Humour as a Coping Mechanism for Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is no laughing matter.

As a matter of fact, no chronic illness is something to laugh about. Having said this, I do believe that humour and chronic illness aren’t at all mutually exclusive.

In fact, I believe that humour can be very valuable in managing life with narcolepsy.

Sometimes I just have to laugh

For me, humour has been fundamental in helping me navigate through difficult situations, but I do realize that everyone has different coping mechanisms, and for some, humour may not be the answer. But let me explain my experience with using humour as a coping mechanism.

Laughter can be a great way to cope when you live with a chronic illness like narcolepsy. Life with narcolepsy isn’t fun or funny. Most of the time, it’s the exact opposite, unfortunately.

However, I sometimes find that I just have to laugh about some of the crazy things that happen to me! The way I see it, I can either laugh or cry... and I choose to laugh whenever possible.

No longer fearing the unknown

Before I was diagnosed, I didn’t understand the things that were happening to me. At times, I was afraid of my own body because I felt as though I couldn’t trust it and I didn’t know why. Back then, I didn’t find anything funny at all.

I think that being diagnosed helped me to finally understand myself and no longer have to fear the unknown. These days, when I wake up facedown on my desk, drool seeping out of the corner of my mouth and a paper stuck to my forehead in the middle of the afternoon... I often look at myself in the mirror and laugh.

Laughing about things like this helps me to avoid going to that bad place in my head. I acknowledge the moment, try not to dwell on it, and move on.

Using humor to strengthen relationships

Moreover, I also found that humour can be instrumental in managing relationships with other people.

As much as it can hurt us, there will be people who don’t quite know how to deal with our condition and may feel uncomfortable approaching the subject.

While it isn’t our job to make them feel comfortable, I personally don’t see it as an aggravation, either. I try and look at it as an opportunity to raise awareness and educate people who likely are only guilty of never being exposed to narcolepsy.

A while ago, a friend of mine witnessed me having a cataplexy attack for the first time, and the sheer panic on her face was unmistakable. She was completely clueless about how to handle it, and I believe that she felt a spot of guilt for being unable to help once it was over. I made a small joke to try and lighten the mood because I could see that she was a bit shaken up. Sometimes I think that cataplexy attacks have become such a "normal" part of my life that I forget that this is not the case for most of the population.

Discovering what works best for you

I think that having the ability to laugh at myself has played an important role in helping me deal with life since being diagnosed with narcolepsy.

Though I’m glad that I have been able to find humour in living with narcolepsy, if you can’t, that is also OK. What works for one does not necessarily work for everyone.

The important thing is to discover what coping mechanism works best for you.

Do you ever use humor to cope with your experience of living with narcolepsy? Share how in the comments below.

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