A week in the life - and an embarrassing incident

One of the first things my neuropsychologist told me when we met in the autumn of 2014, some nine months after my stroke, was that I would have to learn to rest properly. I needed to learn to rest my poorly brain and also to acknowledge that stroke fatigue meant I would get much more physically tired, much more quickly, than before.

That meant no more than three hours of 'brainwork' a day, sleeping for at least an hour each afternoon with no exceptions and giving myself an entire day's rest after a busy day.

For most of the last three years, I'm afraid I completely ignored his good advice.

I didn't do so out of malice, but rather out of a slightly foolish determination to spread my message as wide as possible and also to try to prove that mentally, I hadn't really changed - even though it was blindingly obvious that I had.

So, I would 'Carry On Regardless' as The Beautful South once said - and find myself falling asleep on the lounge sofa and missing TV programmes, falling asleep on trains and having some very narrow escapes from missing my station, falling asleep over dinner and getting a telling-off from Mrs Warrior.

Some six months ago, though, something clicked and I started consciously taking myself up to bed every afternoon; not for long enough to fall into a deep sleep which would leave me awake in the early hours, but just enough to recharge the brain - neuroscientists will tell you that an hour or so is enough.

And it worked. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow every afternoon, rather than behaving like a bear with a sore head each evening because I was needlessly tired.

Then, as I detailed here last week, I began to take rest days after busy ones. This week has been a perfect example: Monday - rest; Tuesday - busy writing and researching a magazine column in order to get it done before the copy deadline; Wednesday - rest; Thursday - up at 6am for the first of two networking events which were highly productive but left me worn down by 6pm; Today (Friday) - mopping up a host of little jobs before the weekend, then sitting down to write this blog.

And the new regime is working. I am no longer falling asleep in random places at random times and feeling rubbish afterwards.

But sometimes, events (and probably my stubbornness) get the better of me, still. One of yesterday's events featured a talk by an expert on work-stress; we'd never met and the opportunity to make a worthwhile connection was not to be turned down - even though I'd been up at 6am and had a busy morning.

The event started at 1pm (I was there early, as always) and the guest speaker was on at 2pm. I felt OK, honestly! I met some interesting people, made some good connections, spoke about who I am and what I do. But as 2pm approached and the speaker stood up, I started to feel drowsy. Maybe it was the winter sun making the room warm (yeah, right....); maybe it was because my body was getting into 'afternoon sleep' mode. Whatever it was, I fell asleep. In the front row. Right in front of the speaker and her audience of 50-plus people. Embarrassed? No, of course I wasn't.

I awoke just as she was wrapping up her talk. When she had finished, I dashed over and asked if she had noticed. Her reply? "Well, at least you didn't snore....". She obviously understood my predicament and we laughed about it later. What it shows, of course, is how quickly stroke-fatigue can strike. 

One day, perhaps I'll learn.