Power of Positive Thinking: Silencing the Inner Critic
The average time to diagnosis for people with narcolepsy is 8 to 15 years. By the time of diagnosis, a person may have spent as much as half a lifetime looking for answers.1
My inner critic is a collection of messages I have been replaying in the background of my mind. These thoughts include external feedback I have received and a whole playlist of internal messages I have told myself.
From others: “Wake up lazy butt,” “Why are you always sleepy?” “Get up, you have chores to do,” “Nobody is THAT tired.”
From myself: “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” “Quit being lazy,” “Is this the partner and father you want to be?”
Confronting the lies I tell myself
Play, rewind, repeat: I’m my own worst critic. These messages don’t have to be conscious either, they can permeate my subconscious, placing limits on what I believe possible. Replacing these toxic thoughts and messages takes time, and many benefit from therapy sessions. Talking through my self-doubts and exposing these lies I tell myself required professional assistance.
Yes, I am a man and I embrace counseling. My counselor helped teach me to identify these messages and confront the fallacies in my thought processes. Counseling is an investment in myself. It’s not an overnight remedy and it requires hard work and introspection, but it has been as valuable as any medication.
Giving myself the gift of grace
Learning to give myself grace has been one of the greatest gifts I have ever given myself. Once I was diagnosed, it took time to understand that these messages I had been replaying could be adjusted.
In order to change the message, I had to accept my new reality: I had a neurological disorder. This sleepiness I was feeling was no character defect, it was a result of my hypocretin cells having been ravaged. When I struggle to overcome sleep inertia after a nap, there is a neurological reason. Will-power alone cannot overcome narcolepsy.
Choosing to surround myself with support
Surrounding myself with positive, supportive people has been a key to silencing my inner critic. I have had to distance myself from family members and have been through a divorce to remove toxic relationships. When I look for people to spend time with, they must respect my sleep requirements, if not, they cannot be in my circle.
Once I began to surround myself with people who accept me for who I am, the external messages began to silence. I still have to battle those old played out messages, but the volume on them has decreased.
On Saturday Night Live, Al Franken created and starred in a skit called, “Daily Affirmations With Stuart Smalley.” Stuart Smalley was the co-host of this self-help show where he would include 12-step gems like “stinkin’ thinkin’” and his own slogan, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me.” While the comedy and satire are top-notch, there is so much truth to many of the messages.
Every day when I wake up, I look in the mirror and drop a “Hello, handsome.” There is sleep in my eyes and my hair and beard are a hot mess, but it’s what I need to hear. After years of not hearing positives about my appearance, I realized I could also provide those messages.
Messages I see and hear
My favorite workout shirt (actually I own four of them) has “Strong And Pretty,” written in bold letters across the front. Thanks to World’s Strongest Man competitor Robert Oberst for creating the message. The shirts are great conversation pieces but more importantly, they remind me of two messages I need to see and hear.
One, as I mentioned in my inaugural article, I am strong. Not just physically, but also mentally. Two, I am pretty, in fact, my mom has been telling me I’m handsome for as long as I can remember.
Family of origin and family of choice
My journey with narcolepsy has been a roller coaster and I couldn’t have made it without my family of origin. Thanks to my mom, my dad, my brother Alan, and most importantly my 3 kids.
While I wouldn’t wish this condition on anyone, I couldn’t imagine a world without my fellow friends with narcolepsy. They make up my family of choice along with some supportive friends. Oh, and message to my inner critic: "Bugger off."
Where are you in your narcolepsy diagnosis journey?