Category Archives: Narcolepsy Network

Ready to Return

While I have no idea if anyone has visited my blog at all recently, I feel like the fog and haze of the past three years is finally lifting. I decide in February (with much consultation with my amazing and wonderful wife) that I needed to leave my teaching job that I have had for the past 20 years. While my health certainly played a role in the my struggles of the past three years, the reality is that my job had become a deeply toxic environment for me. While I still love my colleagues, my students, and the essential nature of teaching, the leadership and decision-making of my former school continued to drag me lower and lower into depression and frustration.

After I turned in my resignation, I felt a tremendous weight lift, but I still needed to finish the school year. Things went well, but the experience remained overwhelming. In the midst of all of that chaos, more and more signs clarified for me that I made the correct decision. While the school leadership seemed completely nonplussed by my resignation, the much clearer (and far more positive) message came in the form of potential new positions. From my classroom experiences of the last five years, I knew that my next job would involve technology integration, rather than direct student instruction. I had not planned to do any job searching until the school year ended, but potential positions kept finding me. I was interviewed for two positions in public school settings, and although I did not get those jobs, I was not only flattered, but also realized that I was definitely qualified to be a technology integration specialist. Then, as a result of submitting some of those other applications, a friend and former colleague offered me a position at a Catholic grade school. I took the job and started there on August 1 of this year. Even though the school year has not officially begun (and there is a great deal of work to do), I know (without any doubt) that I have made the right choice. I am significantly more at peace and in a far more supportive and well run environment. The added bonus is that my new colleagues are also more open as a group in pursuing technology integration.

Underscoring these positive professional changes, my personal life has also improved markedly. I made the decision to engage in professional therapy again at the end of the school year, in large part because of the impact my previous job was having on my family. The experience has been and continues to be tremendously rewarding. I have found myself, particularly in the past three weeks, looking at the world in a far healthier and more balanced way than I ever have in the past. My therapist is wonderful — in his ability to support me, to draw out my emotions, and to challenge my previously established views of myself and the world. What is most remarkable is that my therapist  has helped me to confront some of the darkest message that I send myself and to integrate them into who I am, allowing me to feel far better about myself. After many years of experiencing joy infrequently, at best, I fins myself overwhelmed by joy on a daily basis.  It has been glorious, to say the least. Even more importantly, all of this has made my relationships with my wife and daughter stronger than ever.

I am thrilled that I my life and world are in such transition and upheaval. And, I am proud to be posting to this blog once again. My goal is to post at least once a week. It will be good for me on many levels, and I still believe that it is important for me to explore and process how narcolepsy impacts my life. As was the case when I began this blog long ago, if no one else reads this, that is just fine. Nonetheless, I do hope that I can help a few other PWNs (and other folks with sleep issues) in some small way. On that note, I am already signed up for this year’s Narcolepsy Network Annual Patient Conference in Atlanta from October 18-20. Hope to see others there!

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Filed under Balance, Blessings, Education, Emotions, Excitement, Healing, Honesty, Hope, Humility, Joy, Love, My story, Narcolepsy, Narcolepsy Network, Non-narcolepsy stress, Relationships, Support, Therapy, Wisdom

Back to Blogging

I find myself in Las Vegas at the Narcolepsy Network Annual Patient Conference, and I can only wonder why I have not been writing more. Unfortunately, I have drifted away from many of the activities that have helped me manage this condition best. Fortunately, I have moments like this conference to remind me of WHY I need to blog about narcolepsy and its impact on my life. In fact, I even got to attend a session here that featured one of my heroes, the author of REM Runner, THE BEST narcolepsy blog on the Internet. Her session was fantastic because it reminded me that this blog is, first and foremost, my space for coping with my condition. I remain thrilled that others have benefitted from my story, but more than anything, I need to write about my narcolepsy because the disease makes my life difficult.
The other excellent aspect of REM Runner’s session was the room was filled with other bloggers with narcolepsy (BWNs?). It is incredible to know that numerous people with this condition are helping to tell our collective story in cyberspace. And, getting to spend even 75 minutes in person with them is inspirational. Plus, it reminds me that I am not alone in my struggles.
On that note, the road has certainly been difficult for much of the past year. I continue to feel overwhelmed by my life, partly because I am constantly trying to do more than my body wants to allow me to do. And, I have also let some of my health regimen slide. My two goals for the remainder of 2011 are to make my health more of a priority and to begin regular exercise again. Those two items must be a priority for me. Prioritizing my own health will bring numerous rewards, not the least of which is finding some outlets, like this blog, for the constant frustrations that I am feeling. The exercise will be even more important, though, because my physical strength and endurance has fallen precipitously, making every day a little tougher than it should be. Nonetheless, I continue to feel fortunate for the many blessings that I have in my own life. Truth be told, I have a great job that attempts to accommodate my narcolepsy, an amazing wife who constantly supports me, and a wonderful daughter who is doing the best she can to understand my limitations.
Beyond all of that, I am also lucky that I have been able to attend the Narcolepsy Network Patient Conference every year since I found out about it. This year, it is being held in Las Vegas, and while certain aspects of the venue and the organization are grating on me, it is glorious to see old friends and to make new ones. I definitely feel like I am doing the best that I have ever done in terms of getting rest and not overtaxing myself. I also feel good that I am finding ways to contribute without driving myself into the ground. The reality is that I enjoy helping others, but so often give too much of myself away in the process. At least here, I genuinely believe that I am maintaining a good balance. Heck, I am not even beating myself up for blowing off multiple sessions so I can rest in my room.
Thus, as dark as things have seemed lately, I know I am glimpsing some light for the first time in a long time. And, I am certain that I will not be seven months until I post again.

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Filed under Heroes, Narcolepsy, Narcolepsy Network, Sharing

Bite Size Blogging

Apparently, today is moving day! As I mentioned in my previous post, Bite Size Life is a promising, new location on the web for narcolepsy support. I have been intending for sometime to get my blog transferred there, but the stars refused to align. Suddenly, as so often happens in my life, everything came together within an hour of my previous post. Thus, Narcoleptic Knights can now be found at www.narcolepticknights.bitesizelife.com. Hopefully, I am bright enough that I can continue to have the posts I write there, show up here too. The good news is that ALL of my Blogger posts are already on the bitesizelife. com site! Hooray! I do hope that this change does not cause major problems, but I am excited for a new adventure. Also, I am more determined than ever to provide some live blogging from the Narcolepsy Network conference. Cheers!

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Filed under Blogging, Excitement, Narcolepsy, Narcolepsy Network, Relationships, Sharing

Jetting to Jacksonville

I awoke this morning in a huge hotel room. The national Narcolepsy Network patient conference begins today in Jacksonville, Florida; I arrived late last night (technically, early this morning). While I remain uneasy about being here, I must confess that my beautiful view of the Saint John’s River certainly makes me glad for the break from my daily grind. I also know that I will enjoy many aspects of the conference. Hopefully, I deepen some of the friendships with other PWNs that I began at last year’s conference. And, many new PWNs await me as well.

At the same time I could not help feeling loss and regret as I ate during my layover in Atlanta. More than anything, I want to help and connect with other PWNs. While this blog does that, my primary outlet for the past year has been the Narcolepsy Network forums. At least it was until mid-September. I deeply believe that the work of some dear friends in those forums is a huge reason for Narcolepsy Network’s recent upswing in membership. Certainly, the number of people using the forums exploded during the last year, but I also know that Narcolepsy Network saw tremendous growth in paid memberships during that time as well. Unfortunately, the people most responsible for making the forums a welcoming and safe place for PWNs will not be with at this conference, nor do they oversee the forums any longer. I remain utterly bewildered as to how the people running Narcolepsy Network could be so obtuse as to not understand the vital role that those forums and individuals have played in the organizations sudden expansion.

The crux of it all for me is that I see the internet as a PWN’s most vital tool. Few of us are able to find doctors who truly understand our condition. Although many larger areas do have local support groups, most PWNs need far more connection than a few meetings a year can give. Those factors, added to the reality that many PWNs literally know no one who has their condition until they find a support group (if they can find one), mean that the internet is the one location that a PWN can interact with other PWNs on a consistent basis. Up until mid-September, I would have believe that such a reality was obvious to everyone associated with Narcolepsy Network. Now, though, I have serious doubts.

My experience at last year’s national conference was incredible. Certainly, being some place where I knew that 300 other people truly “understood” narcolepsy was a primary component of my joy, but far more significant was meeting face-to-face with many of the people that I had meet online. I am guessing that I will have a similar reaction this year. But, what vexes me to no end is that I doubt that other PWNs will get to have that opportunity in years to come. Since things changed on the Narcolepsy Network forums, I do not see the same level of interaction and vitality there. In fact, it is strange to see that in August the forums were adding 20 new members within 2 to 3 days, but now it might take a week or more to add 20 people. My observation is not researched or vetted, but it definitely seems like the energy in the forums is diminishing.

Clearly, I would love to see my friends back running the Narcolepsy Network forums, but deeper than that I honestly saw those forums as a way to improve significantly life for other PWNs. So many of us struggle to interact with the world because our enery is so limited. But, going online takes far less effort, and one need not drive somewhere to do it. I left my position as a moderator on the forums because of the way my friends had been treated, but I also did it because I did not (and still do not) trust the decision-making of the current board when it comes to Narcolepsy Network’s online presence. If they honestly had no idea how active and energetic their forums were, it is a sad reality. Certainly, many other online support groups for narcolepsy exist, but Narcolepsy Network’s advantage was (and still is if someone can right the ship) that they are a federally recognized non-profit with a national convention. Adding a strong and lively online community to that would make them the best resource anywhere for people with narcolepsy. Now, I wonder what will happen.

Of course, I could be crazy. Narcolepsy Network might have thrived in the past year due to some other reason. Only time will tell. Also, the other support groups, particularly the Facebook Narcolepsy Support Group and a new site Bite Size Life, might adequately fill any void created by the changes at Narcolepsy Network’s forums. Another definite possibility is a group in Second Life called Slumber Society. In the end, though, I need something for me. Selfishly (which I need to make a priority more often for myself), I need to find something that will give me the same fulfillment that my moderating on the Narcolepsy Network forums. Yes, I could “ask” to become a moderator for Narcolepsy Network again, but I will not work for the people currently “in charge” of the forums. As far as I am concerned, they haven’t a clue about running a forum effectively. I also know that I can’t afford to put in the energy that I did over the past year only to have it ripped away again. Thus, I find myself in limbo. I need to help other PWNs; it is something I do well. But, I also am struggling with my own energy so much that I do not have the time to figure out where to put my (currently non-existent) “narcolepsy support” energy. Time will eventually guide me in the correct direction, and I have learned enough to allow myself to trust the process. Unfortunately, that does not lighten my current mood, nor does it mitigate the hurt that I still feel from the events in September. Still, I know this chapter is just one more lesson that narcolepsy has for me to learn.

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Filed under Depression, Education, Emotions, Exhaustion, Faith, Frustration, Honesty, Loss, Narcolepsy, Narcolepsy Network, Relationships, Sharing, Support

Excessive Exhaustion

Although I seem to be handling my struggles better, I find it infuriating that my narcolepsy seems worse than ever. I know that my condition moves in cycles, and I am clearly in a down turn at this time. Still, getting up in the morning is more difficult, and my evening peter out far sooner than they did last year. I am scared that narcolepsy is progressive. I realize that my amphetamine dose is likely less effective, but I also doubt that the drug’s impact has curtailed to the extent that I am once again experiencing fogginess in my thinking and the possibility of micro-naps. Even today, my drive home from school felt much closer to the automatic behavior rides I remember from my pre-diagnosis days.

Adding to my concern is that I am at a loss as to where I should turn medically. Since my sleep doctor did not even both to come into the room during my last visit, I doubt he will be much help. While he definitely understands the basics of narcolepsy, he is a pulmonary doctor whose true focus is obstructive sleep apnea. What I need is a neurologist who is well versed in sleep. Sadly, such physicians are few and far between. The “premier” group in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul area apparently has a narrow view of narcolepsy. If you are not text book, then you do NOT have narcolepsy. Since I am functioning less well on my current medicinal routine, I highly doubt that “losing” my diagnosis would do me much good. I boggles my mind that I am NOT going to a doctor because I am afraid that the doctor might tell me I do not have narcolepsy. I KNOW that I have narcolepsy, but the fact that I personally have talked to people who have been to this group worries me enough that I am not going to take the risk.

In many ways my current situation underscores the ridiculous reality that far too many PWNs face – we have a disease that does not “fit” in the contemporary structure of medicine. Most specials focus on a specific body system, but sleep medicine covers an enormous range. Obstructive sleep apnea alone involves the throat, the lungs, the brain, and even the heart and other organs when untreated. So, one can find sleep doctors who are ENTs, pulmonary specialists, neurologists, and even cardiovascular physicians. And, the essential mechanism of OSA is fairly well understood. Narcolepsy on the other hand is an autoimmune disease in which an environmental trigger has caused a genetic predisposition to activate, resulting in the body attacking small cells in the hypothalamus. Thus, those same sleep doctors who treat OSA periodically get PWNs as patients. But, few of them understand narcolepsy (which is still in its infancy in terms of medical insight). The situation only worsens when one realizes that the limited number of PWNs and the extreme nature of our drugs (class II stimulants and sleep aides like sodium oxybate) provide little to no financial incentive for any doctor considering sleep as a primary area of interest. The one small ray of hope is that the recent discovers about narcolepsy may spark significant interest among immunologists – now that it is clear that narcolepsy is an autoimmune disease.

None of that rambling helps my overly sleepy state, however. I remain proud of myself for accepting my situation and for pushing ahead with the best attitude that I can muster. Nonetheless, I abhor that mowing my small lawn today completely did me in. That comes on the heels of a Saturday and Sunday that saw me accomplish little because I was drained from talking to my wife and from confronting another parent. All of that happened on Saturday, but I needed all of Sunday to recover. In fact, I would argue that some of my current lethargy is also linked to my mental and emotional exertion on Saturday. While I know that I am doing the best that I can, the rational side of my brain is screaming about how pathetic the reality is. Yet, I have no choice, but to breath and to accept my disability.

I am looking forward to the Narcolepsy Network conference this weekend. While my relationship with the organization feels shaky at this time, I am thrilled to be going somewhere where my “norm” IS the “norm.” Sitting in a room, or even having a casual conversation with a fellow PWN, is tremendously empowering. It reminds me that I am not insane. It also underscores for me that this disease is awful, and yet it is also manageable. Granted, I need to keep working to accept my limits, but I can be productive even with narcolepsy impeding me much of the time.

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Filed under Emotions, Empathy, Exhaustion, Frustration, Healthcare, Honesty, Loss, Medical Research, Medication, Narcolepsy, Narcolepsy Network

Tired and Troubled

Somehow, I have managed to let another month pass without posting. Writing about this crazy condition is vitally important to me, but the “basics” of my life have felt horribly overwhelming. I also think that either my narcolepsy is intensifying, or my amphetamine is diminishing in its impact. of course, there is actually no way to determine that. All I know is that I have continued to “cut back” what I do, and I still find it harder to do this lightened load – which I find horribly frustrating.

My school year is actually going well. I have been better about correcting and more prepared for my teaching. I am also doing a better job of limiting myself to my part-time hours, rather than spending excessive amounts of time at school (well outside of my contract time). That being said, the year has also been tremendously draining. Our teaching team was tremendously successful last year, but I think we are all feeling pressure to be “better.” While I think we are doing that, we are putting stress on ourselves. We have also developed a new approach to homework. It works well for many of our students, but two groups are struggling. Our students with poor time management skills are not spacing out their work and turn in poorly done materials. On the other hand, our overachieving students have been trying to do two to three hours of homework each night. Our expectation is that student would spend two to three hours maximum per week. As a result, we faced a number of questions at conferences from parents and guardians. Thankfully, most of them accepted our explanation, but a few still felt like we should change what we are doing because their daughter or son was continuing to do two to three hours per night. I am empathetic, but fail to see how we are causing the problem.

The other thing contributing to my struggles is the bizarre course of events over the last two months in my house. Our September had more activities and events that I can ever remember us having. The worst weekend involved my wife getting me at school at 2:45 PM on a Friday. We spent the next three hours and thirteen minutes traveling to Duluth (a trip that should take about two hours). We arrived for a family wedding with two minutes to spare (literally). Then, we checked into the hotel and attended the reception. I then got up early the next morning to drive my daughter back to the Saint Paul for a voice lesson. It was her first lesson, and the directions given by the organization were flawed to say the least. We managed to arrive only two minutes late for the voice lesson, but the stress of it all buried me. My wife had stayed in Duluth. When she returned on Sunday, I was still recovering, but there was a tremendous amount of work that needed to be done. I pushed myself to do it, and I exploded at my family. Then, I got to school on Monday so exhausted that my team members sent me home. It has been rocky since then, but is finally beginning to level out.

In the midst of all of that, my relationship with Narcolepsy Network turned markedly sour. They let their web master go and cut those of us who were moderators from access to the primary tool that we used to help moderate the site. When I emailed to express my disappointment in the entire situation, I received two emails. One was heartfelt and personal, explaining that I was a valued resource. The other was a generic message to all of the current moderators, saying essentially the same thing. Unfortunately for Narcolepsy Network, they thought the first version of the generic message to me did not work, and thus they forwarded the template. Because of that I learned that they had sent the same message to two moderators who had done nothing for over six months. Both of those individuals had been alienated by the inaction and the rude comments of board members. I then wrote an even more terse email questioning how they could “value” my work when they clearly had no idea what moderators were active and which were not. The sad reality is that many of the board members STILL have not gone to the forums, even after the things that took place. As a result of it all, I have done little online posting – at Narcolepsy Network or on Facebook. I am even struggling to do work for my local support group (which I essentially help to run). I just hate the idea of spending hours working on things, only to have some uninformed baord member swoop in and yank it away. Much of my frustration with the Narcolepsy Network centers on a new website that the web master was developing. He had is essentially ready to go live last November, but the board would never approve it. I personally spent well over 20 to 30 hours writing and editing content for the site, but never heard anything from the board, particularly the ones who were supposed to be overseeing the site. The even more irritating part is that while the new site was constantly being labeled as “un-ready,” the current Narcolepsy Network site was live and contained far more errors and inaccuracies than the “un-ready” site. Because the web master is my friend, I stuck with the process, hoping that we would eventually be given approval. Instead, they fired him. Certainly, there may be legitimate reasons for what they did, although I have serious doubts. Even more unbelievable is that after hearing nothing about my work for the site, or about the quality of my writing, I received praise from three board members and a couple of employees of Narcolepsy Network.

I still want to “help” others with narcolepsy, but my own struggles are making it hard. I am heading to the national convention for Narcolepsy Network at the end of this week. I do plan to touch base with one member of the board to see if I can learn more about everything that happened. At the same time I remain unimpressed by the things I continue to see from Narcolepsy Network. For instance, even though I have clearly stated that I am not “helping” them at this time, I am STILL receiving emails from the people planning the conference. Today’s series of emails was wonderfully ironic. Since all of the forum moderators “resigned” (after we were cut off), the board is hoping to find “motivated moderators” for the forums. Someone came up with the line, “We want MM for NN” – with “MM” refering to “motivated moderators.” Since my initials ARE MM, I was sorely tempted to respond to the email, “You had MM, but chose to get rid of him,” but felt like it would be sour grapes. In the end, it drives me crazy that the one national organization for people with narcolepsy seems to be clueless when it comes to growing the organization and to helping the vast number of PWNs who are searching for a lifeline while they are online.

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Filed under Anger, Confusion, Depression, Education, Exhaustion, Family, Friends, Frustration, Honesty, Loss, Narcolepsy, Narcolepsy Network

Missing Month

Somehow, I managed to write nothing in my blog for over a month. While the vacation did require some post-trip recovery, a number of other things contributed to my disappearance. First and foremost, the lovely world of Wii sucked me into it. My daughter’s purchase of Animal Crossing has definitely been a curse and a blessing. I love the game and have been quite successful, but WOW does it suck up time. Beyond that, I have been attempting to get back into some type of rhythm because I have already experienced two weeks of teaching. Certainly, doing my best to prep for the start of school also ate up time. Our strategic planning process was fascinating this summer, but taxed me beyond belief. More than anything, I have had a difficult time maintaining a consistent level of energy. On that note, I must get into bed. I actually had three nights in a row at the end of last week when I took only one dose of Xyrem. Such situations will not get me back into a regular routine anytime soon.

Before I go, though, I need to acknowledge two things. One, I have had a difficult and trying weekend due to moronic decisions made by the board of Narcolepsy Network. I will be attending their national conference in October, but sadly my relationship with them is likely ending. I have no doubt that I will blog about that soon. More importantly, I made a new friend on Facebook today. She actually knew me from Narcolepsy Network’s forums, but we had never exchanged direct messages before. She shared some wonderful compliments with me, particularly that my blog had helped her when she was initially diagnosed. Although I had been working up the energy to get back to my writing, that interaction spurred me to post this. I love how PWNs can do so much for each other in such simple ways.

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Filed under Blogging, Education, Exhaustion, Friends, Honesty, Narcolepsy, Narcolepsy Network