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Living with Schizoaffective Disorder

My Oyster

I sleep so much that I don't have enough time to get what I want out of life.

Michael David Crawford, Baritone,

August 21, 2007

Copyright © 2007 Michael David Crawford. All Rights Reserved.

A while back my wife Bonita said to me, "If you could get control of your sleep, the world could be your oyster."

Today I didn't get out of bed until five PM, and even then I had a very hard time getting going. I didn't make it to work until after seven. The last train runs at midnight, and I'm to attend a meeting in the morning. The only way to put in a full day of work while ensuring that I make it to the meeting is to stay at the office all night.

I know Bonita is right - I know I have potential. But how?

What to Make of the Vancouver Diaries?

I started writing The Vancouver Diaries a year ago, having moved to the West Coast of Canada and away from my beloved wife, because I wasn't able to earn a secure livelihood from my self-employment as a software consultant. At the time we thought Bonita had just a year left in art school, but it turned out to be two - she expects now to graduate next Spring.

While I didn't know whether Bonita would want to move to Vancouver when she graduated, I didn't expect to leave until she graduated at the earliest, and possibly we would settle there. It would depend on what was best for her art career.

But I did leave - I was offered a job in California's Silicon Valley, with a salary that presented the first real opportunity for me to pay off our considerable debts.

But this leaves me wondering - what to make of The Vancouver Diaries? I'm not in Vancouver anymore. Should I start writing The Silicon Valley Diaries? I've decided, no, I'll continue the Vancouver ones.

I want to go back, you see. I want to return to Vancouver. It's a beautiful, vibrant city, and I made many good friends there. When I left I didn't cancel my immigration application; I expect it to be approved any time now.

I'm going to have to stay in California for quite a while, because I owe a lot of money. My immigration attorney tells me that I can live outside of Canada for three years out of five and still maintain my permanent residency. Three years should be enough time to dig myself out of the hole I'm in.

My Hopes and Dreams

The world could be my oyster... I have such grand plans: I have been taking piano lessons for several years with the hope that when I can pass the audition, I can go to music school to study musical composition. I want to compose symphonies someday!

But aren't most musicians starving artists? Well yes, I expect it will be a long time before I can make much money with my music. But I have another grand plan, one that I expect - and have some good reason to believe - can earn me a great deal of money: Ogg Frog.

I have already earned a great deal of money through Google AdSense advertisements on just one of my essays. I'm certain I can do even better than that by developing a whole website devoted to digital music, with the centerpiece of that being the Ogg Frog music software.

But I commenced development of Ogg Frog over a year ago, and it's still not ready. Many call it vaporware. It's not - it works well as far as it's been developed, but it has not yet reached the point where others would choose it over existing audio applications like iTunes and WinAmp. And why?

I didn't work on Ogg Frog much when I was in Vancouver in large part because I chose to devote what free waking time I had to practicing my piano. I had an amazing piano teacher there named Angela Bonilla, who had a Master's degree in music from the convervatory in Versailles, France. I wanted to get the most I could out of her lessons.

Also, a piano composer and music teacher named James Dering stumbled across my essay I Have So Many Questions About Music and offered to answer some of them by teaching me how to compose via e-mail. In his first letter to me he said:

You have such depth and introspection in your writing, and I found your tenacity and inquisitiveness inspiring. I wish all my students tackled their musical questions as you do.

Bins of compact discs and handbills

Bins of Music Download Handbills and Compact Discs Outside My Cubicle

But even as I made progress with my music, I could see my dreams slipping away. I don't want to be a salaryman for the rest of my life. While my new job is enabling me both to pay my debts and build up some savings, it won't ever offer financial independence. It won't pay my way through music school.

No, to do that, I must finish Ogg Frog.

But doing so will come at a cost - I sleep at least twelve hours a night, sometimes more. So for now I'm giving up my piano practice - just until version 1.0 ships. It's going to take a long time for Ogg Frog's website to build up enough traffic to make much money from advertising. I need to get that started as soon as I can.

My Nemesis: Mister Sandman

I think I have a circadian rhythm disorder, possibly Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. I have always - even since I was a small child - preferred to stay up late and to sleep late. One reason I chose software engineering for my career was that programmers are often able to work flexible hours. I thought it was the only way I'd ever have a chance of holding a real job for any length of time.

But DSPS doesn't seem quite right, in that those who have it sleep a normal amount of time, just at a later time. I have always slept more than most people. Bonita says my sleep has been the worst this last year than ever; however before we met, there were times when depression led me to sleep round the clock.

I actually saw a sleep doctor back in 2001, when we lived in Maine. He was a pulmonary specialist - a lung doctor - who also treated sleep disorders, because one of the most common sleep disorders is sleep apnea, in which one stops breathing for short periods during sleep.

I had two sleep studies done, in which I slept in a sleep lab at a hospital while hooked up to all manner of instrumentation, including an electrocardiograph and electroencephalograph. After the first study, my doctor diagnosed me as having moderate obstructive sleep apnea.

The usual treatment for this is to use a Continuous Positive Air Pressure machine, in which one breathes slightly pressurized air through a mask that fits over one's nose. The pressure forces one's airways open. My second sleep study was done to determine the best pressure to set my CPAP machine at.

The CPAP machine did help, in that I often felt more rested when I awoke in the morning, but it didn't help at all with my circadian rhythm - I still had trouble falling asleep at night, and still preferred to stay up late and to sleep late. The doctor offerred no advice for that; a common experience reported on the Niteowl mailing list is that medical specialists who are supposedly experts on sleep disorders have no idea how to treat circadian rhythm disorders.

I found myself unable to use my CPAP machine at times because my nose would get stuffed up and I would be completely unable to breathe through it. Eventually I was able to stop using it, but it wasn't my doctor who told me how:

The sleep lab technician told me that obstructive sleep apnea was most common in middle-aged overweight men. At the time I weighted two-hundred fifty pounds. I was able to lose fifty of those pounds through low-carbohydrate diets, and, I'm pretty sure, my apnea disappeared - but not my sleep phase.

I managed to keep the weight off for several years, in part by bicycling, but I eventually gained much of it back because of my fondness for ice cream. I also didn't have my bicycle with me in Vancouver (Bonita is going to ship it to me in Silicon Valley soon). The last time I checked, I weighed two-thirty. Possibly my apnea has returned. I'd be willing to try my CPAP machine again, if some solution could be found for my nose stuffing up.

I have great hopes for doing something about my sleep, and soon: I just got the phone number for the new patient coordinator at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic. That's where the whole field of sleep study began.

That page says the clinic opens at eight-thirty in the morning. That's when I'll be calling to book my first appointment.

Maybe someday, there will be enough time for both my music and for my Free Software development.

Maybe there will be enough time for me to get what I really want out of life.

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