I am required to wear a CTO vest when I ride in a vehicle. CTO stands for Cervical Thoracic Orthotic. There is a photo of it on the right hand column of this page.
I can think of two reasons for this requirement: first, to help save my life if we are in an accident. Getting rear-ended or any other violent collision would spell death for me, given the state of my C1 and ligaments. In other words, I guess it wouldn't take much to cause it to break again.
Secondly, the orthotic is supposed to hold the weight of my head up off the compressed nerves of my Cspine. I know that it does something. It has an effect on me and not all of it is good.
Very often, while I am bundled up in the CTO, I feel an overwhelming need to fall asleep. I know from experience what will result from this, therefore I struggle against this magnetic pull. I feel like I am in a POW's cell and my tormentor comes to the door and opens it. I know what will happen when he leads me through that door and I do not want to go. He takes me down a long, long dark hallway with no light at the end. Helpless am I to prevent the inevitable from happening.
What happens within my brain as I slip into sleep, I cannot tell. Once again, words fail me to express what I am going through. I doze in a sort of straight up posture within the vest and apparatus which, with the help of four aluminum rods, holds my head in a position that must not be altogether good.
My metaphorical tormentor leads me down that dark hallway until we pass through a garden of rest and light dreams but next, we cross the courtyard and enter through the doorway to pain that is indescribable. That doorway is the reason I never wanted to fall asleep in this device in the first place. Because, within the walls of the room I enter, incredible torture awaits and there is nothing I can do but deal with it.
What I'm referring to here is the moment I wake up from the light sleep within the CTO. My brain hurts in a way that is nothing like a headache at all. It's neurons misfiring, circuits shorting, eyes that cannot focus, the world and I are not a part of each other. The earth is spinning one way, and I'm spinning the opposite but I do not mean you to take this literally. It isn't like anything is spinning actually, it's a burning, painful (but "pain" is not really the right word for what I feel--it is beyond pain, a hurting in a foreign way) out-of-body experience. I am weak beyond words. My legs and feet are electrified. But my biggest torture, perhaps the "Rack" of all the devices of Medieval treachery, is the misfiring of my brain cells.
I tell my husband at times like this, "I really don't feel good." But he says nothing. He has heard me voice such things several times a day every day for years. He knows that this moment will pass and in a little bit, I'll be okay, or at least, will appear much better to his eyes. There is no way that he can "get it." I hold him blameless.
I know the situation will pass. My captor will take me out of the chamber and down the dark hallway, thrust me back into my cell where I can lie on the rotted floor, catch my breath, allow cells to realign and reposition, and eventually drag myself back up to my knees and onto the dirty cot in the corner.
This must sound quite dramatic to the reader. But I can say with pure honesty that how I'm painting this is not even close to what it feels like to go through. Again, "there are no round words to fit into a square vocabulary." (www.painonline.com)
I resist falling asleep at these times (obviously, I do not drive. I have not driven since February, when I got the Draconian device). But succumbing to this slumber is not within my control. Something is physically compressed and something neurologically occurs and no doctor listens or tries to understand. I had someone ask my surgeon for me why this happens and he said that many people sleep in the CTO because the neck and head can finally relax when the orthotic takes over the job of holding things up, battling against gravity. But that doesn't explain the painful misfiring that forces me unwillingly into the loneliest of places: a no-man's land where no one has been and no one understands.