Why I’m Quiet

Hey guys. I know quite a few of you pop in here regularly to say hi (I’m still bemused by the ongoing stats!).

I’m not actually being completely silent, but instead have been flat out classroom teaching, tutoring, and blogging with my professional hat on!

If you fancy seeing what I’ve been up to, I’m in full glorious Technicolor over at www.TeachAllAboutIT.uk

It’s been a total whirlwind this year & I’ve just popped on to say whoooo! My tutoring business had it’s 1st birthday this week. How very exciting!

That, and I promise to write something not to do with teaching soon…

Advertisements

Sleep is For The Weak

I watched an interesting and yet terrifying documentary on Netflix today called Take Your Pills. If you’ve not watched it, please do. It’s a worrying window into how kids cope with the academic pressures ladled onto them. There were also so many ambitious adults on there who are taking Adderall to stop burnout. Some had progressed to taking low doses of LSD, with stories of people in their 30s having exhaustion induced seizures and being called / emailed at the hospital for work they hadn’t finished.

(For point of reference Adderall is an ADHD drug similar to ritalin – both are amphetamines, but adderall is closer to methamphetamine)

Ironically, here was me watching this in bed in my pyjamas at 10am on a Wednesday morning. I’ve worked every day for the past 14 days and by Tuesday morning found myself wrapped in a blanket at 7am staring into my mirror instead of getting ready for work, after another “fun 4 hour sleep” unable to put makeup on because I was so tired & woozy. Technically I should have called then, but I felt too guilty to call in sick. My pain levels exhaust me, but I don’t want to “use them as an excuse” – the internalised ableism is almost audible around me at times like this.

As my workload went up, so did my pain levels amd my ability to cope dropped – I already have a heafty painkiller routine, but the morphine levels have risen recently. I had a bit of a stark awakening when just before a stream on Monday my shoulder popped out (fully dislocated with a torn muscle). Mr Geek returned the joint to it’s rightful place & I asked for “some morphine please”. This sparked much hilarity from my friends on camera who witnessed a totally calm woman politely request strong narcotics. From most people I’d get upset, except I know they intrinsically get this pain threshold thing – I don’t scream & wail because I’m not scared. It hurts like a motherfucker & still does, but I know why and how to solve it, and precisely how bad it will get. Staying calm stops my muscles going into spasm & helps the joint back in. Much love to Jo & her meditation techniques for this.

Anyway, knackered lots of pain etc. so in bed on my “day off” before tutoring starts. It occured to me that I was utterly confused by the concept of not being able to focus – these people wanted to push through the tired & work faster, longer, better. And were using amphetamines to do it. They are literally taking drugs to have the unpleasant side effect of my adrenal dysfunction. WTH?!

I made a list of things I’ve achieved over the past 7 days to show the effects of skidding through life in constant fight or flight:

7 days of stuff I’ve done

Learnt how to code with basic Unity & Cardboard VR

Made & released a simulation App for my department’s charity den (go look & download to raise money for our local homeless shelter!)

Written a draft short campaign for the roleplaying group I play with (3000 words & counting) based around Tudor / Medieval Sussex folklore.

Created ink drawings for a couple of characters.

Scruffy witch with long teeth stands holding a fish

Ginny Greenteeth – river hag, notorious for dragging people into water.

Joined in 2 roleplaying streams totalling a collective 6 hours (no regrets!)

They’re not on YouTube yet, here’s one we made earlier!

https://youtu.be/YcDgJos28sE

Created an ink drawing of one of the characters from our game stream.

Drawibg of a Young man in a long coat running with a flaming torch in one hand and a dagger in the other

Lamb the SaltGypsy from our Salt & Thirst Campaign with BloodThirsty Puppets

Worked at my teaching job for 32 hours + a few evenings of marking

12 hours of online tutoring

And a blog post.

….

Now in a list, I looked at that and thought “wow! I’m a fucking superhero!”. No brain, you are not. You are skimming years off of your life by not slowing down even when limbs are literally falling off and you’re crying from being tired. What my brain is failing to mention is:

The sketching is done at 1am when I can’t sleep because my CRPS is playing up & my leg feels like its on fire

Much of the middle of the night suddenly awake cold swears stuff is due to panic dreams where I can’t escape from a fire. Subconsciously I know this is because the alarms broke on Friday & we’re just waiting for an engineer & there’s a plan in place, but I don’t like feeling vunerable & not in control. Being nervous = extra adrenalin.

The streaming is my socialising. I do this from bed because sitting in a chair is too painful after work. I’d rather cut a boob off than not join in.

Same goes for tutoring. Big pile of pillows in bed. I enjoy it & it’s paying for the holiday which the girls & Mr Geek deserve so much after giving up life to accomodate me all year.

I loved creating the app, but the all consuming fear that I’d let people down if it wasn’t done meant that by Sunday morning I was covered in hives (I still argue that it was worth it)

……………………………

So the brain & I had a serious talk having been placed into a salted bath by Mr Geek who now just looks at me like a concerned pet owner does at a cat that keeps pulling it’s fur out.

I can’t keep going where the adrenalin rush pushes me. I can’t shrug off every conversation where Mr Geek tells me to rest more and stop working, or at least saying yes to more work. I can’t survive on less than 25 hours sleep per week.

Something has to give, and with a leaky heart valve we’d rather it wasn’t that. Also, that’s not a very rock & roll way to go.

The brain needs to stop flooding me with adrenalin and I need to be sensible and take a few days off. I’ve cleared my diary for the whole 4 day Easter Weekend, much to the dismay of my tutees (downside of self-employed tutoring is they genuinely believe I’m on 24 hour call).

  • Even if it snows, we are going to a National Trust garden.
  • I’m going to sit in Mr Geek’s lap, tangled up together with all the tech off and read for pleasure
  • I’m going to paint with TinyPants on a hill.
  • I’m going to watch sharknado with beanpole

I’m writing this downas a line in the sand. As a very loud, but wise man who never followed his own advice once told me: 49% work / 51% family.

– work emails are no longer on my personal device

– My tutoring books are closed

– Working on a Sunday is now emergencies only

– Anything past 7pm needs to be completed from bed

That seems like a reasonable step towards not breaking my head.

Meh

Today was meh. Actually, it was more than meh. It was a megalithic shitstorm. And yet I kept my temper.

image

We’re now 4 weeks past the final final coursework deadline. So far I’ve marked & moderated all the GCSE controlled assessments  (again), all of the AS structured tasks, and most of the A2 projects… apart from the few that aren’t finished. 4 weeks past the extended final deadline.

If they worked for me, they’d be fired. As it is, one particular student waltzes in today & demands that I mark his 4 week late project tonight so he can make improvements. As it is, I did mark it. Then sat there horrified that the month long extension produced no additional code than that copied from my tutorials. So here I am between the rock of a kid who has barely worked for the past 12 months (seriously, we started this in June 2015) who deserves the grade he gets and the hard place of being judged on the value added that he brings to my class results which utterly wipes out the amazing hard work that the other kids have put in with some achieving incredible results. And here is the teacher conundrum; do you go with the moral high ground of allowing them to learn the greater life lesson of results actually require hard work, or do I go with the gnawing fear of our results being pulled down by the kid failing & give him yet another chance?

The day that gnawing feeling leads me to over help (delicate way of saying do it for them), is the day I leave teaching. But I hate that I have to put my morals and the important lesson of allowing someone to fail aside because ultimately, I know that my pay grade is weighted against my classes performance. By performance, I mean how many grades above their predicted results at the start of the course are they by the time they leave.

Today, I have watched my daughter stay up til past 9 trying practice papers for an exam for 11 year olds that ultimately benefits the school but not her, have been made to feel unsupportive because after a year of trying to extract work I took longer than 4 days to turn around some marking, worried more about departmental stays than a human being, and my bones hurt. I dragged myself out of bed this morning despite lightening shooting through my back & legs, but I’m not wholly sure why now. We visited Squeezy my SIL for her birthday this evening & trying to enjoy the company, I could barely sit in my chair because of the pain in my pelvis despite all the opiates. As I sat squirming, I could feel myself reaching blackout levels on the pain scale as my bones turned to lava & all feeling left my feet. As Mr Geek lifted me back into the chair when we got home, I couldn’t hold myself up anymore. Welcome to not pacing.

I’ve lost some of my fight today. This isn’t a closed mindset – I genuinely believe that they could reach the stars with enough hard work. But I won’t do the work for them. My challenge now is how to instil that growth mindset into those final few kids who year on year don’t heed the advice of start early & do little & often. I fear this isn’t an easily won battle.

[Insert Witty Title Here]

It’s been a funny old day facilitated by a lot of painkillers. It’s been a bloody long one too. A total of 13 hours from leaving for work to returning home. That might not be much to some, but 13 solid hours in the wheelchair with no chance to transfer, or stretch out, or in fact have a nap after a tosh nights sleep was all a bit much.

I was greeted by a colleague today who goes out of his way to help me navigate the doors at work each morning. Not out of pity, but because he gets that it’s just hard opening doors and he misses the sense of community from his home country that is lacking in the UK. I enjoy our morning chats and I find his very honest love for people infectious. I’m a grumpy arsehole in the morning,  but he brightens my day by leaping out of his classroom to hold open a few doors just for me.

This morning he asked me how I stay so cheerful and positive. He really meant it. I did a presentation at the start of the year to the whole school faculty and apparently I was genuinely passionate. I do smile. I do ask how people are. I do laugh off the crappy days. It worried me that I seem so genuinely positive. Have I really got that good at faking it?

Of course I’m not going to tell you I’m in agony and my pelvis is burning. Instead put on a big smile and say “I’m fine! How are you?” Or make some stupid quip about having all 4 limbs.

Of course I won’t tell you about spending 20 minutes this morning layering on special concealer, foundation,  and powder to hide the eye bags. I do appreciate you saying how well I look though as it validates my make up skills.

Edit: before and after. Eek!
image

Of course I’m going to shrug and say it could be worse, or there’s nothing I can do so why worry? These lines are so well versed that even if believe them some days. And actually only a couple of people get away with the following up of “and how are you actually doing?”. Mrs G, Mr Geek & Mr Gypsytree get honest answers. They are the glue that holds the bits of my mind together. Mrs Gypsytree aka Sherlock gets a special version where I don’t have to say much.*

How do I stay so positive?  Easy. I fake it. And apparently I deserve a bloody Oscar.

image

The reality is that I got home today after a 12 hour stint at school + an hour of travelling in so much pain I found it hard to speak. I hit tired at lunchtime and pushed through tired into manic, then into plain weird where I got cross with Mr Geek for chewing to loudly near me, then finally rock bottom where I just cried buckets because I typed the Gypsytrees’ collective names. Just to help, I now can’t sleep as my legs are restless and ALL the painkillers aren’t helping my extremities or the headache that’s creeping up the back of my neck.

A huge part of that reality is being scared that if I rage about being in pain and physically useless all the time I’ll get boring and that stuck record will get old and eventually be left alone. So instead I smile as if my life depends on it. Because to a certain extent it does.

image

On a much funnier note, a student at school went joy…err..hopping on my emergency crutches that I keep in my 1st floor classroom today. In his defense, he hadn’t considered why they are there, nor what would happen if there was a fire and my chair failed. Equally in his defense, with hindsight it’s quite funny watching someone describe a TWOC offense (taking without consent – which is usually reserved for vehicles) when referring to crutches. How far did he think he would get? We’re they going somewhere?  Why would you do that? Is there a crutch black market? The teenage boy brain baffles me. The hardest part : keeping a straight face.

image

* Note to self: It’s OK to miss them. It’s not ok to get runny mascara over the Marvel Duvet cover. Captain America now looks like he’s been down the mines.

Show Me The Way To Go Home…

Tired has different levels. Tonight’s tired is a special kind of tired.

image

Going out for dinner last night did more than play havoc with my intestines, but has had some kind of altercation with my body.

image

This morning I slept in until 11 and a visit to Mr Geek’s family just trashed any energy I got back from sleeping in. I’ve been really potsy all day with random dizzy spells and not able to keep warm at all. I just want to lay down and vegetate.

image

Sadly, I can’t. I had prep to do for work this week and masses of poo has hit fans over a special event I’ve been organising. I’m not wholly sure how to deal with it. What I have done is randomly drop off during conversations and generally be pretty useless all day.

image

Poor Mr Geek hasn’t had it much better. My weird sleep patterns are disturbing him and he’s reaching he end of the line with people demanding his attention left right and centre. He needs a break, but can’t just hand over to me and piss off on his own for a while. He’s just too nice to say no & is making himself ill looking after & worrying about me.

We both need a week to just stop & sleep & probably attempt a normal relationship.

image

It’s 4am, it’s dark, it’s time to play Name That Pain!

Sod it. If we have to go through this again, let’s make it a game show.

image

What’s behind door number 1?

This is the pain that woke you up through the painkillers. It’s sharp,  it’s yellow, it’s because you ate too much broccoli. ….  it’s your intestines!

Let’s see what you could’ve chosen behind door number 2.

This could be from typing or pushing your chair. They’re sore, they’re stiff, they’re swollen,….. it’s your fingers!  (But only on the right so type with your left)

What about door number 3?

You coughed too hard last night & now it pokes you when you breath. It’s sharp, it’s red, it’s a bit disconcerting. It’s your rib!

Now let’s take a look at the conveyor belt of “the usual aches”. Actually, you know what? This game sucks. I’m changing channels.

Disney LIED To Me About Cleaning

I hate cleaning. I especially hate it when hours in it feels like I’ve actually gone backwards. I have the same relationship with tidying up as a 3 year old.

I’ve basically avoided having any form of rational clear out of our room for months. Any time I’ve vaguely contemplated it, we’ve either been too busy or in too much pain. But today, feeling quite perky and with the start of the new school year and the nagging feeling that I want to be organised more prominent than usual, I pulled out everything in my wardrobe and started.

This is basically the physical embodiment of how I feel about everything right now:

image

The rest of our room wasn’t much better tbh. The wardrobe was stuffed to the gills with a load of crap I don’t actually need or want, I’m just keeping it there to keep it away from the rest of the houseĀ  (which is immaculate… mainly because other people live there. I’m less fussy about my own space, which whilst Mr Geek shares it, I present to the ladies and gentlemen of the jury exhibit a: bits of model plane & Warhammer figures… ’nuff said).

So I’ve spent the majority of the day holed up in here throwing out what I don’t need/want and putting back just the important stuff. As I was going I kept thinking, I’m never going to be able to wear those shoes…. but they stayed. If I can’t wear heels, I can at least look at them.

image

If you look reeeeeally hard you can see the hours I spent on that! I added the important bits in there. Like this from Mrs Gypsytree who moved away last week to Ireland. That way I get to see it each morning and am reminded that there’s someone out there who is equally peculiarĀ  (if not more so going by her current obsession with some posh floppy haired actor who looked genuinely terrified in the selfie she took with him). She will of course, remain my Sherlock even if she has buggered off to the middle of nowhere.

image

And this Oatmeal poster that Mr Geek got me for valentines this year. This trumps any card with fascist dictators on. He is pretty much the start and end of my world.

image

The problem was that moving everything out of the wardrobe sort of eclipsed the bed. And whilst I would normally be totally up for the sweep and collapse style of getting into bed, this would rather negate all the work so far. By this point I was grumpy. Pretty much all major joints were burning and my head was pounding. I did just sit on the washing basket for a bit and contemplate crying Disney style until the forest animals came and did it for me. Apparently, they’re too busy eating each other and pooping to fold my laundry. Selfish bastards.

image

So after a great deal of sighing and staring at it all, I got off my arse and kept going.

image

Note: I totally didn’t do this by myself. Mr Geek took pity on me and helped me to clear up & make the bed. In my defence I did clean up the floor on my side of the bed which had been thickly carpeted in yarn…

So what actually left the building after all the effort? Well, 4 bags of rubbish and these two bags on ‘not wearing that again’ which include my 2 comfort cardigans that I’ve had since forever. But out with the old…

image

My sanity is probably in there too, alongside any joints that were not previously hurting.

A few years back, this wouldn’t even have been Facebook status worthy, let alone a whole blog post. Instead, it’s an unwelcome reminder of which way my mobility is heading. Part of finishing as much as I did was partially being angry that I couldn’t and the pain was slowing me down. The result of that is now laying in a flipping hot bath using my blog app to have a good old moan. That way, I can stick my smile back on and everything can be hunky dory again with lots of ‘never mind!’ and ‘nothing we can do, so hay hoe!’.

Ce la vie! (Did that sound convincing?)