2017 was the Native American’s Year of the Wolf. 2017 was Clodagh’s Year of the Sandwich.
I entered 2017 on a slice of hospital and will be ending 2017 on a slice of hospital. Two slices of slightly stale bread, with 365 layers of much of the same crap in between. I want to be optimistic. I want to look back on this year and say that I reached some goals, did some things to make myself proud, got stronger and healthier, perhaps learned to love myself a little bit more. It didn’t turn out to be that way, as, I guess, sometimes these things don’t. Don’t get me wrong, in some ways this year was great. In one way, it was the best of my life. On balance? Put it this way, 2018 already has a head start.
When I left hospital last February, I thought that my struggles were going to be all downhill from there. I was so wrong. Leaving an inpatient eating disorder treatment programme having put on 6kgs, my BMI was still under 16. That didn’t concern me at the time, I was on a roll, I thought that I’d stay putting the weight on, get back to the gym, get back to training, get my life back. I thought I was done with just existing, I was ready to start living. Right now, I actually weigh less (very little less, but less) than I did in February. I’m stronger in a lot of ways, my yoga practise has grown, my strength has grown, my sense of independence and confidence has almost returned to what it was before I became unwell in the first place. For some reason, I just didn’t manage to stay gaining weight. I was eating, though obviously not enough, yet at every weigh-in with my doctor I would be within 0.1-0.3KGs of my last weigh in- a professional jockey couldn’t do it if they tried! Ruby Walsh, eat your heart out!
It became more and more apparent to me as time went on that I had a very serious problem in my life, one which was probably a major factor in my lack of progress in weight restoration. My sleep became problematic to the point of being a hindrance to my ordinary daily life. For most of the year, I slept an average of 5-6 hours a night, waking frequently and having horrible nightmares. I began to not even want to go to bed and started finding other things to do; cleaning, ironing, anything to delay going to bed. I couldn’t get into the bed until the room was spotless and everything in its place. Still being underweight, I had to bolster certain parts of my body with pillows and cushions to avoid becoming achey and painy from lying down for too long. By that point, it would often be 3 or 4am and it wouldn’t take me too long to sleep, but, I would be awake again by 7 or 8am. I moved through each day like a zombie. When I was teaching or being sociable (a rare occasion) I was able to put on a face and be bubbly and smiley, but once I could drop that guard, my eyelids dropped with it. I fell asleep everywhere. I fell asleep on busses, at bus stops, in the waiting rooms of dentists, doctors and opticians, on the train, in the car, at the kitchen table, standing in slow-moving queues in Lidl or at the cooker, pushing vegetables around a wok, everything sliding in and out of focus. I was convinced that I had very severe insomnia. After a week of getting about 18 hours sleep in 7 days, including naps, I knew it was time to go to the hospital. I couldn’t walk in a straight line, I couldn’t focus my eyes, or my mind, for that matter. I would start a sentence and just trail off, not only forgetting the end of the sentence but even that I had started one in the first place. My speech was slurred, there were bags under my eyes so big I wouldn’t have been able to bring them carry-on at the airport and my skin was practically translucent. I cried at everything. I couldn’t face basic tasks like going to the shop on my own. My only saving grace, my knight in shining armour, was my boyfriend, Luke. When I wasn’t teaching and he was home, I would go to his house and nap. He would cook and feed me and I would nap some more. He held me when I cried because I couldn’t remember the word ‘sleeping-bag’ and for every other stupid reason imaginable. He never let me know he was afraid. He was my rock and my literal safety net; after months of this, I had grown so tired that I didn’t even feel safe when I was alone. He is the most supportive and unbelievably selfless human I know and I am totally aware of how lucky I am to have him. (Hi, baby!)
I don’t have insomnia. I have narcolepsy. It seemed obvious in hindsight, even my doctor was surprised that we didn’t recognise the symptoms sooner. It’s just so rare, it didn’t even register as a possibility. It’s estimated that there are only about 2,900 people with narcolepsy living in Ireland, of whom, only 20-25% exhibit enough symptoms to make it diagnosable. So, statistically, I hit the jackpot! I am one of the lucky few that will, hopefully, get help. There is no cure for narcolepsy, nor any medication that treats it directly, but, I am in the privileged position of being under a consultant that I know is going to bust his ass trying to help me. He’s good like that. Often people have their symptoms put under the bracket of ‘Sleep Disorder’, and they spend their entire lives battling with their affliction. We know my symptoms, we know my triggers, and we have a strong base to build a plan of action on.
In true Clodagh style, this all culminated in a desperate hospital admission, days before Christmas. I was getting to spend a second Christmas in hospital, hooray! It’s not that bad really, especially when you need to be there. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty shitty compared to actual Christmas with your family, but it’s just a day. It’s just one day. I told my family not to stress, and we decided that we would celebrate Christmas when I got out- so we got two Christmasses! Sure, one involved paper tablecloths and all the antics that accompany being on a psychiatric ward while one involved champagne for breakfast, an open fire, Christmas pudding and Bailey’s whipped cream, but hey, it’s just a day. Plus, I got spoilt on Christmas morning anyway. Luke arrived in to me with homemade nutloaf for my Christmas dinner and presents to unwrap. Spoilt! I got to see my man, have kisses and cuddles and feel warm, squishy love on Christmas morning. Plus, I still get my second Christmas with my family! Loving that silver lining.
I really don’t like it here. The noises are strange and unpredictable, the food is crap (yes, I know it’s a hospital), especially for a vegetarian (‘what do you mean vegetarians don’t eat fish?’ ‘Fish have faces.’). The staff’s hours have been erratic over the holidays so we are all just waiting for the New Year for things to return to normal. Micro-managing, control-freak that I am, I want to get this sorted, done and dusted, I want a plan, with a start and end so I can plan and finally, finally, have my life back, and I’m getting impatient. I don’t want to play-it-by-ear, but I better get used to it, I’ve been warned it might take us a while to figure this out and we might have to try a few different treatment options. You’d think a yoga teacher would be far more patient, wouldn’t you?
This year hasn’t been all bad. People got married, beautiful babies were born, I had my first milkshake in over 7 years, (screw you ED!), I learned to love pizza and chips and other delicious treats without being overwrought with guilt and shame. My bestie, my Blair Bear came to visit from the States and my baby brother came home from Australia. I got to start and end 2017 with the man of my dreams by my side. We went on adventures, we built a fort that took up his whole living room, we got lost going to Bray, we started practising yoga together, we went ice-skating and played a bazillion games of Articulate. I learned how to let someone love me again, something that seemed so foreign and so impossible to me for such a long time. I let myself love him, too. He braved the wilds of Tipperary, (more than once!) and taught me, the immutable cynic, what Love is.
As I get ready to publish this, it's 23.46 on New Year’s Eve. I am not setting any resolutions, I am not thinking any further into the future than I need to. For now, I am focusing on taking each moment, each day as it comes and trying to live my life as best I can, as the best version of myself; filled with hope, positivity, abundance, peace and, most importantly, Love.
I won’t leave it so long before posting again. Sorry about that- I was, like, über tired for a while.
Happy New Year, Yogilateral Warriors! Thank you 2017, you taught me so much, you gave me so much, but your friend 2018 is looking pretty damn fine, so I think I’ll turn my focus to him!