I had a reasonably impressive breakdown a few weeks ago due to complete and utter exhaustion. It's the first time in quite a while that I've really had to deal with something like that. The last time I was have chronic sleep-related meltdowns was in 2011, when I was working at a school in Bowral, having to drive up to 2 hours almost every day, waking up at 5am, nearly crashing on the highway and so forth. Although we haven't actually moved all that far away from where we were living before, it has actually had an enormous effect on me that I hadn't anticipated.
Basically, this year started off reasonably stressfully. We got a new principal at school, and while she is quite fantastic (no really... the changes she is making means my school is going to become a place of excellence), she spent her first few weeks at school almost turning the place upside down. The biggest thing was a huge rubbish dump - she and the executive went around the school tossing out anything and everything. This ended up including about 3/4 of my drama resources, and a few instruments (although I managed to rescue some things). This freaked me out. On top of that, I now have a 15 minute walk, uphill in parts, to and from the station. This is a considerable change to what I had previously, which was about 2 minutes. And while it is quite lovely living in a large house, it means going up and down stairs alllll the time.
To summarise, all of these things combined to make my body completely exhausted. I tried to ignore it and just keep moving and working but it really smacked me down. I took a day off work, and spent the rest of the week on my minimum level - doing the least amount of work possible and sleeping the rest of the time.
This is not ideal. I'm doing better now - I had a chat with my deputy about how I'm feeling and what I'm doing to cope with it (I feel very isolated at work, not just because my classroom is completely separate to everyone else, but because I need to spend recess and lunch time recovering, meaning I hardly ever see the rest of the staff. She had noticed, but hadn't said anything. She now understands, thankfully). I'm trying to chill out more and keep my stress levels in check. But I don't know how long I can maintain it. And it's CRAP. Yet again, I'm in an excellent job, great school, great kids, great creative opportunities... and I'm finding myself questioning whether or not I should stay because my body can't cope with it. Unfortunately, this is essentially the definition of disability - being unable to function normally due to illness or irreversable bodily malfunction.
I make a lot of compromises in my life. I'm always, ALWAYS first to leave a party. I frequently don't go out because I'm either too tired, or know I'll end up being tired so early on it's hardly worth going. I often send my husband out to things on his own, just so at least one of us can have a good time. My social life has probably suffered most overall, so that I can do things like work, university study, not live in squalor. My friendships have likely suffered also as a result of this. But everything else is always such a challenge. It is immensely tiring, just living. The best thing narcolepsy have given me thus far has got to be an improved, stoic work ethic, because without it I would never get up in the morning. No, really. I know normal people have trouble waking up, but every morning is a constant stern lecture about what needs to happen. It's my brain constantly fighting what my body is saying. My drive to succeed at the things I've committed to are what keeps me awake on trains, at work, focused during lessons. Without it I don't think I'd ever leave my bed.
So now I'm faced again with whether I need to choose between my work or my health. Thus far it's been a reasonable compromise but it's tipping more and more against my health, which means things have to change. I have a few options I can try... I just need to keep assessing and being careful and honest with myself about my sleep needs. Hopefully my friends, family and workmates can understand.