Meet Our Advocate - Gabrielle Keith
At Narcolepsy.Sleep-Disorders.net, we are thankful for our amazing advocates who share their experiences of living with narcolepsy. In our advocate spotlight interview series, we get to know our advocates better and find out why spreading awareness of narcolepsy is so important to them.
What is one thing you would like to share with the community?
Life has an ebb and flow. Living with a chronic illness can sometimes weigh down on you and make it feel as though you could never feel “normal” or “happiness” the way you did before your diagnosis. If you start to feel that darkness creeping up on you, repeat these words to yourself: I am strong. There are going to be points that you feel like you couldn’t possibly take another step. There are going to be mornings when you have to fight to get out of bed. Remember to breathe, give yourself some grace, and that this, too, shall pass.
What does advocacy mean to you
Advocacy is standing up for yourself and educating others about something that is important to you. It is putting yourself out there and not being afraid of what others might think. This can look like asking for help without feeling shame or guilt. If you need a nap to make it through the day, take one with pride. If you need your friend to drive you home after the game because you’re too tired to drive, ask without embarrassment. Advocacy is not always going to be easy. Sometimes you need to fight to get what you need, but it will always be worth that fight.
What do you wish someone had told you when you were first diagnosed with narcolepsy?
You are not broken, you are not unintellegent, you are not lazy. You have a disability. Do not let that disability define you. Do not be afraid to stand up for yourself. Do not be afraid to ask for help. You are still a worthy and loved individual. Being chronically sleepy does not make you any less of a person, and don’t let the world tell you otherwise. Give yourself grace and know that you can still live the fulfilling life you had planned.
What brings you the most joy (especially when you’re feeling down)?
Spending time with my loved ones, even if it’s just a phone call. I have always been a very social person, and after receiving the diagnosis of Narcolepsy I didn’t realize how much it would affect my social life. When I have an especially sleepy day, I may not be able to drive and visit a friend, but I can pick up the phone and have a conversation. I have also found that moving my body helps in the fight against sleepiness and the feelings of depression that tend to follow. Whether I go to the gym, walk my dog, or even do an easy yoga session, I always feel a little better after I finish.
Where do you find support?
I have been blessed with a very supportive family. After I was diagnosed with narcolepsy, my parents began helping me with research and advocacy. My mom will come over to help me clean my house or meal prep if I ever need it. My boyfriend and close friends have learned more about narcolepsy and how it affects my daily life. They often go out of their way to help me before I even ask. I’ve also made close friends through support groups for people with narcolepsy. I am forever grateful for their guidance and support as I have learned more about this diagnosis.
What is the last show you watched that you enjoyed?
Fraiser, I’ve watched the entire series at least once a year!
What is one meal you could eat for the rest of your life?
A medium-cooked sirloin with broccoli and potatoes!
What is your favorite quote or saying?
This bible verse has helped me so much in my daily fight against Narcolepsy.
“...I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
-2 Corinthians 12:7-9 NLT
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What is the hardest part of coping with narcolepsy?