So it turns out I got the preparation thing all wrong. How do I get coffee into my body? Why is there only one socket in the classroom? Where’s the coffee? Since when did a one hour 10 minute train journey become a four-hour round-trip commute?
I finally started college last week, to the sound of people saying; ‘thanks be to God/Allah/Mohammed/Thor/Oprah (insert as appropriate) he’s started. He hasn’t stopped banging on about it since he got he’s place.’ To one and all I’m sorry, I was excited. Four years of volunteering and no study or paid work had left me slightly excited at meeting people and feeding the brain again.
The difficulty was (and is, will be) how much can my brain be fed? The fibromyalgia and its’ attendant fog of confusion, lack of concentration and soul-destroying fatigue doesn’t really inspire total confidence in a great student. How much could I realistically expect my brain to learn and adapt to before it put up its’ hands like Roberto Duran crying “No mas, No Mas!”?
I had never planned on writing last week. I knew I’d be overloaded with information and new things and my brain would be doing hula hoops trying to keep up. Sudokus, crosswords and lots of reading don’t prepare you for lectures, classrooms, timetables, new faces, early trains, long days and the rest.
So I gave myself the week to simply observe what went on. I tried and succeeded in everything I needed to. I interacted in all classes right to the end of the day and to the end of the week despite the incredible fatigue. I even dragged myself along to Culture Night for good measure.
All in all it was an amazing week. I made it to every lecture, I wrote or typed every note I had to and most importantly I’ve met some brilliant people, even if nearly all of them are scarily young. (Born in 1996/1997??) Everyone has a shared interest in the humanities and there is genuine passion in everyone for different areas of what is naturally a massively broad course.
Has it all been great?
Of course not.
I’ve found a lovely coffee shop across the road selling an incredibly reasonable €2 Americano but €2 a day every day is too much. For a serious coffee fiend like me portable instant is going to have to suffice.
Last week was extremely exhausting. When I wasn’t out I was sleeping or dreaming of sleeping or wishing I was sleeping. But anyone changing their so drastically would feel the same. So I’ve cut myself a little slack. Yes I’m tired, yes I’m going to bed earlier and earlier but I will find a routine.
Fatigue and concentration levels were always going to be a problem. The third problem was going to be pain. That too hasn’t let me off the hook. We generally describe pain in one of two ways, which I know from personal experience physio’s hate. it’s either a dull ache or a sharp stabbing pain.
My way to differentiate is usually the dull ache is a tired and stiff pain from over, or under, use. Sharp pain is the joint screaming, ‘there’s a f*****g here right now, fix me fix me fix me!’
The last three weeks has been the fix me type of pain. My hands and feet, my wrists and ankles, and my shoulders are on fire. They all hurt like there’s a loose chip inside the joint grating away. My ankles are locking, giving way and sore as sh1t when they crack. Some people might give out about the classes being in the same room but I’m chuffed. Let me stretch in my chair and around my chair and I’m happy. My hands and wrists are as sore as they’ve ever been. Yes I’m writing notes in class but it’s not a massive change because I write longhand anyway so it’s not a big increase.
So the steroids were whacked up again yesterday to hopefully get me up the hill. on the plus side I did manage to achieve something remarkable without even trying. I’m already through two courses of steroids and yet I’ve lost 3-4 kilos. It always goes the other direction so I’ve no idea what I’ve done but I’ll take it.
As I said I’m in a lot of pain with my hands and feet, my migraines are saying hello with the effort of concentrating and retaining information and I’m struggling to hold my hand up to shave every day.
Through all of this is the overriding feeling of accomplishment. I’m doing something, I’m out meeting people again and already I can see some possibilities for the future opening up before me. All I need now is for my body to keep up with me.
…….and a cup of coffee