March 2, 2020

Why my sleep was becoming a problem

I started writing this blog probably about 2-3months ago now. Each time I attempted to continue the story I would stop and be unable to actually type the facts. I think that’s human though, it’s natural to bury painful feelings deep down. I thought maybe I should leave some parts out. Maybe I need to make it funny. Annoyingly as Robert Frost wrote in his poem “Servant of Servants”:

‘the best way out is always through’

We left off at Autumn 2015 where I had repeated my CAP1 Management Accounting and passed. Now it was time for CAP2s. There was one ‘less’ exam, which was actually the combination of two of the previous topics of Management accounting and Finance into a new rotten module called Strategic Financial and Management Accounting. These exams were more complex than the first set, whilst the first set were the equivalent of an Accountancy degree, this year would be the same as a Masters, but working full time alongside it.

My first sitting was in June 2016 after 6 weeks of study leave (I think..i feel like I have blocked some of this period out of my memory). The studying was intense and with the complexity and increased exam time the pressure was on. The previous exam failure was always in my mind. My inner critic now seemed to be working extra shifts. I had a lot to prove and with a weight of tiredness constantly on my back, I couldn’t stop studying. I thought I couldn’t ever stop studying. I didn’t deserve to go out at the weekend if I wasn’t able to meet my gruelling study goals, which I had set for myself of course. It was a model that upon retrospection (is that a word?) was completely unsustainable. My friend and I would send each other voicenotes on Whatsapp and months later we listened back to them and were like jeez. We sounded like we were about to lose our minds with stress to be quite honest.

These exams were open book. Which for someone who doesn’t know the format, sounds easy. It’s a bit like being given loads of keys with not one notion which door they open. The files are set up with military precision, tabs everywhere and mark scheme answers written by topic. It was no longer enough to understand the concepts; you had to apply them to a problem, several of them, under timed conditions. The danger with this exam was that you could easily spend too much time flipping your notes back and forth, praying for something to spark the answer in your mind.

During this exam week, and on the morning of my Financial Accounting exam, the news broke that the UK would leave the EU, Usually, before an exam, everyone has a quick chat with their friends and then everyone splits to sit with their notes or maybe they don’t speak to anyone at all. This time, the hall was full of chatter about Brexit. It had really happened. People had really voted for this. Were we really leaving the EU? Then…but Northern Ireland had voted to stay, why did we have to leave? It was a complete mind boggle. Why and How pervaded our minds before we were silenced by the invigilators. There was the usual repertoire of the fire safety arrangements and painstakingly watching the clock before hearing the words ‘you may now begin’. We ripped open our papers.

It’s funny how I can recall all the details about Brexit but barely remember that exam week. Another distinct memory I have is finding out that we had secured tickets for Coldplay in Croke Park and sharing this on Facebook with the caption ‘when you try your best and you don’t succeed’ Of course I had added a wee lol at the end attempting to keep it light. Here’s that picture of me holding my Tayto in the air beside an unamused concert neighbour:

coldplay croke park

I had initially written that I had applied for extra exam time but actually, I hadn’t! At that time, I was still diagnosed with Sleep Apnoea and waiting on a CPAP machine. This study leave was even more awful than the previous, more sleeping on textbooks, more crumpled up study plans, more hours of anxiety logged. If this was in a work context and anxiety and sleeping were chargeable codes I would have been employee of the month. I was sinking fast into exhaustion and what makes me really mad when I look back is that I couldn’t even admit to myself that I was struggling. I wasn’t taking scheduled naps; I was just studying and sleeping, waking up, dusting myself off and starting again. I was working late and sleeping in. My poor sleep was completely controlling my life and I didn’t know how to help myself. I was in a place where I didn’t even push to get help, I thought that this was just the way I was meant to feel. But then, this is also what society was telling me. Sleep disorders weren’t and still aren’t something that there is huge awareness on. The waiting list for the CPAP was taking forever and I didn’t even question why it was taking so long. I also felt angry that this was the only solution to my problem. I was 25 and they wanted me to wear a CPAP mask every night going to sleep? What would my boyfriend think? Would I be able to sleep with it? (see below for a pic – hot right?)

Image result for cpap

I completed the exams and went back to work. People mentioned the exams and I quickly changed the subject. The results came out online early in the morning. There was a column with your numerical marks and then a column with pass/fail.

I distinctly remember opening my results and my vision almost felt blurred as my body reacted to the words ‘Fail’. Like a old school typewriter my eyes followed each numerical mark and the words ‘Fail’ beside each mark before moving to the next subject. I think I text my friend and then I text my manager to say I wouldn’t be in work that day and I just sat in shock. I went to the kitchen and went through the motions of making breakfast. I sat down to watch ‘Power’ on Netflix to try and take my mind off it.

There was a scene were Rayna doesn’t get the part she wanted in the play and her dad Jamie tells her that sometimes no matter how hard you try things don’t work out or something to this effect and that’s when I started crying. I know. Cringe.

Why is that even relevant though?? Well..it was the only moment I allowed myself to feel the impact of failing. The only time I allowed myself to be sad about it. I had to get back up.

Another awkward return to work, more awkward chats, more exam resit forms submitted. I had one last chance to resit the exams. The next set began in Autumn 2016 and this time I asked for extra time……did it work though? Stay tuned haha.

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