Category Archives: Therapy

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

Awesome Acupuncture

>Although I am still feeling the effects of my bathroom sleeping experience, I am in a significantly better mental and physical state today. While my massage yesterday is definitely a piece of the improvement, another HUGE aspect is that I had acupuncture today. I tend to look forward to my acupuncture anyway (I see my acupuncturist every two weeks), but today was phenomenal.

Two weeks ago, Sarah (my acupuncturist at Langford Chiropractic) used cups on me for the first time. Essentially, she created a vacuum seal in a cluster of places on my back. It made me feel significantly better. I was sincerely hoping that she might want to use those again today, particularly because the cups did wonders for the tension in my upper back. While I might get cups in two weeks, Sarah decided to stick (pun intended) with acupuncture today. She did “shake up” my treatment, though. She also had to wait to use electrical stimulation on the needles until half-way through my session (she had another patient “hooked up” when I started my treatment).

The different needle placement certainly grabbed my body’s attention. She placed a four or five needles down the center of my torso. She also insert needles in my right ear and in a few spots on my legs and hands. Even before Sarah hooked up the electricity, I could feel energy moving in my body. While I often experience that to a small degree, today was radically different. I had not felt this level of energy movement for years. The moment that truly stunned me is that when Sarah did bring the electrical equipment into the room, I thought she hooked me up with it “on.” As soon as she connected the electrodes to the needles in my left leg, I could feel the electricity jumping between them and through my leg. But, Sarah had NOT turned on the electricity yet. The energy I was feeling was the natural energy of my body.

I am positive that much of the reason for this heightened success is that I have been doing yoga frequently with my Wii Fit. When I had this experience before during acupuncture (in 2005), I was doing daily yoga. Thus, the fact that I had such a similar experience in 2009 at the first acupuncture session after I have begun to get into a yoga routine again seems like much more than coincidence. Even though the yoga on Wii Fit is simply a series of poses, probably chosen more for the stretching, it is clear to me that I am much more in tune with my body. The excitement of this experience has me looking forward to doing even more yoga and working my way back to doing Kundalini Yoga once again (as well as the Wii Fit). Although I know that I need the Western drug that help to offset the conditions of my narcolepsy, I am thrilled that I continue to use non-Western techniques to manage the disease. Acupuncture is an important part of my routine. It truly makes a major difference in the quality of my life.

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Filed under Balance, Blessings, Eastern Ideas, Excitement, Exercise, Gratitude, Hope, Narcolepsy, Therapy

>Battling the Blues

>Vacations and breaks are good and bad for me. I definitely needed to rest and relax, which this time off is allowing (at least in a small way). The problem, though, is that I continue to feel compelled to do things. When I have free time, my brain continues to race with everything that is un-done. That might sound odd, or even insane, to some, but it is the best way that I can describe what happens inside my head. When I have time to think, the tapes in my head regurgitate each task that I have yet to accomplish. Often, the resulting effect is stressed out paralysis – which does little to relieve the overwhelming anxiety. Needless to say, I know that these irrational thoughts are one of the largest burdens that I will face as my life moves forward.

A portion of this self-defeating trait must be genetic because I know that my mother, my grandmother, my aunt, and my great-grandmother all have (or had) the same types of tendencies. Clearly, it is also learned behavior. Watching all of those women in my life push themselves certainly rubbed off on me. My father also never stops moving, although I remain convinced that his behavior is also a way to cope with undiagnosed sleep issues (quite possibly narcolepsy). The third element, though, is me. I do know ways to cope with these messages, but I tend to let them drift to the wayside as I get busier (and more tired) during the school year. The best way for me to cope with this proclivity for irrational delusions about my work load is yoga and meditation. Closing following those two techniques is exercise. When I am stronger and more balanced mentally, emotionally, and physically, I am better able to fend off and ride out the onslaught of “missed opportunities” that can crash over me when I try to have down time.

Unfortunately, I do let yoga and exercise disappear when I am pressed for time and energy. Both do make me stronger and improve my endurance, but they require time and physical strength too. Rarely do I prioritize my need for them over my wife and daughter, or my job. In this on-going journey of narcolepsy, I need to press my personal agenda. If I do not, it will hurt me, my family, my colleagues, and my students. The reality is that things that make me more complete need to be at the top of my list, rather than in the “if I have time…” category. The truth is that I will NEVER have time for that category.

I find it ironic that even now I am writing this blog post to keep the negative messages at bay. Already this morning I have conceived of more work to do than I could hope to finish in a week. But, because I am run down and still recovering, the messages flood my brain – clean the fish tank, clean the kitchen, clean the office, sort the mail, organize the pictures, re-organize the computer files, get the books moved at school, write up the MLA formatting rules, vacuum the house, change the cat litter, do the laundry, pack for the trip, get the money entered, finish the taxes, and those are just the things that I need to do “today.” Typing that list scares me because part of me truly believes that I should do ALL of that today. Then, another voice reminds me that I can’t do it because of my narcolepsy and because I am weak. I know that all of that is irrational, but when I am this tired, I struggle to fully accept the irrationality of those ideas. Thus, they feed my depression and anxiety further.

In the end, I simply must embrace this portion of my journey. Playing ultimate (and my long walk on Monday) reminded me that exercise does help me. Slowly, I will find a way to work yoga and exercise back into my routine. Poco a poco, I will make the changes that I can, both to live a more balanced life and to recognize that I can be a person with narcolepsy and still have joy and contentment. Likely, the path will extend to the end of my time, but at least I know I am moving in the proper direction, even if it is one slow, small step at a time.

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Filed under Balance, Blogging, Depression, Emotions, Exercise, Exhaustion, Honesty, Insights, Narcolepsy, Therapy, Wisdom

>Blogging Block

>Somehow, another month has nearly passed me by. I am hoping to write a post or two before February also ends. I know that I need to do this, but my daily existence seems to have other plans. We will see what the next three days bring. While February generally stinks, this year seems to be spectacularly chaotic. The good news is that I continue to give myself permission to “underachieve.” Unfortunately, that grows more difficult with each passing day. Our trimester ends next Friday, and the few days off will help me, but I daily find it tougher to shut down the negative voices in my head. I am well aware that I am doing the best I can, yet my constantly ebbing energy hampers me from opening myself to forgiveness.

I also find it ridiculous that I have two posts for the second month in a row. Even worse, both February posts were written WELL after my bedtime. I need to sleep, but also wanted to get something else posted before March. I need to get back into some level of routine. Perhaps, March will enter like a lamb for me. Still, I don’t plan to hold my breath.

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Filed under Blogging, Depression, Emotions, Exhaustion, Frustration, Narcolepsy, Therapy

>Missing My Meds?

>I am on day three of my med holiday. I actually posted it as my Facebook status and a number of PWNs commented. One of the best responses was, “why can’t med holidays be as fun as they sound?” On one level I completely agree, but another friend posted that lazy days watching movies aren’t all that bad. I certainly see that point too. Since this is my second attempt at a med holiday, I am still learning what they are like. I know that it is the right thing to do for my body, but I also know that day three was definitely tougher than day two. My first attempt in August was only two days long, and I knew that I would have some functionality during the first day, but that the second would be difficult. Sadly, I actually thought that day three might be better. I was wrong.

I have spent the day feeling physically ill, which I know is the withdrawal. It is amazing how even a theraputic dose of a medication can alter your biological baseline so drastically. I can’t even imagine how hard it must be for an addict to get off of a drug. The other difficult aspect of the day has been my inability to stay alert for more than 30 minutes at a time. I have managed to do a few things around the house, but I have also crashed repeatedly. Some of that is also the withdrawal, but much of it is “untreated narcolepsy.” I am humbled by how dependent I am on my amphetamine. Could I live without it? Yes, but I would not be able to teach – not even part-time. I also have spent the day wondering what it would be like to try driving like this. I have no intention of trying to do that, but it is frightening to realize that without my stimulants I could be completely dependent on others to transport me places.

The other side of that, though, is a gratefulness that I am able to use stimulants to have some level of functionality. I have a number of PWN friends who are unable to drive or work even with stumulants. Others can’t find a stimulant that will work or that their bodies can tolerate. The insidious nature of this condition constantly stuns me. I am blessed that my narcolepsy has not completely undermined my life. I realize that it is all a matter of perspective, but I definitely know I would be struggling more if I had to let go of even more of what I “want” to do. Yes, I have lost much, but I am still able to do a job I love and help my family and my friends.

Of course, I certainly recognize that my narcolepsy can progress. Perhaps in another year or two (or month or two), I could reach a point where driving or working will not be possible. I hope that I will be able to accept those things with the same day-by-day approach that has allowed me to remain upbeat during the start of this journey. While I hope those things never come, I understand that much of that is out of my control. Narcolepsy will run its course. I just hope that I can maintain my own ability to accept what the disease brings and then make my own path and decisions.

Tomorrow will be fascinating because I have an acupuncture appointment scheduled. It will be the first time that I have acupuntuncture without a stimulant in my body. Even when I did acupuncture the first time (in 2005), I had methylphenidate and Concerta in my body. And, when I went off all of my meds before I got my narcolepsy diagnosis in 2007, I was going to Langford Chiropractic, but had not started acupuncture there yet. I am not sure if I had any acupuncture during my unintended med holiday last December – when Provigil became a non-option and I had no other stumulant. I will be interested to see how my body responds without the amphetamine.

I guess the final thing that has intriguied me these past three days is the fact that some PWNs do not take stimulants. Some don’t need to take them – Xyrem does the trick on its own. Other, though, willingly forgo them. I can’t do that, yet. I still want to work at my job. But, it is interesting to consider what I might be able to do without a stumulant. I know that once the withdrawal aspect ended, I would be more functional than I have been these past three days. The question would be, though, how much energy would I have? Perhaps the time will come when I can explore that. For now, I like the idea of stopping my meds for a time, then starting again. I know the amphetamine felt more effective after I did this for two days in August. It will be interesting to see what happens with my longer break this time. It is interesting that although I could not “feel” the effect, I definitely know that the amphetamine was working in DEcember because without it, there is no way I could have made it to work each day.

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Filed under Exhaustion, Gratitude, Healthcare, Honesty, Humility, Insights, Medication Holiday, Narcolepsy, Therapy, Wisdom

>Sleepy Sadness

>So much has happened this month, and yet I fear I have no words. The days and weeks have literally gotten away from me. I also lost track of my job, my other responsibilities, my health and any sense of schedule. Worst of all, my wife lost one of her brothers. Her youngest brother choked on a sandwich and no one knows how long he was deprived of oxygen. He was on a respirator for ten days. Finally, he was taken off. No tests done while he was on the respirator gave any indication as to how he would react. The assumption was that he would likely die. But my wife’s brother has thrown folks curve balls his entire life. In true form, he remained in a coma, but began breathing naturally. Then, 36 hours later, he died.

Complicating things even more, the death came on my daughter’s birthday. My wife left for home on Saturday and will return to Saint Paul on Thursday. My wife stayed for my daughter’s birthday sleepover, but it has been good for her to be with her family. The visitations and the funeral were good, and I know that she is feeling more at peace with this. I am still feeling the loss. I know I made the right decision, but I also regret that I could not have been physically present for my wife and her family.

All of this has drained me even more. At the same time, I have been more productive in the last few days than I have been in a month. I see that as a good sign. I know that I need more time for me, but am struggling to find it. I need to sleep more and must find a way to let down. Having three days off next week will definitely be a welcome relief. I also think that the grading that I will need to do at the end of the trimester will be lighter. It definitely feels good to write again. My goal for the end of this year is to establish a clear pattern for exercise, yoga and my time. I need to take much better care of myself. If I do not, I know that I will be unable to do the job that I love so much.

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Filed under Balance, Confusion, Depression, Emotions, Exhaustion, Family, Frustration, Honesty, Marriage, Sharing, Therapy, Wisdom

>Hope Happening Here

>Today, perhaps for the first time ever, my therapist could NOT stop smiling during our session. It was truly incredible. Of course, it might be that nearly everything I said at today’s session had a positive tone (or at least undertone). When I was thinking about today’s session, while at school yesterday, I felt nearly giddy. I look forward to therapy because talking out my issues grounds me. The difference last night was that I knew that I was bursting to let my therapist know how well things have been going. The sensation is incredibly odd.

As I left my therapy session, though, I realized what I was experiencing. For the first time in years, I am actually feeling hopeful. Even more importantly, it is not a “pie-in-the-sky” hope – believing that with just a few changes I will start doing yoga for an hour each day, or that I will tweak a couple of meds and be able to work full time again. Those thoughts aren’t even dreams, they are delusions. What is percolating inside me is – the belief that I will make a difference, the possibility that I can accomplish worthwhile tasks (even with a chronic condition), the reality that I am far more than a bizarre medical condition. I don’t know if anything feels quite this good.

As I mentioned above, I don’t see this moment as an end. If anything, it is the true beginning. Now, I can start to walk honestly with my disease and discover ways to honor it while still confronting it. Narcolepsy is a part of me, but it is certainly NOT all of me. In fact it isn’t a big percentage. It make keep my energy down, but my heart and soul and mind are MINE. And, this disease can have no part of them. I know that many dark days will be on my path, but I fear them less and less. I merely need to put one foot in front of the other, and I will continue to walk my path as best I can.

Perhaps one of the things that has given me the most hope in the last few months is communicating with other people with narcolepsy online. I had made such incredible friends throughout the world. It is a huge blessing for me. When I read about a woman in the United Arab Emirates struggling to find out about narcolepsy, or the young woman in Singapore who has taken control of her own life and medical condition, my spirits soar. Some people praise me for my kindness to them. I am honored and flattered by their praise, but even more so I am inspired by their courage and determination to face this disease and the societal scorn that can accompany it. Their journeys give my own even more purpose. At some level, having narcolepsy is worth all of its hassles purely so I can be lucky enough to know other people with naroclepsy.

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