A 'tortured artist' no more

Friday, November 22, 2013

For years, artist and writer Gregory Scheckler suffered from morning migraines, mild depression and fatigue. A life-changing diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea in 2005 made Scheckler realize the impact his lack of sleep had on his art and writing. He recently published an ebook, “Noisy Street: New York City Poems and Images, 1990-2002,” that reflects that unsettled time in his life.

HME News: Was it difficult for you to adjust to CPAP therapy?

Gregory Scheckler: Actually, adjusting to CPAP wasn’t difficult at all. I slept so much better with it that I couldn’t stand sleeping without it. The ramp feature helps, slowly increasing the pressure while you fall asleep, and so does the dehumidifier. By the time I was diagnosed with OSA, I’d pretty much given up on finding any decent respite from headaches. But with the CPAP, I almost never have morning headaches anymore, so my motivation to keep using the CPAP is strong.

HME: How did OSA impact your daily life and creative pursuits?

Scheckler: Prior to treatment, I slept so poorly that I woke up a lot, and as such, remembered a lot of dreams. Many of these were frequent sources of content for my writing and painting. As a result of treatment, I had a lot more concentration and energy throughout the day. What a surprise! I stopped being a night owl and became an early riser, refreshed and ready to work, write or paint whatever the day required. I’m no longer a “tortured artist.”

HME: How does your book reflect how you suffered from OSA?

Scheckler: There’s a lot of dream-like or hallucinatory content in “Noisy Street,” such as in the final sequence of poems regarding dreaming of hiking in the mountains while trying to sleep in New York City. The time period of the book—1990-2002—was all pre-diagnosis and contains a more fractured, fast scene-change writing style that reflected interrupted sleep patterns, I think. Today, the structure strikes me as symptomatic of what were then unknown underlying health issues. Sometimes I wonder, what would’ve been written without the filter of sleep disturbances?