Operation ME: Change Starts with Me

“No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.” -Voltaire

This quote was emailed to me today. It was a random newsletter, yet the quote was pertinent. Because I like learning about people and the reasons why certain historical figures are quotable, I turned to Wikipedia. I’ve read some of his writings, but I didn’t know anything about him as a person. What struck me most about him was the fact that his father wanted him to be a lawyer; he wanted to be a writer. His father tried several times to control Voltaire’s path in life to no avail. Eventually, Voltaire separated from his family so that he could pursue those dreams without his father’s interference. He went on to become famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties. He’s quotable because of his passion and tenacity – two things I strive for every day.

I’ve been struggling lately with feeling a loss of control over some factors in my life. As much as I’d hoped medications and diet would allow me to continue living as I was before the excessive daytime sleepiness really began to impact my life, I’ve still had to make some changes. Some changes were welcome, like learning to relax more instead of taking on too many things at once to the point where I was interfering with my quality and quantity of sleep. Giving myself a strict bedtime has proven to be a crucial step in making sure I’m getting enough hours of sleep so that I have the best chance of being productive the next day.

Other choices and accommodations have been hard to request from others and even harder for me to accept. These choices and accommodations leave me with three emotions – feelings of guilt, feelings of failure, and feelings of stress/anxiety. One such accommodation was asking for the time and a place to nap at work. I usually take about a 20-30 minute nap at work each day. It’s not a lot, yet I felt guilty that I wasn’t working for that stretch of time like the rest of my team. I felt a sense of failure because I just could not make it through the day without napping. It has caused me a lot of stress because I worry I’m going to be seen as lazy and taking advantage of people. I know it’s silly, and those who have the authority and responsibility to grant my request are not my worry because they understand. It’s everyone else who may find out and may think differently of my abilities and work ethic. It’s silly since they probably wouldn’t care and would most likely be understanding as well once I educated them on the ins and outs of narcolepsy. It is also because of this accommodation that I’ve felt that I can’t/shouldn’t run during work hours anymore. That is also silly because I have the option to make up my time in the evening or over the weekend. It’s just how my brain works. Yes, that means in reality it isn’t anyone but me causing me stress about this item.

My life at home is my biggest concern. The medications do work well enough so that I’m productive during the work day as long as I also get my nap. However, by the time I get home, I’m absolutely exhausted. Sometimes I’m so tired that the idea of cooking dinner or playing with my daughter brings me to tears. I want so badly to have the energy to do these things, yet there are nights when I just sit on the couch while my husband prepares dinner and my daughter watches TV or plays “Buzz and Woody” on the XBOX. When you’re so sleepy your vision starts to blur, your stomach begins to churn, and you can no longer put a series of coherent thoughts together, it’s really hard to be fully engaged. This is the thing I hate the most about this disorder – it does not only affect my life; it messes with my family, too. I cannot convey the guilt I feel when I snap at my daughter or husband because I’m tired and grumpy. I immediately regret what I say, but there is no taking it back. It’s already out in the air. I feel like a failure because the desire to be engaged is not enough. It’s not enough for me to feel that I am present only half or maybe two-thirds of the time. I want to feel completely there 100% of the time. It has also caused my husband and me to question our decision of having another baby any time soon, if ever. I cannot always keep up with everything now. How will I manage without medications during pregnancy? We’ve talked about adoption, but I’m not sure that is the answer either. Can I manage two kids while my husband is away? One is plenty. This feeling of lack of control over my ability to be the wife and mom I want to be causes me heartache more than stress and anxiety, but it causes those, too, even though my husband frequently tells me I’m awesome. Why? One sentence sums that up. My family deserves more. Yes, here come more tears.

For as much guilt, failure, and stress/anxiety this all causes, it’s also motivation to do better. It’s motivation because I refuse to accept that this is it for my family and me. Through this, I’ve also realized that I’ve got to find an outlet for all of these feelings of not being or doing enough. It’s not healthy. In fact, I emailed a good friend of mine who also has narcolepsy and vented to her. She gave me an “ah-ha” moment when she spoke of the importance of finding balance, whether it be through writing, yoga, or walking. She also pointed out that I was stressing about stressing! After I stopped laughing so hard that I was close to hyperventilating because she was right, I vowed that I would go for a run the next day (today, in fact). I mean, that is the answer to everything for a runner – if I can even call myself that still since it has been five weeks since I’ve gone running. Stressed? Go for a run. Happy? Let’s go see how fast we can run a mile! Have a problem you can’t figure out? Run it out. Sad? New running shoes will make it all better!

With my freshened resolve, I went to work today with a mission to run a mile. That’s it. No more, no less. I didn’t want to give myself a distance I’m not ready for yet since it’s supposed to be a positive move, not make me feel worse about how out of shape I’ve become from not keeping up with my exercise routines. With my Garmin charged, my RoadID ready, and my shoes laced up, I was ready to go. I ran that mile I promised myself. It hurt a bit. My legs aren’t used to it anymore; neither is my cardiovascular system. It’s ok! I still ran my mile in 12:10. When I first started running, I couldn’t even run a mile. While I’m happy with that, the important thing is that I made that promise to do something for myself and I kept it.

My problems have not been solved in that one run. I did some thinking, however, and realized that a lot of my issues have resulted in further frustration because I have not been taking time out to focus on myself. I worry so much about how I’m making things difficult for others that I make myself worse. As my friend reminded me when I met her in person for the first time last Friday (more on that later), we cannot take care of anyone else if we’re not taking care of ourselves first.

I’m sharing this with you all because I know there are others living with the guilt, the feelings of failing everyone, and the stress and anxiety of it all. I know there are people out there who don’t have support systems out there with people to tell them to stop stressing about stressing! I am that person for you today.

The first order of business is to find one thing you can do to improve your day. It’s hard to make the time to do something for yourself, but I’m asking each of you to do that for yourself today. Decide today what you will do tomorrow. Maybe it’s a bubble bath, maybe it’s 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading time. Whatever it is you enjoy doing so much that you can’t think about all the craptacular things going on, do that tomorrow. The next day, pick something else. Even if it’s 5 minutes longer in the bathroom with the door shut so the kids cannot bother you while you paint your nails…just make it a priority, will ya?

Once you’re in a place where you feel better emotionally, it’s time to do some of that “sustained thinking” that Voltaire tells us about. Pick one item in your life you are dissatisfied with to focus on, and come up with a plan of action. My first problem is managing my stress levels. Because I know that running is one way I can reduce my stress (AND gives me time to think), I’ve picked two days to run this week – today and Saturday. Writing also helps, so I am going to write in my journal nightly before I go to sleep. Once you’ve found your goal and have decided on what actions you must take to achieve that goal, promise yourself that you will do them, and stick to your word. Tell someone your plans. In fact, tell ME your plans. I’m more than willing to be your coach or your cheerleader.

I heard a song last week that I am still listening to multiple times a day, “King and Lionheart” by Of Monsters and Men. I can’t pinpoint why, but it’s been a source of strength for me. Every time I hear it, I want to do more and be more. Perhaps it is because I think of the word “king” and the word “lionheart” as conveying those two qualities I spoke of earlier – passion and tenacity. It also makes me think of the relationship I have with my husband and how he and I can do anything. I put my favorite lines of the song in bold.

Taking over this town, they should worry,
But, these problems aside, I think I taught you well.
That we won’t run, and we won’t run, and we won’t run.

And in the winter night, sky ships are sailing,
Looking down on these bright blue city lights.
And they won’t wait, and they won’t wait, and they won’t wait.
We’re here to stay, we’re here to stay, we’re here to stay.

Howling ghosts, they reappear
In mountains that are stacked with fear,
But, you’re a king and I’m a lionheart.
A lionheart.

His crown lit up the way as we moved slowly
Past the wandering eyes of the ones that were left behind.
Though far away, though far away, though far away
We’re still the same, we’re still the same, we’re still the same.

Howling ghosts, they reappear
In mountains that are stacked with fear,
But you’re a king and I’m a lionheart.
And in the sea that’s painted black,
Creatures lurk below the deck,
But you’re the king and I’m a lionheart.

And as the world comes to an end
I’ll be here to hold your hand
’cause you’re my king and I’m your lionheart.
A lionheart. [x8]

Howling ghosts, they reappear
In mountains that are stacked with fear,
But you’re a king and I’m a lionheart.
And in the sea that’s painted black,
Creatures lurk below the deck,
But you’re the king and I’m a lionheart.
A lionheart. [x8]

(Lyrics provided by songlyrics.com)

Now that I think about it, those “creatures” lurking below the deck could symbolize our negative feelings and all the things that are going wrong in any given moment. Don’t let the creatures lurking below the deck rule your life. You deserve better!

It’s your turn; tell me what struggles you’re facing and what one thing you will do tomorrow to feel even just a tiny bit better. Tomorrow, I’m going to paint my nails. Simple as that.

I’m calling this method of self-improvement Operation ME. Change doesn’t start with other people, after all. It starts with ME. Your changes don’t start with anyone else, they start with YOU. Will you embrace Operation ME?

I will leave you with another quote by Voltaire. “Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her; but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.”



  1. Gina says:

    I LOVE this post! Don’t like something in your life? CHANGE it! Not happy with “you?” CHANGE it!

    You challenged your readers to tell your “what struggles you’re facing and what one thing you will do tomorrow to feel even just a tiny bit better.” Hmmmn… Here’s mine: I’ve been struggling with FOCUS… I have so many things, important things, going on in my life. For the past two months I’ve tried to keep my focus on all of it AT THE SAME TIME. By doing this I’ve spread myself too thing and have also not paid enough auality attention to any of them. Well the cracks are beginning to show. So what is the one thing I will do to make this better? I’m going to immerse myself in the moment and FOCUS solely on the task in front of me. I’m also going to plan specific times to dedicate to each of my endeavors and when that time comes I will again focus solely on that item for the duration of the time I’ve set aside.

    • Heather says:

      Ah, yes, I do this as well. At work, I block time on my calendar for specific tasks. It helps with time management and making sure I stay ahead of the game with deadlines.

      Thank you for sharing your goal! You know I will be sure to harass you. :)

      • Gina says:

        Neener neener, I already started. 😉 With that said, you probably still oughta harrass me so I stay at it and don’t get distracted. “OOOhh…look at the shiny pretty thing….” Shiny things still distract me and derail my best laid plans….

  2. Sadie Defined says:

    Your post is amazing. I feel like this all the time, and have no outlet for my stress and frustration. I admire the power that radiates from you. Keep it up! There’s a world out there, we just have to get it.


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