Monthly Archives: December 2008

>Yin Yang Year

>Happy New Year! It occurred to me today, as I drove around Saint Paul (and the Twin Cities) like a mad man, that I should spend some time reflecting on this past year. It is breathtaking to realize that one year ago I could feel hope slipping away yet again. In fact, as I entered January of 2008, I was sure that the stimulant I was on was not strong enough. Then, when I tried amphetamine for the first time, I was convinced the wheels had completely come off of the wagon. My hands began “sweating,” and I found myself in a complete spiral. Somehow, I held things together, but I also missed my most school in January and February. The dyshidrotic eczema was driving me nuts, and I seriously thought that I might need to quit teaching. I also remained completely exhausted.

Even when I got my hands under control, I had a swollen testicle again and felt horribly run down. Still, the worst was yet to come. As February ended and March began, I found myself at a low water mark. I hated going to work and knew that my classes were toxic to me. I had started on my amphetamine, but my knees were in extreme pain. My weight was barely hovering at 150 pounds. And, with the start of the third trimester, I found myself completely lost. My schedule and pattern at school had changed and it took me three weeks to get my bearings. All of it had me beside myself. Then, we went to D.C. for the Fools Fest, and the worm turned.

Initially, I was convinced it was the end of the world. I could barely walk up the hill to the fields. I didn’t even go to the fields on the second day. It was wonderful to see my friends from college, but I was depressed beyond belief. It looked like narcolepsy, or my body, or something was going to take ultimate from me too. Yet, as I returned from D.C., I seemed to have a little more hope. Perhaps it was seeing our friends, or maybe it was my deepest self getting fed up, or perhaps it was the arrival of spring, but I came home with a small fire in my belly.

The first piece of good news was that my knees were okay. I needed physical therapy, but I had been convinced something was torn. Then, I found Facebook and started this blog. Suddenly, I was discussing my narcolepsy and connecting with others. At school, I finally recognized how toxic my course load was and owned it. I came to terms that I would be unhappy for the rest of the year, and that made things lighter. I also turned my focus to the new course that promised to be much better for the 2008-2009 school year (and it has been). Finally, I began, for the first time in my life, to accept that I am a finite person. I can’t be all things to all people. I must be content to do what my body allows.

As the school year ended, I finally got to a MOONS meeting. I signed up for the Narcolepsy Network. I got excited that MITY was approaching. At the same time, I had to confront again and again my tendency to overestimate how much strength I had. Ultimate remained frustrating, and I never did find a way to get back in shape. Eventually, I had to step away from ultimate. I still don’t know if I will be able to play competitively again, but am much more at peace with that. I also had many dark days when I turned all of my ire inward. But in processing those moments, I found more and more ways to forgive myself.

These last few months have been incredible. While there is still so much that I must learn about myself, about narcolepsy, about how to find peace, I know that I am on the right path. The most important lesson I have learned in the past year is that I can’t control a vast majority of my world, but I can control my reaction to the world around me. I need to roll with the realities of my life. I need to breathe. I need to take each day, one moment at a time. Hopefully, as good as the end of 2008 has been, it is only the beginning. The more content I am, the more I am able to embrace the world.


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Filed under Blessings, Blogging, Emotions, Exercise, Faith, Gratitude, Humility, Joy, Narcolepsy, Sharing, Support, Ultimate, Wisdom

>Tremendous Teammates

>I thoroughly enjoyed my four days in Duluth, although the drive home was a tad taxing. We were in snow and on snow covered roads for most of the trip. Fortunately, we got home safely. One element of the entire Duluth trip (that surprised me) was how often I invoked the name of my two teaching colleagues. I know that my attitude and approach to life is significantly better. Simply put, I am coming to terms with what it means to have narcolepsy. That said, though, I know that this year has been one of my best teaching experiences because I work with two amazing individuals.

Both of my co-teachers place their students ahead of everything else. They are full of compassion and truly listen to what students have to say. At the same time, they demand excellence from every students. Both know that students have a wide range of abilities, and they lavish praise upon each one, but want to push each student to her or his best. That means even more work for the teacher, but my teammates know those efforts will make a massive difference in helping these young women and men maximize potential. Beyond all of this, they love to have fun. Our classroom constantly resonates with laughter and joy.

The gentleman who handles social studies recently became a father. I know that he will be amazing as a parent. He has lived a tough life, but constantly looks for ways to learn from his experiences. He is also a tremendous practitioner of sound educational theory. He scientifically approaches every lesson and works to match his material to his students’ developmental levels. Best of all, he holds himself to the high standards that he asks of his students. Justice permeates everything that he does. He even puts his own money on the line to help his students understand the importance of justice.

Our religion teacher is perhaps even more remarkable. She is still in her 20s, but has the wisdom of a 50 or 60 year old. Her calm, sage presence draws students to her. And, she holds each student in her heart and in her prayers. Her warmth and friendliness work in stunning unison with the rigorous demands that she also puts on the students. She pushes them, but also feeds their souls. I know that these young women and men will live significantly richer lives because they had her as their teacher. Best of all, she provides our ninth graders collegiate content in a form they can grasp.

I also adore that both of my colleagues see writing as the most important thing that any of can do in our classroom. In fact I would be hard pressed to say which of us is the most demanding within our grading of the writing. Regardless, our students are getting a great education because we do work together. I feel incredibly blessed to work with these two teachers. It remains a struggle to do even this course with my narcolepsy, but the knowledge that I have these two standing with me gives me strength.

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>Dalliance Day

>What a good, but low-key (and weird), day. I got up and definitely felt better. Of course, my bowels did remind me all day that I was not completely out of the woods. Still, the fever and aches were gone – hooray! I had a small breakfast in the hotel lobby and then spent the morning doing things online. Eventually, we all headed out to see my grandmother. We had a nice lunch with her. Invariable, our manic genes all came out in someways. A few years ago, my mother, my grandmother, my sister, and I ALL tried to get things out to “help” get a meal ready. The kitchen we were in was literally 3 feet by 8 feet. Needless to say, 4 adults in that space doesn’t work well. Today, it was mostly my mom and grandmother trying to out do each other, but I know that my sister and I both still feel the compulsion.

Lunch was great, though. It was leftovers from the party that I missed yesterday. My aunt came over when we finished. It was wonderful to see her too. After another hour of chit-chat, my dad, my sister, my daughter, and I headed out so grandma could do some “things” with her daughters. We headed to a local shopping spot in Duluth. It is actually a renovated brewery (Fitger’s). My sister, my daughter, and I had a glorious time browsing the stories. We even did some window shopping outside (which is funny because the temp was below freezing) that lead us to some excellent chocolate. My dad called up a high school and college buddy. They decided to meet at a restaurant next to the shopping center.

The only “bad” part about my dad’s plan is that it easily could have (and did) upset my mother. Their relationship constantly perplexes me. Like me, my mom seems to have extreme anxiety and tends to want to “take care” of everything. My dad, on the other hand, tends to be oblivious to how much he can upset her, or at other times purposely tries to antagonize her. Fortunately, by the time we picked up my mom, she had decided that the restaurant would be a good place to eat. Plus, my sister and I figured that she too would love to she their mutual friends. That is another trait I know that I share with my mother – the inability to allow oneself to enjoy a situation.

The dinner was good, but toward the end things got dicey. My daughter was completely out of place and wanted to head back to the hotel. Plus, my dad and one of his buddies kept talking to her, which she was not so keen about. Gratefully, we did get out of there before she completely melted down. Back at the hotel, I went swimming with her and had fun just hanging out. The hotel we are at has s’more cookouts every night. A s’more is marshmallows and chocolate between two graham crackers. Usually, you heat the marshmallows over hot coals. Not wanting to stand outside tonight, my daughter and I decide we would heat the marshmallows in the microwave in our room. Now, we are enjoying a quiet evening in the room.

Throughout the day, I did feel a bit ill still. I also knew that my narcolepsy was dragging me down some. But, I rolled with the moments and stayed present with each event. In many ways, I did very little, but I also did tons of things. I connected with people – online, in person, over the phone. I had fun in active and passive ways. I rested. I exercised (walking and swimming). It was a simple day and a great day. Far too often, those two are treated as opposites, when they are far better as synonyms. We head home tomorrow, and while I expect more tension (particularly from my parents), I also know that the journey home will be fun. I am looking forward to seeing my wife. I am also excited and hopeful about where this next year will take us.

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>Sick Sad Sunday

>Apparently, when your spouse gets sick, it means you can potentially get the same thing. Whatever messed up my wife’s stomach on December 26 got me too. I spent all day yesterday feeling horrid. Thankfully, I am much better today. My bowels are still dicey, but at least I feel like I can eat something. Also, I don’t ache everywhere. I think the most frustrating thing was that even extra strength acetaminophen did not seem to help – yuck!

The bright spot in the day, though, is that I simply gave into the sickness. My grandmother was having a large gathering of family. While I was sad to miss it, I didn’t feel bad about that. Nor did I feel rotten about spending a day in bed. I “could’ve” tried to do schoolwork, but I know I would not have been focused. I simply chose to lay down and read a book. That was good for me too. As I have said so often lately, even a year ago, I might have tried to fight through the illness. But, I know enough now to realize that being somewhere absolutely miserable is not helpful to anyone, let alone to me.

Plus, I will get to see some of the folks over the next day or two. My sister, my daughter, my parents, and I are still in Duluth until tomorrow. It should be fun to have a few more low key days. I think I am also enjoying taking smaller doses of my stimulants right now. It is definitely making me more relaxed and low key. Of course, I remain convinced that I will need to return to nearly full doses when school re-starts in a week. But, that is seven days a way. I plan to enjoy my break until then!

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Filed under Emotions, Empathy, Exhaustion, Frustration, Healing, Illness, Insights, Marriage, Narcolepsy, Wisdom

>Quiet Calm

>Occasionally, I am lucky enough to realize how great my life is. Yes, I have a chronic illness. Yes, many things that I loved to do have been “taken” from me. Yes, I all too often can’t be the husband, dad, son, brother, friend, teacher, athlete, man, or person that I want to be. But, I am blessed. I have a good life. My partner loves me despite my many flaws. The young woman we are raising continually blows my mind with her brilliance, wisdom, and compassion. I also have tons for friends, a job I love, and innumerable joys that dancing in and out of my life.

Today has been a great day to reflect on all of that. My wife feels much better and her stomach thing truly appears to be a 24-hour bug. We enjoyed a lazy morning of getting ready for our trip to Duluth. The ride up was also enjoyable. I had rich, earnest conversations with the love of my life and my parents. Even when we arrived in Duluth and my parents began acting like petulant teens, the Bed and Breakfast we are at is one of my favorite places in all the world. Then, we had Sammy’s Pizza (yum, but I do need to stop eating gluten again SOON) and had a lovely night with my grandmother, who is nearing ninety.

Now, I am in the sitting room of the B & B. My wife is resting upstairs, my daughter is having fun with my dad, I just had a lovely cup of mint tea, and many dear friends sent me notes on Facebook. My mother (oddly, but not surprisingly) is cleaning and organizing things in the B & B. It’s who she is. I do hope to chat with her soon about mental health, but tonight would not be a good time. I am sure she has had some brandy, and she is furious with my dad because of something that happened when they left Portland. Hopefully, they will both enjoy each other’s company tomorrow.

Maybe, what I am most grateful for tonight is that I continue to activity work to have a healthy mental outlook. So much of what I see in my mother, I also know is in me. But, I work daily to challenge those traits and to let go of the compulsion to “take care” of the world. I do hope that talking to her will get her to consider therapy and medication, but I feel grounded enough to know that I can’t control what she does. I can only control my reaction. Both my parents have been driving me nuts tonight, but I still salvaged my evening. I turned my attention and energy to things that matter to me, rather than spending it on their problems. Ironically, their actions and behaviors (irritating as they are) also qualify as gifts to me. I continue to learn from them, even at forty. Granted, I am learning how NOT to act, but it is a gift nonetheless.

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>Family Frenzy

>My parents are here. Generally, that is a good thing, but this evening, my mother won’t stop moving. It is great that someone is doing all of the cleaning, but I wish she could let herself relax. I must admit, however, that I am feeling minimal guilt about the situation. In the past, I think I might have tried to compete with her, but the reality is that I did WAY more than my share today. I had to do that and was proud to be able to help out, but making my kitchen spotless is simply not in the cards for me tonight. If my mom feels compelled to do it, more power to her. Actually, her actions confirm that I need to talk to her about her mental health, but that is a discussion for Duluth in a few days, or during a quiet walk next weekend.

Beyond my mother’s manic antics, the day has been another eyeopener for me. I awoke this morning knowing that my wife might need me to do the shopping for our second Christmas. We had our own yesterday, opening our presents to each other and the ones from my wife’s family. But, with my parents arriving last night, today was the celebration with them and my sister and her husband. Given that my wife had done virtually everything in the house during my medication holiday, I was more than willing to pick up some of the slack. Sadly, my wife needed way more from me than just some shopping. She has a stomach bug and spent the entire day in bed, other than a couple trips to vomit and a brief appearance during the gift exchange. My wife rarely gets sick like this, and part of the reason is that she abhors vomiting.

Thus, as I left on my shopping excursion, I knew I was likely doing the cooking today too. I chose again today to only take 10 mg this morning. I felt alert while driving and even decided to hit the 50% off sale at Target before getting the groceries. I got some great stuff there, then picked up some prescriptions, and finally hit the grocery store. All in all, my quick trip turned into a three hour adventure. I arrived home to a sicker wife and guests who might arrive at any moment. I got stuff put away and started cooking. My mom helped, and when my sister arrived, so did she. We eventually got everything prepared, and I took my second dose of 10 mg at 2 PM.

It blew my mind that I did all of that with only 10 mg of amphetamine. I know that I tend to respond well to “crisis” situations, but I am positive that seven days ago, 10 mg of amphetamine would have put me to sleep even if my house was on fire! This medication holiday thing borders on the miraculous. Granted, I was basically done for the day at 2 PM. Even with the second dose, I was exhausted. Still, I managed to be social and functional for the rest of the day. Since it is likely that I will be doing the driving tomorrow, I will need to consider 20 mg instead of 10 mg in the morning, but we are leaving at 1 PM, so maybe I will take 10 mg for the first dose and see how I feel. I know that my doses will need to go up when school starts again. I also know that I will definitely continue to take medication holidays. Now, if I can just find a way to stop having my mom do work!

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Filed under Excitement, Exhaustion, Family, Gratitude, Hope, Insights, Medication Holiday, Narcolepsy, Parenting, Relationships, Wisdom

>Merry Madness

>I ended the medication holiday this morning. I didn’t get out of bed until 9 AM, but part of that was waiting for my daughter to get up. How cool is it that my daughter was the last one to wake up on Christmas morning? I have a super cool kid. We had to wait to go out to the kitchen and living room because our daughter wanted to see our reactions. Apparently, she decorated from midnight until 2 AM. It was impressive! She made a wonderful banner and set out ALL of her stuffed animals. So, I took my first dose of amphetamine at 9 AM.

The most amazing thing, though, is that I only took 10 mg. I did take a second dose at 3 PM, but once again it was only 10 mg. I know that I would have needed more if I had been teaching today, but I love that the medication holiday worked well enough that I could take a third of my typical dose and feel highly functional all day. We had a glorious time opening gifts this morning. We then got going on work. My wife did nap, but I managed to keep going throughout the afternoon. I washed dishes, cleaned the bathroom, put a number of things away, and even organized a huge pile of stuff that has been sitting around for months. The work was spread out over hours, and I made sure that I did not overdo anything. Still, I am stunned by my level of productivity.

The best part of the day came this evening. My folks are in town and arrived around 9 PM. I was still finishing up some of my sorting, but it was awesome to talk to them. My sister and brother-in-law also decided to hang out for a while. We will all be together again tomorrow for a second Christmas (yippee). More than anything, though, it was super cool to connect with my parents in a relaxed way. I also got the chance to show my dad number of things on the computer – TED talks, iTunes U, Radio Heartland, and the final broadcast material from MPR’s Morning Show. He was stunned, and I was thrilled that I provided him some meaningful items that he will truly enjoy.

I need to get to sleep, but it was a great day. I was already pleased with my medication holiday, but the realities of today clearly proved that I made a brilliant decision in taking the time off from my amphetamine. Clearly, the break from my stimulant has helped my body in a number of ways. Best of all, I know that a third of my normal dose gave me plenty of energy. It is incredible to learn that a brief respite from my regular routine can have such a drastic impact on functionality.

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