Trauma and Narcolepsy

I know a day is going to be difficult when I wake up from nightmare after nightmare. Visions spin in my head from the night before. As they swim before the black of my eyelids, my skull suddenly feels brittle, as if it could crack at any moment.

When I am struggling with trauma, whether it is the death or sickness of a family member or the loss of a job, my head plays out different scenes of the same drama. These constant vivid dreams feel like salt in a fresh wound.

How am I supposed to heal when the stage of my mind keeps ripping me open, over and over?

Experiencing trauma and living with narcolepsy

Everyone experiences trauma in their own ways. However, not everyone experiences trauma while also having a neurological disease such as narcolepsy. My narcolepsy symptoms, such as nightly hallucinations, vivid dreams, and nightmares, all work together to create reruns of my traumas when I am acutely stressed.

In most ways, this is extremely difficult to handle. Before I had narcolepsy, when bad things would happen in my life, I would be able to escape them with the sweet reprieve of deep, dreamless sleep. This kind of sleep is now inaccessible to me due to my orexin-deficient brain – my sleep cycles with narcolepsy are choppy, sloppy, and full of complicated dreams.

Dreams, stress, and sleepiness

I never feel truly free of the dreams, though. During difficult times, my waking hours are few and far between. At the moment that stress hormones are secreted throughout my body, my narcolepsy symptoms become heightened.

As my stress increases, it is more difficult for me to stay awake throughout the day. I feel as if I am carrying 100 pounds on my back. My eyelids droop. I can’t focus on things. When I am exhausted like this, I make silly mistakes, and I make serious mistakes.

The effects of a recent traumatic event

My latest traumatic event has had me experiencing constant nightmares, increased sleep attacks, and just worsened narcolepsy symptoms in general. I recently had a sleep attack where I input my credit card details into a phishing website!

I have been using the internet since I was a child, so I’d like to think that I know my way around basic internet safety. Rule number 1 is always to check the website URL you are on before giving them any information. In this case, the website I was on was posing as USPS.gov. As I Google-searched USPS, an ad popped up, appearing to be their service site.

Through my extreme brain fog, I struggled to input the numbers on my card. It messed me up to wake up at the end of it all to find that while fighting through a sleep attack, I had made a pretty grave mistake. I was mad at myself at first. But I realized that it’s important to extend myself love through these kinds of experiences. Beating myself up just makes the whole thing worse.

Accepting my body just as it is

As I heal mentally, I will give my body extra rest. I will remind it that it’s doing its best. And I will work to accept the limitations I face every day. Without acceptance, there is no healing.

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