a woman on a hike bird watches, and polaroid pictures capture the scenes around her

Exploring New Hobbies with Narcolepsy: Painting, Hiking, and Bird-Watching

It can be difficult to participate in life when I am constantly fighting sleep. Cataplexy can also interfere with my ability to enjoy certain activities. For example, when my cataplexy is particularly severe, I can experience a paralysis attack just by listening to music too intently.

It is hard to maintain hobbies

In some ways, narcolepsy has made it more difficult to maintain hobbies. Oftentimes, the energy it takes to plan an activity can be too much when I am struggling to take care of my basic needs.

It can also be difficult for me to stay awake during these activities, for obvious reasons. Even meetings or activities lasting longer than 30 minutes will trigger an attack.

Choosing how I respond to hard circumstances

Other times, I might be missing all the old work I used to do in college before the onset of my symptoms in 2017. Having a plethora of hobbies available to pick from helps me maintain a sense of control in my life.

With narcolepsy type 1, I can’t always control the circumstances within my life. However, I have control over how I choose to respond to the circumstances.

Narcolepsy-friendly hobbies

Various hobbies remind me that I can have value and experiences beyond my productivity, and still have value. Some hobbies are easier for me to participate in with narcolepsy than others.

Painting

Painting with narcolepsy for me is an interesting process. What I enjoy about painting with narcolepsy is that I can often enter a state where I am almost dreaming while awake. I can see colors in my mind more vividly and have a clear picture in my mind of what to paint. However, once I start actually falling asleep while painting I find that I have to stop. My hand will perform automatic behaviors if my eyes start to close or glaze over. Also, I find that clean-up can be difficult with sleep attacks. It just takes extra energy every time I decide to make art. Oftentimes I have to stop painting long before I am ready just to ensure that I will be able to pick up after myself.

Hiking

I have written an entire article dedicated to hiking with narcolepsy. There are a few tricks that I learned to make it easier for me to hike with narcolepsy. These include taking naps away from populated trail areas, bringing a furry friend, having adequate water and snacks, and more.

Bird-watching

I am a novice bird watcher, that’s for sure. Even still, the best thing about bird-watching in my opinion is that it is a hobby that can be practiced in various contexts. Bird-watching consists not only of photographing birds, but also spending time in nature, and sitting on your couch flipping through bird identification textbooks. With narcolepsy, observing birds in yard feeders comfortably from my home is one way that I am able to practice bird-watching even when my symptoms are particularly bad. Some of my favorite species to watch are just the neighborhood birds that visit every morning and evening.

Hobbies can wear me out or keep me stimulated

It is true that some hobbies are easier to do than others when suffering from narcolepsy. Some people may find that in between their illness, their job, and other responsibilities that there is no room for hobbies.

I find that hobbies can either wear me out completely or keep me stimulated. There is no in-between!

What are some hobbies that you enjoy? Has having narcolepsy impacted your ability to participate? Tell us more in the comments below.

This article is part of an author series on hobbies. Check out the other articles in this series:

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