Saturday, September 21, 2013

This time last year.

A year isn't an arbitrary number of days, but a full earthly swing around the sun. After a particularly painful relationship breakdown, I had some great advice that I think is applicable to any major life change: the first full year, with each annual event, resets the normal and allows you to move on. Birthdays, seasons, national holidays and anniversaries. We can't help but compare them to previous years.

It does seem arbitrary though, 365 days. 'This time last year' is something I've been saying a lot. We didn't know. We didn't know that I had a brain tumour and we didn't know how that news would impact us and what it would mean. We didn't know we would have a baby. Everything is different now, and I can't articulate how changed I feel.

All along I have been marking the time passed since my surgery on the 24th October 2012. It has recently struck me that that date isn't as important than the one looming now. The day everything changed was much earlier. In fact I can't pinpoint an actual day, but a steady build up of days.

Oliver's birthday (yesterday), followed by a family weekend by the sea (today and tomorrow), then immediately to a couple of days in Poland for work. And that's where it all kicked off with what I thought was a migraine in a hotel lobby. I'd been feeling kind of terrible for a couple of months but I hadn't really noticed it creeping up on me.

The emails I sent to work explaining my absence throughout the following week are fascinating to read back, and my twitter feed gives a somewhat simplified version of events:
  • 21st Septemberdark when i leave work, dark when i get up for work. hope summer starts soon.
  • 24th September: business travel on ryanair isn't quite business class. not that i'd know.
  • 25th September: quite enjoying working in a hotel lobby today. particularly the soundtrack.
  • 25th September: a triptan, 2 pints of water, vitamin c tablets, apple juice, spoon of marmite, prawn cocktail crisps. hot water bottle. bed. die: migraine.
  • 27th September: in bed with a bag of peas on my head. is singing give peas a chance and i smell of peas. not in a good way. migraine, peas off now.
  • 1st October: love the nhs.

I can't quite explain the fascination I have for this annual comparison. I continually marvel at the difference to today, but there is something else too. Would I go back to a year ago? Would I choose a different path if I could? No. I have developed as a person and learnt a lot about myself. It's been a worthwhile journey.

But it seems an anniversary to make a note of in some way. I feel almost tearful at the thought of this time last year, and as if I keep banging on about it. As per the advice above, maybe I'll move on after this. We'll soon have been through every annual event and the new normal will have been set. Time to look forward rather than back.

(There is no button and you can't go back.)

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Sleep. Humph. I've got a difficult relationship with sleep. I used to take it for granted - in that I never used to think about it. I'm not sure when that changed but 'thinking about sleep' is something I do pretty much all the time now.

Through teenage years I was nocturnal whenever I didn't have to get up for something (school was such an inconvenience) and the rest of the time I was exhausted. It felt like I could never catch up. But it was at university that the insomnia started, brought on by stress of course work and stress from a bad relationship.

It seems like an old friend now, the insomnia. It is strange to be really tired, but not able to sleep. And it's like a vicious circle, the more it happens the more frustrated I get, which clearly doesn't help anything.

Over the years I've blamed many things (the bin men, the radiators, the cat, the husband, work, the sunshine, the mattress, the birds, the neighbours, the weather, the pregnancy, the baby - I actually could go on...) but I think it's time I just took responsibility for the fact that I am rubbish at sleeping.

I love being in bed. Big feathery quilt, lots of pillows and a good book. Especially when it's cold outside and I'm snug and warm. But sleeping? Somehow it doesn't quite make the top of the list of priorities.

I am the tiredest now that I've ever been in my whole life. By a long way. I can't make decisions and I feel spaced out. But I also feel fine. Apparently you get some hormone thing with breastfeeding and whatever it is, it's great. I haven't slept more that three hours in a row for six weeks and rarely more that five hours in total a night. But, somehow, I am not only functioning but I feel fine!

Everyone likes to say that you should 'sleep when the baby sleeps'. I have two problems with that. Firstly, when Alfred is asleep during the day, I finally get to run around and do all the things that you need two hands to do. Like go to the toilet. And hang the washing out. And also, read a book. It's the time I get to myself, to look at cats on the internet and take the two month old toe nail varnish off.

Secondly, the problem is waking up. I would rather die than wake up these days. It is so painful that I'd really prefer not go to sleep in the first place. The notes I wrote for this post (not really notes, just ideas I write down on my phone whilst feeding in the dead of night) say "But what the hell is this hell?" - crucially I only feel like that when I've just been woken up, five minutes later I am fine.

We have a funny old system for restoring ourselves. Sleep is fantastic when it works, but what if you could just take a pill and immediately feel the restorative effects of a full eight hours kip? Wouldn't it be good if evolution did away with the need to sleep? Or actually, maybe just the waking up part...

p.s. You know when you look at a word too long and it starts to look really odd and you begin to doubt that you've spelt (spelled?) it right or that it's even a word in the first place? How weird does the word 'sleep' look? Is that right? Sleep. Sleeeeeep. I think we all know what I should be doing right now.