Car with illuminated headlights driving on a dark road. Above it is a giant fuel gauge about to run empty.

My Not-So-Normal Realization: Part 1

I had always been the sleepy kid. My mom would tell the story about how my first night home from the hospital; I slept for 8 hours. Anyone who has been around a newborn knows this is unheard of.

Over the years, my mom brought my complaint to my pediatrician various times. As I began to get into my teen and young adult years, I continued to bring it up.

Why was I so sleepy?

I heard various reasons over the years for my constant sleepiness. The reasonings ranged from me having a longer sleep cycle to me being a teenager and staying up too late, depression, side effects of antidepressants, and at the age of 25, I even was told I needed to understand I was not always going to have the same amount of energy I did in high school.

I honestly began to wonder if I just wasn’t trying hard enough. Maybe everyone was sleepy like I was but just dealt with it better than I did.

Overwhelming sleepiness while driving

I was at a conference for work about 4 hours away. I don’t remember why exactly, but I decided to drive instead of fly. After we cleaned up the booth from the conference, I headed towards home. It was a little later than I was hoping to leave, so I found a hotel about halfway and decided to stop there and drive the rest of the way in the morning. 

I didn’t feel overly tired - at least no more than normal. The first hour was fine. I talked to my mom for a little bit and then turned up my radio and jammed out. I was about an hour or an hour and a half into the trip, and I felt an overwhelming wave of sleepiness. It felt as if I had bricks tied to my eyelids.

It took everything I had to keep my eyes open. It was on a rural, two-lane highway somewhere in South Carolina. It was pretty dark, and the only lights I could see were those few that lit the highway. I needed caffeine, but there was nowhere in sight.

A jolt of adrenaline

Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I saw a quick, swift movement and narrowly avoided a deer. The adrenaline of my close call woke me up a bit, but driving down the highway on the side of the road, I saw a few other deer; I was terrified of another one jetting in front of my car.

In fear, I guess I slowed down more than I realized. I was going 35 in a 55, and the next thing I knew, I saw blue lights. When he came around and asked for my license and registration, I guess he could tell I was visibly shaken. And he asked me what had happened and why I was going 35 in a 55.

Getting to safety

Fighting back tears, I explained I was just trying to get to my hotel, I didn’t know where I was, and I had just narrowly avoided a deer. After letting me off with a written warning, he told me where the next gas station was; it was only about a mile up the road.

The caffeine helped me make it through the last little bit to my hotel. And despite all the caffeine, I had literally chugged less than 30 minutes ago, as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out.

Realizing my sleepiness was not normal

When I woke up in the morning and started on the last part of the drive home, I had plenty of time to think about the events from the night before. For so long, I had convinced myself my sleepiness was “normal.” I could no longer deny that something wasn’t right.

I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I knew I had to get help, and I was not going to stop searching for answers until I did. I am not sure what I thought my issue was - but I can tell you narcolepsy was not one of the things that really crossed my mind.

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