The Mask

Warning: scary pictures included, view at your own risk!

The Lone Ranger had his mask, Zorro wore one. Batman and Robin did, as well. Even the monstrous Hannibal Lecter had a face covering, of sorts, not so much to hide his identity but more to protect his prey, other humans, from a nasty consumption habit.

Now, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, I have a mask, one that’s a nighttime fixture on my face.

However, whereas the aforementioned fictional characters were crime fighters hiding their real persona, except for Hannibal, I’m just an ordinary man trying to get a good night’s sleep.

Recently, I was diagnosed with ‘sleep apnea’, the ‘temporary cessation of breathing’ (apnea), especially while sleeping. Strong emphasis on ‘temporary’.

Apparently, sleep apnea is a common problem among men and women and the appointment backlog at the local sleep clinic reflects it.

A recent sleep test showed my REM sleep was grossly inadequate, and the Rx for it was a CPAP device, the mask. And herein lies the problem. I’m sleeping better but the physiology of my face appears to be changing.

The symptoms are easily recognizable, fatigue, drowsiness, low energy, especially during times of idle moments. I’m a Senior and whatever idle moments I have left are not to be wasted on fatigue.

Prior to my diagnosis, I wore the customary marks of a maturing gentleman; small creases on my cheeks, slight baggies under the eyes, some redness, nothing too dramatic.

But, alas, now I’m getting furrows on the cheeks, puffiness under the eyes like a prizefighter, and redness like frostbite. What a mess! And it’s daunting to think that the Rx was written for life!

The data shows that the mask is working. So, I’ve accepted it, albeit begrudgingly, facial marks and all.

Odd thing about medical devices, while helpful on the one hand, they can add a whole new persona to one’s character. The massive bandages following shoulder surgery give one the appearance of the fictional ‘hunchback of Notre Dame’. A line of staples on a shaved head remind onlookers of the Frankenstein monster.

I’ve had them all and now, at night, with my mask, I’ve become the irascible Hannibal Lecter. My wife must sleep with one eye open. I wonder if she would mind if I took just a nibble? I wonder…

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Retired in 2013 after 5 years as an elementary school teacher and 40 years as a sales representative to begin anew as a school crossing guard. SMy essays/stories are a way to communicate through the telling of personal experiences. One reader said about my blog stories, "...these are like a cold sip during a marathon run, simple, real life events". Another offered about my blog, “it brings some sense of normalcy not easily found in the modern world.”

22 thoughts on “The Mask”

  1. Ah, yes!! I know that mask well. I’ve been through several variations of it over the years. It’s not the most attractive look but much better than the alternative. I’ve been using one for many years and I still don’t like it. I do see how often I stop breathing at night so wearing the mask is painfully required. You are correct. The sleep centers are packed. So many of us are dragging ourselves around in chronic fatigue and not sure why. The marks on our cheeks give us away. The chunkier we are, the deeper the creases. I’m plenty chunky. Working on it though. Glad you discovered the culprit though. Keep breathing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been on it nearly 6 months, a smaller version than the ‘H Lecter’ model. And, yes, it’s made a big difference, I must admit. But the marks and redness, ‘chunky’ or not, are one big negative. Still, I’ve gone from waking 25x/hr to around 5, 1.7 last night. Thanks for commenting and be safe out there.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry to hear your problems my friend. Jean Marc the same. As long it’s during the night it’s ok. Dare if it would be during the day carrying a bottle of oxygen. Congrats you seem to have found a solution with Could 19.we all are in quarantine in France and it looks bad for the next 2 months. Shops are empty. You need authorization to drive out to pick up food. Very heart moving every ebe’ing at 8pm people applause all those who have to work for us or we play an instrument. I was crying last night. Very impressed. All my love tu you, family and miss Daisy. Cat_Astrophe sends her best regards. Keep safe my friend..


  3. My brother-in-law also suffers from sleep apnea, Steve. He was diagnosed a few years ago and has had a oxygen mask ever since for night time. It has helped him a lot and he leads a totally normal life other than the night time mask. It will be fine and you will be okay. I hope you are well otherwise and staying safely at home. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Robbie. Truthfully, the mask has improved my sleep significantly. I’ve noticed a big change during the day and I’m only waking 2-6x/hour instead of 25. I still don’t like it. So far, we’re fine. I trust that you are, as well. Take care.


    1. The fictional guy was, too, but me…whoa! And I’m glad you giggled. That was my ‘tongue in cheek’ objective. By the way, that big mask was my first and only lasted a few days until they moved me to a slightly less cumbersome one. It helps my sleep a lot, but all the other stuff applies. Thanks for commenting, Laura.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The mask works. Hubby Steve had the same issue, but for him the mask was not a difficult adjustment – he said it was much like the mask he wore all the time when he flew fighter jets in the Navy. A year after wearing the sleep apnea mask, he was fine. Thank goodness. I hope you are out of it in a year, Steve. Best to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jennie, it’s been nearly 6 months for me and while the face marks and redness are issues, I’m sleeping much better (only 6 events/hr instead of 25 before mask) and have less fatigue during the day. I’m wearing a slightly smaller ‘full mask’ than was pictured in the story. That one made the picture better (more dramatic). Give my regards to your Steve and stay well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s good news, Steve. Yes, the mask in the photo was more dramatic. 😀 I bet you miss your kids at the crossing corner. When do you go back to school? We were supposed to go back April 7th and yesterday the Governor mandated all schools to be closed until May 4th. Wow! I don’t know how parents will manage. I don’t know if YouTube videos will be enough. A lot to consider, but we have to get a handle on this virus. Stay well and stay safe, Steve.

        Liked by 1 person

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