Adapting to a New City With Narcolepsy: Part 1

I recently moved from sunny Arizona to moody Portland, Oregon. Fortunately for me, the time zone change was not significant and did not require much adjusting to.

I’ve heard from many people on our internet forums that narcolepsy symptoms can increase drastically after a timezone change. I managed to miss that bullet. However, there are plenty of other ways in which this move has affected my narcolepsy and there are many ways in which my narcolepsy has affected this move.

I moved for better Medicaid benefits

I decided to make the move to chilly Portland once I realized that I did not qualify for Medicare due to my disability onsetting before I could “earn” better Social Security benefits through work.

Despite 6 years' worth of higher education and working various part-time jobs, I had not accrued enough working experience before my disability onset to qualify for the Medicare insurance program. This meant that I would have to rely on Arizona’s Medicaid program... which doesn’t even include dental insurance!

Climate was an important factor in my decision

After extensive research, I moved to Oregon due to their higher-quality Medicaid program. Other reasons more directly included my narcolepsy symptoms — for example, I was living in the mountains in Arizona due to the temperature being more suitable for my condition. The heat level of bigger cities in Arizona is so severe that it makes my symptoms at least twice as bad. I needed a city that was accessible for me and an environment that didn’t inherently worsen my narcolepsy.

The transportation system was unlivable

I also struggled with living in Arizona due to their lack of public transportation options, their sprawling infrastructure that requires extensive commuting time (almost always over 30 minutes), and the “heat-islands” I learned about in my Bachelor of Science in Biology degree program that cause Arizona temperatures to skyrocket most days out of the year.

All of these once-quirky attributes of my home suddenly became unlivable for me with my narcolepsy onset. In the summers it feels like I can barely keep my eyes open when venturing outside — the heat and brightness trigger sleep attacks like nothing else I’ve experienced.

The moving process was exhausting

Moving to Portland has not been an easy transition, partially due to my moving trailer getting stolen on the way here, which is a tale for another time. It has been over a week since I arrived in my new place and I am still feeling considerably less than myself.

Much of this is due to the energy I had to expend to drive here – it took 4 days and 3 nights. Every second I wasn’t driving I was either napping in the back of my car or taking care of my service dog. The exhaustion seeped into my bones.

Being extra kind to myself

That level of fatigue wears on the body and soul. I’ve been caring for myself during this time by taking extra naps and being extra kind to myself when it feels like I should be able to do more but cannot.

Check out Part 2 of this article for more on how I've been adapting to a new climate with narcolepsy.

Have you ever made a life decision focused on accommodating your narcolepsy, like a big move to another city or state? Share with us in the comments below.

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