a woman says goodbye to her former self and accepts her new self

Who I Was Before Narcolepsy

I miss the old me.

The me that I used to be, before narcolepsy.

My brain is tired and forgetful

I miss that person that could stay up studying for all hours of the night, memorizing and learning whatever they pleased. It’s not that I don’t want to learn now – of course I do! But my brain is so much slower. It’s tired. It’s forgetful. It makes me dream while awake instead of letting me focus on learning.

Memorizing huge amounts of data is nearly impossible now, since I can’t focus or stay awake long enough to study it. Staying awake in class is a struggle – staying focused is impossible. How can I focus on a lecture while I’m dreaming with my eyes open?

It feels like I sleepwalk through life

Before I got narcolepsy as a junior in college, doing well in school and in my career as a scientist was who I was. I’ve always been a bookworm. As a hard-of-hearing person, books were the one place I felt I belonged. While most verbal speech was lost on me, words on the page spoke to me.

School was a place for me to prove my worth as a human being. I defined myself by my academic success. I filled every waking hour with extracurricular activities, studying, anything that would get me ahead of my peers for when it came time to apply to medical school or future job positions.

Now I am on disability. I am lucky if I am well enough to go grocery shopping for myself. Now instead of being able to use my determination to succeed professionally, my determination is used up daily in an unending fight for consciousness. I sleepwalk through life now, it feels like. Every second slips through my fingers, like sand in an hourglass.

Not living up to my own expectations

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” a friend of mine proudly declared to our writing group last week. The statement struck me to the core. I used to say that very same thing to myself, before my narcolepsy onset.

Now I have no choice in whether I sleep or not. I felt so helpless in this moment, being confronted by my old beliefs. It felt so strange to not be able to live up to my own expectations anymore.

There is more to me than succeeding

Slowly, I am learning who I am again, this time with narcolepsy. I still feel the gnawing ache to compete and succeed, of course. It never leaves. Sometimes these demands are loud, sometimes they are soft. Now I know what they are – demands. Not me. Now I know that I am not my success.

I am someone who loves the feeling of cold rain on their face. I love the way wind caresses my skin and hair. I marvel at nature. I am kind. I have a big heart, and even bigger walls to protect it. All of these qualities are a part of me, and they have nothing to do with how successful I am. That’s all proof that there is more to me than competing and succeeding.

Thank you, narcolepsy, for helping me to see myself.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Narcolepsy.Sleep-Disorders.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.