Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I presumed that it was completely normal, because my dad snored so loud it shook things in the house. All that changed when I had a sleep test in 2004. I discovered that how I slept had me at death's door and I never suspected it.
How many other brothas think the exact same thing about snoring. I found that most men think that snoring is normal -- WRONG.
My Sleep Apnea Story
My life went like this, I was always tired, but powered through life tasks. I had trouble staying awake in the movies, in church, while reading or sitting still anywhere or anytime. I had to take naps before driving any distance, because I was notorious for nodding while driving. At least three years before being tested, I would wake up during night soaking wet, from my body going through the apnea process of stop breathing, choking awake, falling asleep and choking awake ... all night long. I don't know how my wife endured all those years of my snoring, scaring her when I stopped breathing ... Jesus. We were so miserable.
I got the courage to press my doctor to prescribe me a sleep test. I received a sleep clinic diagnosis that determined that my blood oxygenation level was 'beyond dead.' Normal levels are 94-100. Danger levels begins at 88-89. Fellas, I was at 53. In my sleep I stopped breathing over 150 times an hour. I was suffering from hypoxemia. In my case, this blood level status played out as Severe Sleep Apnea.
The Apnea Journey
Apnea is the cessation/pause of breathing or very shallow breathing during sleep. When the brain realizes it NEEDS more air it forces the heart to beat faster and breathing rate increases and the body reacts like it has been in a race.
I have personally experienced my brain/body/lungs demanding air as I would choke awake. This is critically dangerous. Sleep Apnea can contribute high blood pressure and major heart issues, including heart attacks. There is a debate about the relationship between strokes and sleep apnea. Ha! There's no debate in my mind. I talk to brothas all over the nation and more and more of them are getting tested, and finding that they can get help that will change their life.
My personal belief is that sleep apnea is a major factor in strokes among Black men. I contend that the medical community does not seem to want us to know how sleep apnea is negatively impacting our culture. Do you know a brotha that just dropped dead from a stroke or a heart attack? If so, ask someone close to them if they were a heavy snorer; if they ever stopped breathing while sleeping; or if they had any of the symptoms I described earlier.
Black and Latino brothas are leaving here at an alarming rate from strokes and heart attacks that can be directly related to apneic sleep governing their very lives.
The sleep test changed my life ... for the better. GET TESTED.
The testing process was super simple. I arrived on a Wednesday after Bible Class. The guy at the sleep clinic was former special forces in Ireland, Jim. He patiently explained to me everything that was going to happen (I guess he could see my apprehension). He introduced me to terms like CPAP and BIPAP and answered all my questions (you know I did some research before going). He hooked me up with lots of EKG type connectors. I was given a quiet clinical room with a single bed and he basically monitored my sleep. At about 6 am he woke me up. I thought I had just nodded off until he told me what time is was. I looked out the window ans saw daylight.
When I tell you that the test was one of the best things that has ever happened to me in my life, I mean it. For the first time in YEARS, I had slept for 8 straight hours. I felt the best I had in YEARS. Gentlemen, I could not remember the last time that I had slept more than 1-2 hours at a time. Do you know what that does to your body, mind and spirit? Sleep was destroying me. The Lord sparred my life. Oh my God. It was glorious. I felt more alive than I could ever remember.
I received a prescription for a BIPAP machine that I use until this day. I travel with it at all times. I use it every night, nap, whatever.
Why I am Telling You all of This
I have been telling anyone/everyone that I know about my apnea experience. SLEEP APNEA IS MORE THAN JUST A DISORDER -- IT IS KILLING BROTHAS. Some brothas I've talked to have listened and been tested and gotten the treatment that works for them. Others have not been tested and are not here any longer ............. I know that God spared my life.
Medically, I am not supposed be here. Spiritually, I am on a mission to serve as the Lord He leads me. I've lost 50+ pounds, exercise and de-stress regularly, and I've completely changed my food intake behavior. No more reflux meds, HBP meds, cholesterol meds. I am respecting His temple.
I pray that if you or anyone that you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, do what you gotta do to get them to be tested. DO IT. Please do it. I know a lot of brothas no longer have insurance, but be a pest to whomever until the test is done ... it could save your life or the life of someone you care about.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
To the brother that asked me how do I talk to God, this is one way …
This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad for it throughout the day. I will magnify His name in my actions and thoughts. I will trust Him to guide my decisions. I will embrace His presence in my home, health, money, relationship, goals and secrets.
This day, however difficult, I will find a way to worship Him in mindset and deed. No matter what the struggle, I will trust that He has got my back … always. Even when I don’t feel or see Him, I know that He is with me/in me … listening, watching and caring.
I think God for mercy in my life. I thank God for grace during my lifetime. I thank God for giving me the will to be obedient.
This is one of my private daily affirmations. I say it when everything is going right AND when my faith is at its lowest/thinnest/weakest. Hope it helps someone,
Monday, August 10, 2009
Recently, multiple emails came from brothers in the UK, Chicago and here in LA. Main question: “how do I find my purpose?” I’m no expert on the subject, but below is my response to them, regarding what I know to be true in my life.
As the Lord has given me gifts and talents, I’ve learned to use them … all of them. The challenge is that many times, I forgot that I was not in control, but was simply a steward. I knew that, but it took a while for the reality to bounce around in my thick skull. I see now, at 49, that my purpose is inextricably woven to my gifts.
Today, I strive to do everything that God gives me to do, using my gifts and talents. Inherent in my gifting is a call to serve; a call to be a disciple … a cat that must do whatever it is with a sense of urgency. We never know who or what circumstance is depending on our obedience and sacrifice.
Don’t get it twisted; I’m not the ‘walk up to you in the mall and witness about the Lord’ (although I have done it). I am called to share what Christ reveals to me, in as creative a way as possible. A learned Noel Jones or scholarly Thomas Jakes is not my profile, but I am working to be a great Juan Roberts. Determined to serve with humility in whatever capacity God deems fit for me.
Through fear, trepidation, confusion or rejection, I trust Him to guide my footsteps each new day through the ebbs and valleys of life. I have learned to never waist a minute getting to an assignment. As Bishop Jakes says, 'I step into each moment.' When He says go -- I MOVE. I encourage anyone reading this to work your gift with zeal to the fullest. Please know that within your active faith is your purpose.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Ok, after 7 years of marriage, Raymond put his hands on his wife. He did not intend to, but the fact is that he did.
As I chat with Ray, he explains that he was dealing with some stuff at work and with a crazy neighbor. His wife had a tendency to jump in his face as soon as he crossed the threshold with the stuff of her day. This particular day was not the day for him to hear more of anything negative.
Before he knew it, he had her up against the refrigerator scratching at his arm as he held her tight by her neck, with only her tiptoes touching the floor. He doesn’t remember what was said to him or if he responded. He never heard the kids crying his name or even the dog barking at him.
He comes to himself. His reaction to the choking is that of a husband finding another man assaulting his wife, he yanks his own hand away and forcibly takes himself to the basement and stays for hours.
Ray just knew that the next steps he would hear coming down the stairs would be the cops. What seems like hours later, as he sits in complete darkness, the house above him is unusually silent – no video games, no running, jumping, laughing … not even TV. It is as though his entire family had left him. He fully expected them to disown him.
Then, he began to smell food being prepared. The nuances of home life began to peek back into existence. Just then the basement door opens. His wife begins to descend to his ‘perch of shame’ under the stairs. She meekly sits next to him in silence. Before long she slowly slides her hand onto his head and begins to pray. She covers his outburst, asks God to restore him and ends with a powerful prayer of forgiveness.
Fast-forward 25 years >>> Raymond and Simone are celebrating their 25th anniversary with family and friends. Speeches are going around the room aimed towards the happy couple. Raymond stands to toast his wife, but nothing comes out right away. He looks deeply into the eyes of the woman that has covered him with prayer ever since that day. She begins to get misty. Their 5 children make their way to their parents and they all melted into a group hug that fills the room with tears, praise and prayer. It is a profound ‘God moment.’
Raymond’s testimony helps me appreciate my wife more and more. She has covered me with prayer through some difficult times. While I was trying to be saved in corporate America or helping hundreds of people in a myriad of ways -- only to be burned. Even through devastating family tragedies. I have made arrogant headstrong mistakes and she still props me up when I want to give up from the self-induced pressure. Strong woman. My hero.
Thank you Sweetness.
Thank you Jesus
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Proverbs 15:4 guides me when responding to anyone, but especially to Christians. When it comes to men of faith, I’ve learned that it is imperative to be very straight in these modern times. This site offers a genuine heterosexual ‘wiping away of tears’ from the spiritual warfare triage all around men of faith.
Can you feel what is happening? God is revealing to us that it is our choice to speak destiny into one another rather than ‘what WE think is right.’ The Lord compels us all to reach out and uplift our brothers -– this site is a testament to me being obedient to the Lord’s calling. As disciples, He has given us the freedom to be another brother’s miracle. Personally, ‘humble’ is not strong enough a word to define how it feels. In fact, me putting my name on anything in ministry, especially anything as public and this site is daunting.
Andrew Murray describes humility this way, ‘…without humility, there can be no true abiding in God’s presence, or experience of His favor and the power of His spirit.’ By uplifting others, I find Christ in the midst of my words and He heals me. I need Him now more than ever. Each of us can do the same. All of us can be our brother’s keeper. Indeed.
Read all of Proverbs 15. It's powerful.