A year ago today I had my first day off work for what turned out to be nearly 4 months. That period is pretty vague in my memory. I still have the notes I made of the symptoms I had during that time to ensure I told the Dr everything and didn’t miss anything out. But the day-to-day is hazy. What I do remember is that I had already visited the Dr and despite having suffered flu like symptoms for several weeks and having fallen ill whilst away in South Africa and other African countries, a blood test was not considered. I do remember waking up a year ago today still feeling hot and cold, achy and knowing I would struggle through another day at work. It was the kind of struggle that made me want to just go to bed in the middle of the day, I’d let certain low level disruption slide or not administer the normal punishment because I just didn’t have the energy. I couldn’t seem to fight it. So I got up, showered, felt worse than normal and had to be convinced not to go in. I mean, I could still walk and talk, so in my eyes, I was well enough to work. Also we have to plan our cover if we are absent so that required extra work.
Over the first few days I was absent from work, I do remember relaxing, or at least my version of relaxing back then which was doing 2 things at once whilst also watching TV! In my head I was only going to be off for a few days maximum, I mean, we had Open Evening 2 days later and I had an event I had planned the following week so I had to be in for those. Well, I wasn’t! Little was I to know how my life would turn out thanks to a viral infection I had picked up somewhere in South Africa or perhaps Botswana.
I won’t repeat my first post on here which details these months but I do just want to use this time and space to congratulate myself and to realise how far I really have come. I returned to work in January for 2 lessons per day, which in hindsight was far too much. I pushed myself to the absolute brink, pushing myself each week when realistically my body wasn’t ready. But after some adaptations it began to work for me.
Yet, strangely, in hindsight, I do believe that pushing myself in that way showed me what my absolute limit is and what is realistic for me day-to-day in terms of work and home life. I felt what a ’10’+ means on my scale for me. By making adaptations I learned how to keep it below 4 and began to learn what to do if this spiked above a 6. I know that if I maintain a 6, I’ll have a flare. I did need more time off for various reasons, primarily stress-related flares. But I learned to listen to my body and not criticise myself for needing this time off. It would mean needing less time off in the long run and also having more energy once I did return to work.
This week also marks week 3 of the new academic year. It’s been a struggle, I’d be lying to myself and everyone around me if I said otherwise. But I haven’t had a day off and I do’t intend to. Yes, my timetable is not ideal; there is no routine with one day different to the next and both weeks different. For example, Week A I have 13 lessons over 5 days and Week B 13 lessons spread over 4 days, including a 5 lesson day (aaaahh). I have 9am starts, late morning starts and afternoon starts. I crave routine but actually, this entails further adaptation and will be a learning curve. The 5 lesson day means once home, I don’t do anything and so I make no plans at all. The following day is a late start so I can have a slow start.
Last year, not 4 months ago say, 5 lessons in a row would have meant time off. So what’s changed? Perhaps I’m slowly, very slowly getting better? I don’t really know. What I do know is that I am being more careful perhaps, pacing myself better. I’m beginning to plan my lessons so that I have time to sit and I’m starting to teach the students how to learn independently so that when I do have a flare I can perhaps still go to work and tweak my lessons slightly so that the students do all the work. It does help that it’s a new term and the students haven’t had months of cover lessons which effects their behaviour.
A year on and I’ve had a productive day. I walked the 10 minutes into our ‘village’ to be able to finish the surprise for my Dad tomorrow – I won’t say exactly because it’s my Dad’s birthday tomorrow and I don’t want him to know yet…but he’ll probably guess now I’ve written this -then I finished the surprise, next I ate lunch and then left for work, taught 2 lessons (very energetically as they required a lot of teacher led activities because they were learning set structures), then I went to the gym. Phew! I feel great. I’ve paced myself, eaten well and allowed myself breaks when I need them. So I think I’m learning that this is the real secret to getting better. I hope I haven’t jinxed it now. Fingers crossed I haven’t!