My Wonder Drug

For years, I have complained to various doctors about being tired. After a long list of tests including a sleep study, it was determined that I have sleep apnea. For the past year, I have used a CPAP. I am so used to that breathing device that I wouldn’t go to sleep without it. It isn’t that my sleep apnea is life-threatening, since I have a mild case of it. Having said that, I want to do all that I can to get as much sleep as possible per night. If I don’t, it will only exacerbate my being sleepy in the middle of the day.

So, you get that I am often sleepy. Before you start conjuring up in your mine that I look like Sleepy Smurf, that ain’t me. While my favorite color is blue, I am driven.

That ain’t me.

While I am sharing with you some of my various medical and psychological issues, allow me to give you some additional data, which caused my motivation over many decades. A couple of years after my father returned from WWII, we moved from Pennsauken, NJ to Pittsburgh, PA where my father got a promotion. My father wasn’t able to go to college due to the war, but he wanted to provide for his three boys a good education, which would benefit them when they went to college. He asked a realtor which community in the Pittsburgh area had the best schools. The answer was Mt. Lebanon. Indeed, it was the best in the Pittsburgh area. In fact, it was the 19th best school system in the entire country. Additionally, it was the wealthiest community in all of Western Pennsylvania.

I learned two things while I lived in Mt. Lebanon: I was dumb and poor. While it took me half of my life to realize that I was neither, Mt. Lebanon still affects me. I’m still teaching at a local college. In addition, I am in the process of attempting to raise a half-million dollars for 1250 laptops for the two schools that my three granddaughters attend in Myanmar (formerly Burma). I also need to get the Internet reception improved a great deal.

Another curse which turned into a blessing were my two dances with death. A traumatic brain injury and prostate cancer, which spread beyond the prostate, were both treated successfully. However, they taught me an extremely important lesson of life, which is that my clock is ticking. Live life now; you won’t have it forever.

In addition, I am generally right-brained. I’m into the arts, imagination, and see things from a global perspective. I tend not to enjoy details, and I jump from one thing to another before completing the task. I also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which compounds floating between various daily activities.

I hope that I have established that I am driven and active in life unrelated to sleep apnea. I went to a neurologist several months ago. I told him why I had made my appointment with him, because I was tired all too often. Ironically, even though I was tired most of the time, when I go to bed around 11pm, I can’t get to sleep. That seeming paradoxes rattled me. If I’m sleepy all the time, I ought to go to sleep late at night. It seems counterintuitive that I need sleep aids to go to sleep when I can doze off while watching TV at dinnertime.

My neurologist asked several questions and then inquired whether I had heard of Modafinil, which is the generic name for Provigil. I hadn’t. It seems that this pill is a wonder drug for many people. As my doctor listed some of the attributes, I couldn’t believe the diverse therapeutic things that it can address. He gave me a prescription for 90-days.

I took Modafinil for three or four weeks without any positive or negative effects. However, I did notice that I wasn’t complaining about being tired all the time. Therefore, I assumed that it was working. After I refilled Modafinil after the first month, that little white pill kicked into gear. Not only was I not tired and sleepy much of the time, but I was able to focus and concentrate on teaching, writing, and normal daily activities.

Here are a couple of examples. I have a former colleague that I worked with four decades ago. She sent me a birthday card out of the blue. Interestingly, when I called her after receiving the birthday card, it was like two people attempting to catch up with forty years of not talking…however, both of us were talking at the same time. Additionally, there was something more than that. I asked her whether she had danced with death. She had, but it was the experience of going down the tunnel.

In the next few weeks, she will visit me in Crown Point. My colleague wanted to thank people for helping her decades ago as she went down her yellow brick road of life. She told me about her trip several months ago, which was before I started on Modafinil. Back then, I mentioned that I will have to clean up the house before her arrival. My house isn’t a mess, but I am honored by her journey to thank me and merely want my digs to look more than merely presentable. I began that task a couple of months prior to Modafinil. After taking the drug, my making the house and yard presentable is on steroids.

In all seriousness, while I want to show my former colleague appreciation for her visit, much of my work is geared toward placating myself as much as showing her deference. For example, about a dozen years ago I planted a Pyracantha bush in my backyard. It grew to be a huge bush about ten feet high and eight feet in diameter. However, over the past couple years, my Pyracantha bush danced with death. I needed to cut it down. So, I rented a chainsaw from a local home and garden store. A couple of decades ago, I lived in a wooded area and had a couple of chainsaws, but I gave them away when I moved.

The rental’s chainsaw was a state-of-the-art device. However, the bar that holds the chain tight kept loosening, resulting in the chain slipping off the bar. There I was, on a hot August day, attempting to tighten the bar. However, the chainsaw wasn’t like what I was used to years ago. Nevertheless, I tried and failed. I tried another way and failed. For about an hour, I noticed that I repeatedly tried and was not succeeding. In the midst of the hot summer day, I noticed how focused I was. Prior to Modafinil, I would have quit after several failed attempts. I tried again, and it worked fine. I cut down the bush successfully. I not only removed a large, dead eye-sore, but I felt successful accomplishing fixing the chainsaw about which I wasn’t familiar.

Another example is that I write a great deal. I love the creation of ideas. I call it thinking outside the box. I have been able to morph together seemingly different ideas together into an article. I have been able to do that for years. However, I noticed recently that I am able to do that far more often due to Modafinil.

A Modafinil Smurf

In my last essay, I wanted to discuss the importance of overseas travel. I happened to be reading a quote about travel that Maya Angelou wrote. “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

While that is a great truism, that single quote exploded into two additional writers’ notions about travel. Those two other writers were George Santayana and Muhammad. It wasn’t long before I pivoted and mentioned that those three writers were representatives of people that our fake president doesn’t like: blacks, Hispanics, and Muslims.

My next appointment with my neurologist is in a couple weeks. He will read this essay about my wonder drug. I still get tired but not as often. I can focus on things better than I ever have. I’m more mentally alert. I feel good that I am more productive and driven.

I am alive!