Sometimes it occurs to me how much more I’d be able to get done if I didn’t spend quite so much of my time asleep. Take yesterday, for example — despite having set an alarm, I found myself waking up at 4pm, thoroughly confused and on the brink of panicking about how much work I had to do. With two essays to get done this weekend, I couldn’t really afford the ridiculous lie-in… but it happened anyway.
And then I spent the few hours of the day I had available to dye my hair purple and watch a couple episodes of Orphan Black and start reading The Secret History. I make bad life choices, okay?
Today I reasoned I’d do better and woke up at around 8:15am. It took me a while to get going, but I managed to do some work in the morning before cycling across town on a quest for gluten free bread (the Sainsbury’s in town doesn’t sell the type I like, so it’s quite a palaver just to get hold of some) and then this afternoon I wrote my essay, telling myself I wasn’t allowed to have dinner until I finished it. It worked, although I did take a two-hour nap early in the afternoon, making my evening meal rather late.
I can’t deny it. I sleep a lot.
The fatigue is something that doctors have variously connected to anaemia (no longer a problem), hypermobility syndrome (not something I can control), coeliac disease (so it should be getting better), anxiety/depression (meant to be under control at the moment), or just the general strains of being a student. I’m running out of things to try. Going gluten-free was meant to improve that as well as get rid of all the stomachaches, but so far it’s done neither, and I’m coming up to two months without gluten now.
What am I meant to do? I find myself lying awake thinking about La Chanson de Roland and pondering the idea of courage when I should really be asleep, but when the morning comes and I’m actually meant to be writing about it, I can’t rouse myself for love or money. However many cups of tea I drink, I’m still prone to dozing off anywhere and everywhere, curling up like a cat in the nearest warm spot. Sometimes it’s deliberate in the sense that I lie down to keep warm or rest an aching limb, but sometimes I’m literally trying to read and I just doze off, waking two hours later with a crick in my neck.
I found school exhausting, but I generally got away with not having any energy because the work there didn’t take me nearly as long as work in Cambridge does. When I say that I’ve got two essays, that doesn’t just mean I need to write about four thousand words in a weekend, because that would be easy. It means reading half a dozen books or articles on a subject I often don’t know anything about — hunting them down in the University Library where they’ll inevitably be the one volume missing from a shelf, then trawling through them looking for relevant ideas…
… and when all the reading’s done, the actual work of writing the essay begins.
I’ve been back in Cambridge for two weeks now, and today I finished my second essay, after an unproductive week. Tomorrow morning, I start the reading for the next one, which is due on Monday. At some point, I also need to squeeze in some Old Irish translation, although fortunately I’m a tiny bit ahead of that so if I don’t get it done before Monday, it’s probably okay. My book blog sits bereft and abandoned, with no reviews to provide fodder — it’s hard enough to find the time to read a book, let alone review it.
And yet at the same time, I feel like I’m coping better than last year. Even though there’s more work (two essays in a weekend was pretty much unheard of last year), and I’m expected to know more, it’s easier to get started on an essay when you dimly remember something about the topic from a lecture last year, because at least the texts aren’t utterly incomprehensible. Which is, of course, where I’m at a disadvantage with Medieval French, since I’ve never studied it before.
Not having to adjust to the unfamiliarity of Cambridge also makes it easier. I can pop out to get food because I know exactly where to get it from, even if that means going on a bit of a quest. I don’t get lost just trying to navigate college, and I have friends whose doors I can knock on if I get too overwhelmed.
But it’s still not easy, and my optimistic plans to participate in NaNoWriMo are looking more foolish by the day. Oh, sure, it’d be easy to carve out half an hour a day to write — if I didn’t nap so much. Because that early afternoon period when I could take an extended lunch break has literally become my standard time for an afternoon nap. I am honestly just an overgrown toddler.
Occasionally, of course, I don’t wake up at all. It’s seriously becoming a problem.
I write this partly in the self-deprecating way I write a lot of my blog posts — look at me, failing at life, hahaha — but also with an honest desire for information. If anyone else (particularly coeliacs and hypermobile people) deals with this kind of fatigue, can you let me know your techniques for coping? Maybe I just need to give the gluten-free diet a bit longer, but I’m honestly not feeling a whole lot better.
And now I’m going to go to bed. Because I figure I have a better chance of actually getting that Irish essay done in time if I go to bed before midnight today.