a couple looking happy in the green part of a battery, then one of the people looking tired in a yellow section of the battery, and finally the same person looking sad alone on their pillow with broken hearts above them in the red part of the battery

Did They Break Up With Me Because of My Narcolepsy?

Dating with narcolepsy is difficult. From the naps we need frequently, to late-night dinners and activities being a no-go, there are a lot of barriers for us. And what happens when a lover isn’t understanding about symptoms? Do we try to explain our needs in the hopes that they will come around? Or do we move on to the next person?

I recently had the experience of being broken up with. Things were going fine, it seemed. I was running myself ragged to keep up with them, but I was doing it. Other parts of my life were suffering from it, though – and then the rug was pulled out from under me.

Did my needs drive this person away?

"I think we should stop seeing each other," my girlfriend said to me late one Friday night over the phone. We’d been dating for almost 5 months, and I was mystified by the sudden breakup.

Of course, my first reaction was to wonder why. Doubts about myself started cropping up. In the days that followed, it was all I could do to ruminate over every conversation we ever had.  Did I say the wrong thing here? Did I do the wrong thing there? Was I not clever enough? Or pretty enough? Or skinny enough?

Or, even more painful to think about: Was it all of my narcolepsy-related needs that drove this person away?

Normal everyday things can leave me feeling drained

As a person living with severe type 1 narcolepsy, I am fortunate to have access to medications that help. They do not cure my illness, though. Like many people with narcolepsy, I have to live my life in a way that does not leave me burned out or unsafe.

I sometimes asked for rides to and from dates. I can drive with narcolepsy, but doing normal things like running errands or eating a meal can leave me feeling too drained to drive.

Other times, and most often, I’d ask for the opportunity to crash at their place after a date, just long enough for me to nap and feel safe enough to drive home.

Try as I might, I couldn't mask my symptoms

On one of our last dates, we visited an art museum. The museum was huge and felt like it went on for miles! Hours later, I felt pressured to keep pushing myself to see more art. I tried to sit down a few times, but my date kept wanting to keep moving. Despite taking multiple (short) breaks, by the end of our date, I was exhausted.

If I was seeing the museum alone, I would’ve made it a much shorter trip. I would’ve taken more breaks. And I wouldn’t have overdone it. But trying to keep up with able-bodied people is another story. Try as I might, I couldn’t mask my symptoms or needs.

The people who matter will stay

I sometimes wish I could break up with my narcolepsy as easily as my girlfriend did. But, unfortunately, narcolepsy is a permanent condition. Medications can reduce symptoms but not completely erase them.

However, I’ve gained a supportive community along with my narcolepsy. I’ve since learned that the people who matter will stay.

Have you ever had a relationship end because of narcolepsy?

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