Category Archives: Scheduling

Tiresome Travel Troubling

I have known for the last 4-5 years that traveling tends to exacerbate the impact of my narcolepsy, in terms of both my sleepiness and its impact on my overall health. The situation makes tons of sense when I think about it — my schedule gets thrown off, driving and flying for long periods put additional stress on my body, I am not in my own bed, and even changing one time zone can affect my biorhythms. As a result of this reality, I do try to allow myself extra time for recovery when I take a trip. I also do my best to balance my activities while traveling so I do not exhaust myself. Even in the best scenarios, my efforts are only mildly successful, but this current summer has put me into an entirely different place.

Because of my new job, I have already spent far more of my summer working like mad to get things ready for the next school year. So, even before my extensive travel started, I was already run down. Added to that is the fact that my daughter is in between grades 11 and 12, so college visit trips have filled up the second half of our summer. My wife, my daughter, and I visited 6 schools in 4 days during our first circuit after spending a long weekend with friends. The experience was awesome in every possible way, but it also left me reeling for the entire week after our return. And, during that week, we decided that my daughter and I would head to 2 more schools this week preceding a conference my wife is attending. All three of us think this current trip is a good idea, but it also heightened the stress level in our house, particularly as my daughter and I reworked almost an entire week of work. And, I was (and am) painfully aware that the cold I got from our first trip continues to linger. Truly, my sinuses are a mess, and I am definitely worried that I will be paying for these trips with my health well into the coming school year. Underscoring that concern is the fact that our busiest trip is yet to come. My daughter and I will make our third and final trip in the first week of August when we plan to visit 8 schools in 4 states during a 5 day window.

Although I do fear what all this flying and driving will do to me physically, I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. Just today, my daughter and I toured a school in the pouring rain. We would definitely have preferred a sunny day, but we still had a great visit. The school impressed both of us, but even better was the fun we had with each other. We took a train there and back, navigated the local bus system, and even found our way to an Ethiopian restaurant (that my daughter wanted to try) near our hotel. We are both exhausted, and we are getting up early for another visit and tour tomorrow, but we are being good to each other and appreciating the experience. In fact, the trek from our hotel to the train station this morning took us across the campus of a college she had not been considering, but tonight she added it to the list because she was so impressed by it. Our final trip in early August will require me to do a lot of driving (since we will be hitting 4 different states), and that makes me nervous because I know how draining the car travel will be. Yet, knowing that the two of us survived our wacky experiences today, I firmly believe that we can make that last trip work, especially if we are conscious of being kind to one another.

These interactions with my daughter are the thing that makes me the most frustrated about how travel tires me and lowers me ability to stay healthy. She is amazing, and I love spending time with her. I just wish the toll for these trips was not so steep for me. That being said, I would not trade these opportunities for anything. More than anything, I need to step back and recognize how choosing to take these trips does have repercussions. And, I need to remember the importance of this time with my daughter when my health, sinuses, and sleepiness continue to spiral on me over the next few months. I also know that I must be more attentive to taking care of myself to minimize as much as possible the negative impact of these college visits. What I must avoid, though, is letting my compromised health steer me into short-changing my wife, my daughter, or myself in our daily lives.

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Filed under Balance, Driving, Exhaustion, Family, Frustration, Gratitude, Humility, Illness, Insights, Joy, Love, Narcolepsy, Parenting, Scheduling, Sinuses, Stress, Travel, Wisdom

Pulsating Pain

My head feels like it is in a vice. The headache started around 3 PM today, and it is progressively building. Somehow, I managed to go get my daughter around 4 PM. Then, my wife, my daughter, three of my daughter’s friends, and I went to a play at my school. Thankfully, my wife drove. I survived the play and even managed to laugh, but the pain is making it difficult to see at the moment. As always the pain is completely centered in my sinuses. I have no doubt that something rotten is happening in there. My ENT’s office never did call with the culture results, but I am sure that they were negative.

I would guess that this headache is my body’s signal to me that I have pushed far too hard at the end of this week. I have not rested much, even on my “off days,” and for the past two days, I have had intense three hour meetings. My colleagues and I have been planning, which has been a blast. Because we are making significant progress, I have no doubt that this coming school year will be even better than last year. That said, though, I overtaxed my body during these past two days because I wanted to get even more done for school. Hopefully, a night of sleep and an extremely low key weekend will allow me to recuperate, so I can work toward a healthier balance next week. Of course, I have two all day meetings on Monday and Tuesday, a evening gathering on Wednesday, another team planning meeting on Thursday morning, and a road trip to Tennessee immediately after that Thursday meeting. I do not have high hopes for my body “settling” within the next week. Oh well, this too is just another joy of narcolepsy. I do get better at rolling with punches like this one (but I still don’t like them).

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Filed under Balance, Exhaustion, Family, Frustration, Narcolepsy, Scheduling, Sinuses, Travel

Deepening Depression

Today was hard. I had an okay day, but I truly felt paralyzed when it came to doing any work. There is so much on my plate, and I have no idea where to begin. Confusing the situation is the sensation that I have not done much just for me recently. Many of my actions have “helped” me and others, but I occasionally have this burgeoning sensation of selfishness. I feel like I need to take a few days and just do things for me – read books that I want to read, watch movies that I want to watch, and let everything else go. Unfortunately, such an option is as unrealistic as my desire to clean the entire house in a day. One, I cannot afford for me to take those days because I need to help my wife and I need to get ready for the school year. Two, even if I COULD take the days, my brain would not let me. I would still not be able to focus even if I was doing things just for me. Instead, I would question whether that “me time” was warranted. If that sounds crazy, I can assure you, it also feels crazy.

I know that my continued sleepiness is a major factor in my indecision. When I am this rundown, I do not do well with decision-making. Also contributing to my consternation today was the cool and rainy nature of the day. The atmospheric pressure was literally weighing on my mind. Sadly, tomorrow may be more of the same. I also MUST do a better job of putting some structure to my day. Without any, I meander all of the place. It is imperative that I make a daily schedule a habit for myself. By doing so, I will be able to manage my day and my sanity with far greater balance.

Of course, all of these thoughts must be framed within the reality of my narcolepsy. No matter how good I get at setting a schedule, or accepting the weather, or handling difficult days, in the end, I will always feel tired even with my medication, even with the best night of sleep that I can get. That is the hard truth. I also know that I will invariably encounter “off days” because of the nature of narcolepsy. It is impossible to believe that I will be able to accept the constant sleepiness that I will have every day for the rest of my life. Eventually, my frustrations will build to the point that I need to rail against my disease for a time. I do hope that I will spread out those rotten days at wider and wider intervals, but I must accept that they will never go away. I hate that, but it is my life.

To end on an upbeat note, I did have fun playing a new game on our Wii today. My daughter bought Animal Crossing: City Folk. The game is super cute, and she and I both have a character in the town. While I must be careful (because this type of adventure game could consume me), I loved playing and watching the game with her. It was a silly and light-hearted moment for the two of us. I am sure we will play a little tomorrow too, but we are also going to have an adventure. Hopefully, that excursion will provide some fun for the two of us AND some structure for me.

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Filed under Balance, Confusion, Depression, Exhaustion, Family, Frustration, Honesty, Narcolepsy, Parenting, Scheduling

Fighting Frustration

>I have not slept well (or much) the last two nights. While that is NOT a good thing, my mood today is surprisingly upbeat. I know a piece of that is that I had a good meeting with my psychiatrist today. He is quite down-to-earth, but has also challenged me in the past to be kinder to myself. I think he easily saw today that I am definitely making progress in that regard. I also know that in that same vein, I am accepting that I have been up far too late the last two nights. Thus, the things that I accomplish today will be “gravy.” I have to take that approach. I needed to stay up two nights ago to get some things done for MOONS-MN. Last night, the priority was getting the kitchen clean. That I did get those things done is a huge step for me. Hopefully, I will begin to keep such efforts within the frame work of “normal” hours for me, but it is also good that I am making strides in such areas.

Far too often, I get completely lost in “unstructured time.” I definitely function best when my schedule forces me to be certain places at specific times. The rub, of course, is that having a ful agenda each day drains me far more than a day of relaxing. A huge piece of the equation is the fact that my brain rarely “shuts down.” Summers are usually the worst because it can be weeks of “free time,” during which my brain tries to run in hundreds of directions. Unable to accomplish a fractional percentage of my mind’s inexhaustible list, I would then wallow entire days away. Although my aspirations remain far to large, I am getting better and better at releasing myself from that cycle. I work to accept my limits, while challenging myself to get one or two small things done. Slowly, I am adapting. Hopefully, it will continue, and I will stay balanced and healthy. I still remember the lessons of last summer. Every time I pushed too hard, my body quit as I ran a fever. I would like to avoid being completely laid out.

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Filed under Balance, Chores, Education, Exhaustion, Illness, Narcolepsy, Scheduling, Stupidity, Wisdom

Fading Focus

>Summer is always a curve and a blessing for me. I LOVE that I actually have “free time” because I need it to recover from the frenetic pace of my school year. At the same time, I hate it because I am terrible with unstructured time. I have been doing better this summer, but I have struggled for the last two days. My problem is that I lack the self-discipline (or perhaps the energy) to create a modest schedule of tasks for the day. During the school year, I am forced to create some level of schedule because my work fills specific sections of my day. When summer truly arrives for me, though, I have such open swaths of time that I regularly fail to pre-plan what I will be doing on any given day.

I also get terribly gun shy of planning out specific days. I know that I overestimate my energy and abilities, meaning that if I plan out a series of days, I will likely be “behind” from the moment I set my schedule. At the same time, when I allow myself to “see where the day will take me,” I find myself accomplishing next to nothing. Because so many things are a “top priority,” I am often paralyzed by my own brain. Worse, my inaction causes me to begin berating myself, which makes my more tired, and I become even more inefficient.

As I said, I am getting better at managing these things. In reality, my learning style (concrete random) and my personality type (ENFP) do not lend themselves well to carefully planned out schedules. In fact, they are deadly for me because my “random” nature means that I will eventually fail, and the “concrete” aspect of my brain will condemn me for that failure. Thus, I need broad plans, and I must accept any step towards the completion of those plans as progress. For instance, our finances needed to get up to date. In the past I would have tried to get it completed in one day. Although I did manage to do that from time to time (by locking myself in our office for 8-10 hours), more often, I would get to a semi-acceptable point and then would leave the finances unfinished – possibly missing a bill. This time, I chipped away at the finances over a four day window. I not only got caught up, but I also managed to enter information for my wife, and I figured out some of the stranger issues in our investment numbers. I even got paperwork filed today.

Unfortunately, even successes like that do not completely sink in for me. I consciously know that I did a good job, but I don’t truly feel it. Instead, the hypercritical portion of my brain berates me for taking so long. It also reminds me that the office is still a disaster, and the investment numbers are still not fixed. And, pushing those thoughts away (or should I say hearing them and then dismissing them as irrational) takes tremendous amounts of energy, leaving even more run down. As a result, I then spend a few days, like today and yesterday, wallowing a bit and trying to get into some sort of groove with my daily routine.

The other two challenges of summer tie into that last issue. This time off often results in a different series of events every day. I have clearly learned that I am at my best when I can get into a pattern and am able to follow that every day. Sadly, I am convinced that it will be years until such a thing is possible during the summer for me. My wife’s job, my daughter’s activities, my doctor appointments, and my work issues mean that summer will remain a hodge podge of starts and stops in each and every day. Summer also means a great deal of isolation. While I do get to spend time with my daughter, many of my days involve long stretches of time when I am alone. Although I have come to appreciate some quiet time when I am isolated, the reality is that I am an extreme extrovert. Thus, being by myself drains me. Sometimes, that alone can totally wipe me out. On the other hand, I can be having the worst excessive daytime sleepiness, but come to life as soon as I step in front of a group of people.

As in so many other things, I must be patient as I move forward living with narcolepsy. This condition is insanely bizarre. I can feel almost normal one day and horribly tired the next. Worse, so much of my day (each day) depends on my sleep, yet I have NO control over that. Even when I have been in a great pattern of going to sleep and waking at the same time each day, one thousand and one tiny little things can positively and negatively influence my rest. Thus, I must take a deep breath, do the best I can, and not fret about the highs and lows. I just need to ground myself in the present and stay with each moment.

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Filed under Balance, Confusion, Depression, Exhaustion, Fear, Finances, Frustration, Humility, Illness, Narcolepsy, Scheduling, Wisdom

>Flailing Frustration

>Knowing that I have narcolepsy, I work diligently to have realistic expectations for myself. Certainly, I continue to overestimate (grossly) what I can accomplish – in a day, in a week, in a month. That said, though, I have gotten significantly better both in my estimation and in my acceptance of what I can accomplish. Nevertheless, I continue to have difficult and aggravating experiences focused on my inability to do even simple tasks.

Over the past weekend, I desperately wanted to clean our home office – finally. It has been a major goal for months. I will get close, but never quite finish the job. Even with the exhausting week that I experience at the end of April, I made some progress on Saturday. Sunday proved to be a whole other matter, though. I awoke with a tremendous headache which only got worse. I did try to continue my efforts in the office, but would find myself aimlessly drifting from one thought to another. Rather than being able to clean a small section, I struggled to form even basic thoughts.

Eventually, I found the pain subsiding. But, I was not content to clean one or two more things. Instead, I worked to restring one of our cellular shades. I quickly figured out what I needed to do, but the process itself was tedious and nerve-wracking. When I finally finished, and had (stall HAVE) the shade working, I went to see if my wife wanted to look at it. Turns out that it was 1 AM. I had completely missed my first Xyrem dose – oops. I am proud that I got the cellular blind ready for us, but I know that the price I paid for that was likely too high. I functioned decently on Monday and today, but I also know that I was not entirely comfortable with my focus. My judgment and cognition go out the window when I am overly run down. I just wish that I could be lucid when I WANT to be, but that is no longer reality.

Thus, I must continue to work on acceptance and balance. Those things will come with time. I am stunned at how well I do on most days, but that does not mean that I have to like that reality.

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Filed under Balance, Exhaustion, Frustration, Honesty, Loss, Narcolepsy, Scheduling, Wisdom

>May Magic

>Yet again, time has had its way with me. My calendar seems to jump entire weeks at a time. Thus, May has arrived and my brain is still in the middle of April. The frenetic pace of school has not lessened, rather it has picked up. Today, I managed to finish putting comments on numerous papers, to copy our quiz, to help plan the day, to re-write the same quiz, and to connect with a number of students. The added “bonus” is that I did all of that during a day that was shortened for various reasons. We also had conferences yesterday, and my daughter had to go to the ER the night before. So, I slept little on Wednesday, talked to parents for hours on Thursday, and eked every ounce out of my body on Friday. While I am grateful that I can handle a day like that, I also know that I will be worthless for much of this weekend.

I also realize that I am getting more and more run down as the end of the school year approaches. I find it fascinating that I am beginning to know myself and my body well enough that I can recognize when I am pushing too hard. Unfortunately, I am still too stubborn to do much about that. I know that I will continue to push when I should stop – like I did today. I “survived,” but that came at a price. The lingering congestion and illness that I seem to still have will worsen. There is no question in my mind about that. I also know that I will do my best to exploit the boost I get from the improving weather.

While temperatures did dip during the past week, the averages are now consistently in the 60+ range. That is glorious. I have come to abhor winter. The warmth coupled with the ever growing daylight definitely lift my spirits. Of course, that too has a down side. More light means that I am tempted to push myself even more. Even the idea of May gets me pumped. More daylight and milder days portend summer’s arrival. Summer means a time to re-charge and MITY. Yet, my extroverted, crazy brain transforms those good vibes into an insane drive to complete everything before the school year ends. While the idea is lovely, the reality is that I should NEVER listen to grand ideas like that. My body can’t handle them, but my stupid brain never seems to remember that. Hopefully, I am gaining enough wisdom that I will intervene on my own behalf. Nonetheless, I am thrilled that I am entering the final month of school, even if it means that I somehow lost the latter half of April.

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Filed under Confusion, Education, Excitement, Exhaustion, Frustration, Honesty, Loss, Narcolepsy, Scheduling, Sinuses