to another country.

Seeing one of my best friends

B made a last minute decision to come over for the weekend from Berlin, so I took a (deserved!) day off work to enjoy three days of hanging out with her. Her being seven months pregnant meant the pace was a little slower than normal, but the coffee and chat was as good as always.

Enjoying lots of flowers

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Our old neighbours came round for dinner and bought us a beautiful orchid which is making me smile every time I see it. Daffodils have started to appear in the shops so I’ve been buying them for work and for home, and B bought us a tray of three pink hyacinths that will soon be perfuming the house with the scent that always heralds spring for me.

In which there is a surprise trip to Amsterdam

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For S’ birthday earlier this month, I figured he needed a really special present, after working so hard for the past year, and since it was somewhere we’d wanted to visit for ages, I booked us a three day trip to Amsterdam. I would have loved to make it a total surprise: mentioning on the Sunday evening that he didn’t have to go to work for the next three days, and as I know his boss (I used to work for the same company) then it might have been possible. But I had visions of his booking meetings without her knowledge, then panicking on said Sunday night, so I had to settle instead for telling him we were going away, but not to where.

It was fun to listen to S’ guesses for the preceding two months, which included the correct place, Brussels, Dublin, Belfast (too many episodes of The Fall) and the Bahamas (ha!). Even on the morning itself, his actual birthday, he still had no real idea, although driving the familiar route to Bristol airport kinda made it obvious we were flying, and when we arrived, the only two flights that fitted the time were Amsterdam and Faro (which I had actually considered but discarded on the basis that we’d talked about going to the Netherlands for the last three years so it seemed daft to go somewhere random).

It had been a somewhat stressful few days before leaving (work being busy, plus the cat deciding on Saturday evening to come in limping, necessitating an emergency trip to the vets on Sunday morning and a contingency plan formulated with my mom for her to come and stay in case Olivia needed 24 hour attention, then having to brief our cat sitter on giving painkillers when it was found that she was fine after all), but as soon as we landed at Schipol I was in full-on pancakes, coffee and beer tourist mode.

We spent the three days cycling round the city, getting our cheeks whipped red with the February wind, loving the freedom the bikes gave us. They had come as part of the lovely apartment in Westerpark I rented through Air BnB, and I can’t recommend cycling in Amsterdam enough. I love to ride, but the roads in Bristol fill me with fear, partly the steep gradient but mostly the cyclist-hating drivers and having to share bike lanes with motorcycles and First Buses. Cycling in Amsterdam was a total and utter pleasure, as there are clearly segregated lanes and drivers are always aware of you. Oh, and the total, total flatness!

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We loved being outside in the blue skies so much that while we popped our heads into the Rijksmuseum to check out the refurb, the lure of exploring more of the city on two wheels overcame the excellent Old Masters collection.

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On the Tuesday night, we met up with two of our Dutch friends from our Salkantay trek three years ago, who took us to the Food Hallen, a newly-opened collection of food stalls and bars in the old tram terminus, where we drank Dutch beer and ate an amazing meat platter with fresh bread and pickles. Since were tourists in the Netherlands, we also sampled pancakes and waffles (with Nutella, natch), saw tulips and canals, were mildly surprised by naked ladies beckoning to us from windows in the red light district, and had no need to speak Dutch whatsoever, thanks to the amazing language skills of every single person we met (as always, I was ashamed of the British inability/laziness/lack of teaching at school in other languages).

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So after three years of wanting to visit, Amsterdam didn’t disappoint, although I feel I may have set the bar very high for future birthday presents!

In which that was the month that was: January issue

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I know there’s still a week to go of January, but I’m unlikely to get any time to write a blog post next week. After going back to work after Christmas, I had five magazines to get to print before 18th February, so it’s been a bit of a manic few weeks to say the least. One has now gone, one is imminent, and luckily there’s not been too much stress, but it does mean that after writing copy all day the last thing I really want to do is write more. But I’m at home in my new study, enjoying people watching from my window, so it’s nice to have a break from weddings and cakes and knitting to write something random.

So this month I’ve…

Conquered a bunch of trapeze moves

After taking so much time off from trapeze last year, it’s been lovely to get my strength and skills back in the last few weeks, and I’m finding that things are coming quite easily at the moment. I’ve finally mastered a one legged monkey roll – something I first tried years ago, but failure meant I always avoided doing it. Now, however, I’m twirling round that bar like a demon. I’ve almost, almost done an unassisted back balance too.

Got obsessed with Bon Iver

Late to the party I know, but Holocene has been on constant repeat on both Spotify and in my head. So beautiful.

Debated doing the Tour de Bristol

Organised by local charity St Peter’s Hospice, this is a 30, 50 or 70k bike ride at the end of March. One of things I wanted to achieve in 2015 was to take part in an organised ride, and this sounds like it would be ideal. S is happy to accompany me (although the distance is a mere walk in the park for him) and is encouraging me to push myself and do the 50k rather than the 30k, which I know I could do without too much effort.

Continued crossing off items on the snagging list

The study now has shelves, I’ve bought very pretty Mexican tiles to tile our dining room fireplace and I’ve officially become middle aged by getting excited about buying a steam mop! We’re also the proud owners of a new kingsize bed that’s arriving today, meaning that our old bed is being moved to the spare room and we have the novelty of being able to provide guests with a proper bed, rather than reaching for the airbed and pump whenever anyone comes to stay. We really are grown ups!