Growing up I never would have expected I would be diagnosed with a rare, neurological disorder at 29 years old. You would think hearing the words, “You have narcolepsy” as I received the diagnosis that would change so much of my life would be the scariest part. But after years of unexplained symptoms, in an odd way it was a relief. The years of uncertainty finally made sense in so many ways.
Narcolepsy is a rare, neurological disorder that impairs the brain’s ability to regulate the sleep-wake cycle, and due to the media’s comedic portrayals of narcolepsy, it’s often misunderstood. I had seen the inaccurate portrayals of narcolepsy in movies and TV shows with someone suddenly falling asleep in awkward situation, often ending up asleep with their face in a plate of food. But I didn’t think people believed this was an accurate portrayal of narcolepsy. The first few times I was asked, “So you can just fall asleep?” I was caught off guard, and I honestly did not entirely know how to respond. As I began to tell family, friends and even a few co-workers about my narcolepsy, I got one of two responses – either they’d ask, “So you’re just going to fall asleep?” or they had never even heard of narcolepsy.