Relationships and Narcolepsy: Disclosing While Dating
When it comes to relationships, every couple will have their issues - but when one of you has narcolepsy, this can bring up some unique challenges! As a person with narcolepsy, mental health professional, and experienced dater, I’m writing a quick series on the relationship issues that have come up most frequently; in my own life and in conversations with other people with narcolepsy!
In this edition, I want to discuss the dilemma of addressing narcolepsy while dating. From disclosing our condition to a potential partner to cancelling a date because of our symptoms, it can be scary to be honest about the difficulties we face - especially in the early stages of getting to know someone! However, I’m here to break down the importance of looking past these fears, in order to create and maintain healthy connections.
Scared of the stigma
When dating someone new, it can be tempting to hide the different issues that narcolepsy can cause in your life. The last thing you want to do is “scare off” your potential beau, or make them see you in a different light.
As many of us have experienced unfavourable reactions from misinformed or unempathetic people in the past, this is a perfectly reasonable and valid concern! However, if you want to work towards a real relationship with someone, at a certain point you will have to get a little vulnerable, start opening up about your condition, and explain what it means for you.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you need to introduce yourself saying, “Hi, I’m Elle and I have narcolepsy,” every time you meet a cute person at the bar or match with them on a dating app. This can absolutely happen at your own pace - but it does need to happen eventually. Personally, my life is already tiring enough without trying to hide my neurological disorder from someone I want to be around on a regular basis!
When to drop the narcolepsy bomb?
Back when I was online dating regularly, I would always wait until I met the person in real life to disclose. I didn’t want them to form an opinion of what a person with narcolepsy was like before they even met me! As we all know, even the most well-meaning people can be influenced by stigmatised media depictions, as there isn’t a lot of good information out there.
After meeting, it would usually be later on the first or second date that I would bring up my diagnosis. It’s pretty easy to slide into any conversation quite casually, as being tired is a common part of life and a frequent topic of conversation. (However, it will take a bit of explaining once you bring it up, so be prepared for that part!)
Your own boundaries might be different, and you might decide to wait longer, which is perfectly okay! It’s all about knowing what you feel most comfortable with. Just keep in mind that being clear about your needs early on can prevent either of you from investing too much in a relationship that isn’t based on reality. You don’t want to fall hard for someone, only to find out that they have zero empathy or consideration for your condition once you disclose.
Avoiding miscommunications and missed opportunities
Even if you’ve only been seeing someone for a few weeks, remember that ignoring your own needs in order to keep others comfortable, even in the short term, will often backfire. You may be left feeling drained and uncared for, while the other person is simply confused about the true reasoning behind your actions.
For example, you might feel extra sleepy on the day you had a date organised, but you feel silly asking to push your date back an hour so you have time to take a nap beforehand. Instead, you push yourself past the point of exhaustion and have to focus all your energy on staying awake, so you can’t actually enjoy the other person’s company and the date isn’t any fun!
On the other hand, you might choose to quickly dash home from a date in the event that you feel your excessive daytime sleepiness coming on, but you didn’t tell them that you have a good reason to bail so quickly, so they interpret this as you not being interested and don’t text again.
Being honest in these situations can lead to an increased sense of trust, and will eliminate any room for misunderstandings to get in the way of your growing connection!
Taking ownership and being unashamed
In any relationship, all we ever want is to be loved for who we are, but if we don’t let others know who we truly are (neurological disorders included!) we don’t give them the opportunity to love our whole selves. Having the courage to bring these topics up in a healthy adult way will give both parties the chance to put their best foot forward, or can act as a clear indicator to weed out those who aren’t worth trying to educate!
How long do you wait to talk to a new partner about your narcolepsy? Do you have any tips for explaining narcolepsy while dating? Join our community and share your stories of dating with narcolepsy in the comments!
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