Narcolepsy Coaxed Me Out of the Closet
“I just really like boobs,” I cried to my college roommates once.
“You know sometimes we really wonder about you!” They giggled, the attractive sporty blonde duo that they were.
“Wonder what about me?”
In college, I had little interest in boys. They piqued my interest here and there, but I always felt like something very important was missing in all of my relationships with young men. My college roommates couldn’t help but notice my intolerance of the opposite sex (as well as my penchant for bosoms). In hindsight, my struggle with sexuality has been obvious throughout my life to everyone except myself. I was clueless.
Shame and secrecy during my childhood
I try not to condemn myself for these oversights into my own nature. I was raised in an oppressively religious household. Conversations about attraction to the opposite sex were coated in shame and secrecy. The innocent questioning of my college roommates had none of the venom that my childhood interrogations had. Bits and pieces emerge from the shrouded curtains that envelope my childhood memories.
“You aren’t a lesbian, right?” my mother had questioned me at age 12.
I shook my head violently, confused at the question and the weight that it seemed to hold in her eyes.
“Promise me?” her voice dangerously lilting.
I swallowed my mounting dread and answered yes, like the good little girl that I was.
A growing pit in my stomach
These experiences compounded to a chronic pit in my stomach. The pit grew heavier when my mother praised our religious group for protesting the legalization of gay marriage in the US. The weight grew heavier each time she refused to shop at Target for their support of the LGBTQ+ community.
These microaggressions were planted in my heart and tended throughout my childhood. An inky black pool of shame shrouded my own emotions from my view.
My narcolepsy diagnosis left me alone and struggling
After I was diagnosed with type 1 narcolepsy in 2017, I lost most of my friends. My symptoms were difficult for them to understand. I have always had to struggle for accommodations in school and work due to my hearing impairment.
Adding on the disabling powers that narcolepsy has, I was suddenly invisibly impaired in a very real way. My fellow high-achieving college student friends left me in the dust. They assumed that I had chosen my fate.
Freedom on the other side of heartbreak
This stark reality of communal apathy towards me was heartbreaking. These were people that I loved and cared for. That I grew alongside for over 4 years. How could they not see my zest for life? Or the studies that I slaved over. How could they not see that I was killing myself to try to survive in the life that I always wanted? In this life that I had painstakingly built since I was a child.
The realization that no one cared finally hit me. It was excruciating. However, once I accepted this fact, I was able to move on with my life in ways that I had never expected. I was free.
Releasing myself from shame
I realize that while people might care about my life choices, their perception is limited. Being misunderstood to such a degree due to my disability symptoms revealed the fallacies of human nature. I refused to feel shame over having a condition that I could not control.
Releasing this shame triggered a cascade effect in my life. I was suddenly aware of how much shame I carried that wasn’t even mine! Most of it was integrated into me by my family of origin. Allowing myself to really look at the impact that deep shame had on my life was a difficult process. However, it was incredibly empowering to release the expectations that others had for me and my life.
Coming out and loving myself
I came out as queer this year and I’ve recently begun dating again for the first time since high school. It has been exhilarating to pursue connections that I actually want.
I will always be thankful to those who left me. By doing so, they taught me that unconditional love must always start from within.
Do you feel that your doctor understands narcolepsy?