I reached a breaking point last week where I realised that I needed to stop. It was an incredibly difficult realisation to come to, not least because it meant making some hefty changes. I think that I have gradually been becoming more and more worn down as this year has gone on, and I had gotten to the point last week where I realised that my life, in essence, had been put on hold. I was pretty much living to work, and everything else, including my thesis, the housework, my relationship, my social life, my health, had all been lumped into second place and had to share the rest of the time I was conscious. And even though I had been putting a lot of myself into my work... I was teaching like rubbish. A few years ago I tried teaching full time, for 5 weeks, and every 2 weeks I had to take a day off in the middle just so I could stop and sleep for 16 hours. After that huge sleep, I could only then realise how crappy my teaching had been in the days leading up to it. My teaching, for probably the majority of the last few months, was like that - the crappy days leading to the long sleep. So essentially, the rest of my life was crap, and even the thing I was most focused on... was crap. All crap.
After a lot of tears (a lot... I have cried a lot this past week. I must have needed the release), I came to the decision with my husband that I needed to cut back my hours at work. That took a lot to accept, because I felt that I was not only accepting the fact that I needed to cut back, but also accepting that... even though I may intellectually be capable of working at a high level in education, because the narcolepsy means I can never work full time, it means I'll never be able to even consider those kinds of roles, like being a Music head teacher, or a deputy, or a university Chair. I'm even doing research on a topic (senior secondary music) that I may never actually get the chance to properly teach. Accepting all that, at first, was immensely difficult. It still is... but now that I've had more sleep, I can move past it.
It may not make much sense... but even though, logically, this choice that I've made seems to be a step back, now that I've made it I feel like I can actually move forward. Before (and by before, I literally mean last week) I couldn't even consider anything beyond what I was doing, because even what I was actually doing was immensely difficult to comprehend and succeed at. Any time I thought of anything else (buying new clothes, advertising for private music students, taking a yoga class, seeing friends, cleaning a room) my brain immediately went, well, why are you thinking of these things when there are all these other things that still need to be done, plus these things over here that you've done but are rubbish, plus everything else that you said you'd do but haven't actually done... and so forth. Nothing seemed possible. Now, I can not only see that I've been living in a fog for so long, but I can actually discern shapes, form ideas, work towards goals that before seemed pointless. I can now consider things as possibilities, not futilities.
This fog is something that I think most, if not all, narcoleptics can relate to. It's the fog that lack of sleep causes - affecting memory, cognition, mental processing. Everything gets slower, duller. Decisions seem hard. Adrenaline is the only thing that helps get you through life's necessities. Routine is essential, and anything outside the boundaries becomes difficult, impossible to manage. If you are someone who is at that stage - just stop. Give yourself time to recover, and think. I promise... it will seem immensely difficult, as if you are failing yourself if you stop and step back, but once you do it, everything else will stop being foggy and start to clarify and become possible.
A person surrounded by dark can find it hard to believe there could ever be light. So too - a person cognitively and physically exhausted finds it hard to believe they could have the strength to do more. If this is you - stop, and give yourself the chance to realise you can change to do more.