‘Brittany Runs A Marathon’: What About When Lifestyle Changes Don’t Fix You?

Brittany Runs a Marathon (available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video) is a tale of the arduous journey of one woman in making healthy lifestyle choices that ultimately leave her better off than she was before.

For the average viewer, this movie might cause people to consider making healthier lifestyle choices in the future as a way to take control of their lives. After watching it, I usually feel pumped up and ready to go for a hike with a salad and fresh kombucha. Other times I feel myself drowning in deep shame surrounding my narcolepsy symptoms.

Seeing my symptoms depicted as character flaws

Many of the symptoms that I experience from narcolepsy were represented as character flaws in this movie. In one of the first scenes, Brittany seeks help from a medical professional regarding her symptoms.

Some of these symptoms include being late to work often, being overtired, high BMI, high resting heart rate and blood pressure, as well as sleeping more than 12 hours regularly and still waking up tired. The movie depicts these as being side effects from a hard-partying and gluttonous lifestyle.

Brittany was prescribed diet and exercise

In Brittany’s case, she was told by her doctor that a high BMI could cause disrupted sleep patterns. He then prescribed diet and exercise and a 50-pound weight loss to treat her symptoms. Brittany was shocked upon hearing this news.

“You want me to pull a medium-sized working dog off my body?” she scoffs.

“Brittany, you lucky one,” I remember muttering to myself.

My narcolepsy diagnosis

When I was experiencing these symptoms in college, I hated myself for them and deeply feared them. They had onset suddenly for me after I contracted a bad flu virus. Within days I was miles away from the person I used to be. When I was reaching out to medical professionals to try to figure out what was going on, I was experiencing all of the symptoms that Brittany had and more.

Most medical professionals I met with during this time didn’t know what to do with me. Without my cataplexy to prove that what I was going through was not normal, I suspect that my doctors would have been even more dismissive of my condition. It took me over 6 months to get a narcolepsy diagnosis. Many people struggle to be diagnosed with narcolepsy due to the stigma surrounding sleep disorders and disabilities.

Stigmatizing stimulant use

This movie also reinforces the stigma surrounding stimulant use. They used a number of scenes to depict Brittany as a person who uses Adderall recreationally. When discussing treatment options with her doctor, she pressures him to prescribe stimulants for her symptoms. I couldn’t help but cringe at these scenes.

There is a huge social stigma surrounding stimulant use, and laws surrounding their dispensing can inhibit people with narcolepsy from getting their medications. When I was first being diagnosed with narcolepsy, my friend told me that to feel better, I just needed to “get off all those pills they have you on." Those pills were the only thing keeping my eyes open during class! (Barely.)

Narcolepsy and weight gain

Narcolepsy is known to cause weight gain. While Brittany was able to reach a healthy weight in the movie, this is not the case for many people with narcolepsy.1

I struggle to keep my weight down and have implemented a number of healthy lifestyle choices to mitigate this symptom. It wasn’t until I found an adequate medication with my doctor that I was able to lose weight. If you are struggling with your weight due to narcolepsy, please know that you are not alone.

Have you seen Brittany Runs A Marathon? Did you see any similarities or differences between her story and your own narcolepsy story?

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