A sad figure sits hunched underneath of a large graduation cap, with diplomas and books scattered throughout the scene

Returning to College (After Being Diagnosed With Narcolepsy)

In 2013, I graduated high school and began my college career. I studied music education in hopes of one day becoming a college professor. The world seemed to be against me from the very beginning.

During my freshman year, an unexpected family emergency resulted in missing a week of classes. My dad was suddenly hospitalized with an abscess on his brain. By the end of it all, he had a total of 5 brain surgeries and spent 91 days in the hospital. This event triggered anxiety that followed me throughout my college years.

College and mental health struggles

My sophomore year of college was when my mental health started going down the drain. I was having thoughts of self-harm and I struggled to keep up with everything going on in my life. I was diagnosed with general anxiety and depression and tried several different anxiety medications.

By the time I was a senior in college in 2017, I still had a year left in my program, but I knew I couldn't stay any longer. After studying music education for 4 years, I graduated with a "university studies" degree (basically a "good job you went to college for 4 years" degree).

Thinking about returning to school

In September of 2018, I was diagnosed with type 2 narcolepsy. You can read all about my journey to diagnosis. After being a teacher for almost 4 years, I started having thoughts of returning to college to finish my music education degree.

This was not an easy decision to make. Remembering how much I struggled the first time around, and after working in the "adult world" for the last 4 years, I was scared I might go back to the dark place I was trapped in before. I also (still) struggle with the feeling that I am... well, a little dumb.

Narcolepsy affects how I learn

Due to my narcolepsy, my brain processes information a lot slower than your "average" person. I often ask people to repeat themselves, zone out during conversations (and lectures), and need more time to solve problems than a "normal" person.

My ongoing joke is, "I'm a bit ditzy sometimes," because it's easier to say that than explain everything going on in my brain.

My brain is not broken

It was during a conversation I had with my narcolepsy support group that it finally hit me – I'm not stupid. My brain isn't broken. I have narcolepsy, which causes me to process information slower than others. This was the push I needed to believe in myself and return to college.

I am currently in my fourth week of classes and have been doing well. It was important that I schedule my classes to allow lunch and a nap during the middle of the day. I also established myself in the disabilities department at my university. This allows me to have accommodations for my narcolepsy, such as extended time on tests and excused tardies.

I am extremely open about my narcolepsy. I wear my disability with pride and hope to educate those around me about this chronic illness.

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