a bull pouring coffee into a cup balanced on its back hoof with spilled coffee and broken china all around him

Clumsy or Cataplexy?

I have been clumsy my whole life! Like, I don't think you could even imagine how clumsy I am.

Here, let me give you a few examples.

  • I turned up to my first date with my partner and fell down a hill walking to his car because my feet just didn't work.
  • I have fallen down countless staircases when walking in and out of performance venues.
  • For the first few hours of every morning, I will drop pretty much anything that I touch. (Yes, making coffee does become a death-defying task)

My manifestations of cataplexy

I never would have thought that any of this could be related to an underlying condition. My clumsiness, constant injuries, and breaking things were always put down to me being "a bull in a china shop." In other words, I was always just told to slow down, take my time, or be careful!

Now I know that I can be as slow and careful as I want, and ultimately I am still going to have these experiences. They are manifestations of cataplexy for me.

Cataplexy can be subtle

In terms of severity, my cataplexy is quite mild. I don't experience full-body paralysis, and I rarely drop to the floor from my muscle weakness. If you had asked me if I had cataplexy while I was going through the diagnostic process I absolutely would have said no. I hadn't heard of anyone speaking about these more subtle and insidious cataplectic attacks, and so I would never have said that my clumsiness was related at all.

However, when I reflect on some of these situations I can see a very strong emotional tie in each circumstance. There was so often a sense of excitement, nervousness, or joy that I was experiencing when I happened to be "clumsy."

I was so hard on myself

I always saw my clumsiness as a personal flaw. It was something that I always judged myself for, and wanted to improve on. I spent so many years being so hard on myself. Thinking why can't you just slow down,be careful, what's wrong with me?

I just wanted to stop being the butt of the joke, "Oh I heard a loud bang, Judy must be here."

Cataplexy is not a personal flaw

In a way, it is reassuring to know that so many of these situations can be explained by cataplexy. It takes the blame off my shoulders knowing that I couldn't have changed the outcome. I don't feel shame anymore when I drop something and smash it, or when I trip on air and fall over unexpectedly.

Cataplexy is not a personal flaw. It is just something that I experience from time to time and that's okay. I don't need to fix it or beat myself up for it. I can just let it be.

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