a flower wilting in the heat from the sun

Arizonan Summers Make My Narcolepsy Unlivable

I’ve lived in Arizona for my entire life. The dry, baking heat has enveloped me since I was a child. Just like any warm-blooded human would do, I spent my lifetime adapting to the heat.

Most of the time, this meant gritting my teeth and bearing the searing pain of a thousand suns on the top of my head as I would venture outdoors during the summer months.

Adapting early in my life

Temperatures in the summer can reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 52 degrees Celsius). In grade school, some days would be so hot that our teacher aids would frantically gather us underneath the shaded spots at recess. The adults would squawk at anyone who dared increase their walking pace to a light jog in fear of our safety.

Needless to say, I adapted quickly to the heat and even grew to enjoy it. If you have ever had the pleasure of experiencing a dry sauna, you may understand. There is something relaxing about unbearably hot and dry temperatures. In the excessive heat, your mouth gapes for air to fill your lungs with. While it may sound uncomfortable, the air is always there to sustain you.

Heat affects me differently now

Before the onset of my narcolepsy symptoms, the heat felt like a warm comfort blanket. Now the heat causes me to have frequent sleep attacks and worsens my excessive daytime sleepiness.

I struggle to stay awake for longer than a few seconds at a time while experiencing high temperatures. This is one of the reasons why I chose to stop driving, in particular during the summer months.

My narcolepsy symptoms worsen with extreme heat

My worsened symptoms during the Arizonan summers truly make my type 1 narcolepsy unlivable. As the months of torture drag on, there is no respite. This causes an increase in stress and tends to worsen my depression symptoms. It is a vicious cycle that I would not wish on anyone.

As a person with narcolepsy, my body struggles to regulate its temperature.1 So it makes sense to me that my narcolepsy symptoms worsen with extreme heat. It doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, though.

Why I am considering moving

My narcolepsy symptoms onset in the summer of 2017 after I contracted a bad cold. Since then, I have had to make a large number of life adjustments. One adjustment that I am considering is moving to a cooler climate. This move would involve being separated from everything I’ve ever known.

The cooler areas available in the state of Arizona are far from the major cities. They can be pretty remote, to say the least. Due to my inability to drive long distances, I would not be able to visit my family unless they were to drive up and see me.

However, I am trying to do what is best for me and my health. Living in a cooler climate might provide a reduction in my severe narcolepsy symptoms. Any little bit of quality of life that can be gained is worth the risk for me.

Growing and branching out

I’ve tried to make my life work in the valley of the sun. As of now, I feel unsuccessful. Life is all about growing and branching out. As I embark on this journey, I know that I am doing so in my own best interest.

Who knows, maybe I will decide to return to the heat. What matters to me is mustering up the courage to really try something new.

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