Breaking Up With Narcolepsy
Last updated: August 2023
Do you ever find that periods of stress can worsen your narcolepsy symptoms?
I recently found myself at the tail end of a romantic relationship. The day our relationship ended marked an onslaught of increased narcolepsy symptoms. I found myself in a deeply emotional state over the way things ended.
Strong emotions trigger my cataplexy
It is normal for heightened emotions to trigger cataplexy attacks. While seeking comfort from my friends, I couldn’t help but be embarrassed that I kept falling to the ground whenever they made me laugh.
I’m not used to having cataplexy anymore – my medication usually prevents cataplexy and keeps breakthrough cataplexy attacks from being majorly paralyzing. Usually my cataplexy symptoms include things like hands shaking and maybe mild knee-buckling rather than falling to the ground.
Nope, not right now.
Acute stress and cataplexy
For me personally, situations of acute stress like a fresh breakup can trigger more severe narcolepsy symptoms. This includes cataplexy, which is one of the more dangerous symptoms of narcolepsy. It is frustrating to feel like I have regressed physically due to an external event. It also makes me feel very vulnerable.
Experiencing full-body cataplexy attacks again has been emotional in itself. The last time my cataplexy was this bad was when my narcolepsy symptoms first onset. There is a deep pain that comes from acquiring a permanent condition. Being reminded of this confusing time of my life has been difficult.
Vivid dreams brought on by stress
My increased narcolepsy symptoms due to stress also include an increase in vivid dreaming. This is one of my least favorite narcolepsy symptoms when dealing with emotional events. At their worst, vivid dreams play like movies, back-to-back, all night long. These dreams are often stressful, rehashing trauma and unresolved issues in fictitious ways.
At one point, my vivid dreaming was so bad that I said to my friend, “I am exhausted, but I don’t want to fall asleep and keep dreaming.” Those of us with narcolepsy know how ravenous we are for sleep — and the fact that I was too scared to sleep because of my dreams really goes to show how much they affect me.
Managing increased fatigue
Living with narcolepsy means that I am always fatigued. However, this fatigue does fluctuate. Usually, increased fatigue means that I have been pushing myself too hard and need extra rest for a few days (or even a few weeks, depending on the severity). Increased fatigue can also be a sign of increased stressors in my life.
Since the breakup, my fatigue has been extra bad. It’s even been hard to stand to do the dishes for longer than 5 to 10 minutes. I literally start drifting off, my body aching, my breath feeling short from the effort of a simple household chore.
Rest and recuperation are key
It can be unnerving to experience increased narcolepsy symptoms due to stress. Instead of berating myself over my temporarily increased limitations, I am making sure to take care of myself during this vulnerable time. I can do this by taking up the space I need to rest and recuperate.
Have you ever experienced increased narcolepsy symptoms due to the stress of a breakup? Feel free to share in the comments below!
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