A few narcolepsy related pictures I've come across recently. These are all from the Cheezburger network websites. In the case of the first one... I think I prefer narcissism to necrophilia. And the second, well... I guess I just like cats. And Titanic.
Had a HUGE week at school this week. Monday and Tuesday were Music Camp - all 7 - 10 kiddies, all. the. time. I did actually sleep reasonably ok on the Monday night but jeez I was exhausted. Wednesday was a reasonable day by my standards, but then Thursday hit and it was all over. Up at 5am, rehearsal, concert for some primary kiddies, teaching, home, train, uni til 7pm, home again by 8pm. I was almost delirious by the end of the day. I made the decision to take Friday off... but it was an immensely difficult one to make.
On Wednesday I had a meeting with a teacher who was (finally) appointed to be my mentor... 6 weeks before I leave the school. It was a good talk, particularly because he was pretty straight with me and gave me answers to my questions that weren't, "I'll deal with it later." However, when I asked him about the possibility of taking Friday off, he was reluctant to encourage me to stay home and recuperate. Rather he thought that it would be percieved better by other teachers for me to come to school and show my support (Friday was a School Spirit kind of day with activities and crap). We talked about me getting the train and being able to sleep on the way here and then he would drop me home (all this time and it's only now I find out there's another teacher who lives 15 minutes away from me!!! Dammit) and it would all be ok. I was positive about it and said that's what I would do.
When I got home I started thinking about it. I talked with my boy about the pros and cons and finally decided to take the day off instead of going in. Aside from the fact that I wanted some time to work on my final uni assessment (of which I only spent about 3 horus on anyway), I decided that it would be in the best interests of my health for me to relax and sleep as long as I could, rather than spend the day running on adrenalin and seeking out naps wherever I could take them. I wrote an email to my mentor teacher explaining my situation. I thought about the the 'perception of support' that he talked about and I wrote, " I can't change what people think of me - if they want to ignore my commitment to my students, performances and program development that I have demonstrated over the year and instead focus on the few days I have taken off for illness, then I can't do anything about that. I can only do what I believe is best. Narcolepsy is unfortunately an immensely difficult illness to live with, as most people either don't understand it or don't know what it is, and it generally leads to people perceiving me as lazy, or bored, or rude... and it's so difficult to explain that, really, all I can do is just decide what's best for my health and go with it and let people think what they want. I teach well, I play well, and my students like me and learn from me... and to me that's really the most important thing."
Sometimes I think I have to keep reminding myself of this fact. I'm not a bad person, I'm actually pretty friggin good. But sometimes I just need to stop... and go to sleep. I'm wondering if I will ever get to a point where I feel like I don't have to justify my actions?
My partner has suggested that I/we create a handout thing for me to give to future employers about narcolepsy, rather having to sit down and try to explain it. I think it's a good idea... except maybe I'll do it after my enormous soul-crushing final assessment of death is due.
So, it's first week back of Term 4 and I have already made a big decision for next year. After finding out that yes, they actually would like me to continue teaching at the school next year, I decided not to return. It was actually an immensely difficult decision to make. Aside from the horrendous commute, it is absolutely the perfect job. The kids are brilliant, especially my Year 9s - deadset probably the best class I have taught in my whole career. The music program is really strong, the concert band is excellent, the facilities and resources are awesome, and it's generally a great community and environment. But the driving... the early, early mornings... the long days... the stress.... too much. Had I decided to stay, my load would have actually increased, so I would have been teaching even more than I am this year. The school also apparently wanted to give me a homeroom, which would have meant I would have had to come in every day. No thanks.
However, I did try to sweeten the deal. Yesterday I heard that the clarinet teacher had resigned.... so when I told my head teacher I wouldn't be able to teach next year, I said that if she would like, I'd be happy to come for one day a week, take the concert band in the morning and then teach clarinet (or saxophone, or musicianship) all day. It's quite possible that she'll take me up on that offer too, which is quite good! It means I pretty much have at the very least one day of definite employment a week next year, and at $60 an hour, if I get 5 hours worth of students it's $300, so about the same amount as a day of casual work. Better than nothing!
The decision to not continue next year sparked discussion about what I actually will do next year for work. I may be starting my Masters thesis, which will be intense. I potentially could get 3 days a week teaching music at a high school that's about a 40 minute drive away... but I don't know. It's not as bad a commute as my current job, but it's still a fair way away. And it means commitment, particularly to senior music students, as well as possible bands and concerts etc. I just don't know if I can handle it.... but, on the other hand, it's regular and consistent, whereas the casual work option could run hot and cold.
My experience this year has been fantastic, but it has made me realise just how much my narcolepsy impacts on my job. Maybe if I was a Maths teacher it would be different, but geez it's hard gearing up energy for teaching, and rehearsing, and gigs after school and at night, and working on school stuff at home. With vet nursing it was intense, but it was intense for the 8 hours I was working. I didn't have to come in for animal concerts every so often, or develop new drug administration programs. It was work, and that was it.
I don't know what's in store for me for next year. I'm hoping that each time I need to make a decision I'll be able to do it with a clear head and be able to put my health and sleep first, and not just say yes because I'm afraid I won't get anything else!
louisfemme is a bird nerd who lives in Sydney, Australia.