Narcolepsy Onset Is Traumatic
Last updated: January 2022
My narcolepsy is unique. My narcolepsy was caused by a virus — a little bug. I was visiting home from college when I learned upon arrival that my nephew was sick. I made the decision to stay after being pressured to do so. I'd driven 45 minutes to have a nice weekend with my family, and I was looking forward to seeing my nieces and nephews.
I look back on this memory and kick myself for it – because I would never be the same after the events that transpired here.
I wrapped myself in a blanket on the couch, a large soft thing. I immediately could smell the sickness on it. It's difficult to describe; the best I can do is compare it to the smell of feverish breath. My stomach churned when I inhaled. I sat under its warm embrace and hoped I wouldn't fall ill.
"The worst that can happen is that I'll miss classes for a few days," I remember thinking to myself. I was, unfortunately, very wrong. I became ill from that intense virus, and it knocked me down for weeks, which wasn't normal for me. I trusted my body to make it through. And it did. Mostly.
A name for my condition
After my cough cleared up, my intense tiredness didn't. In fact, it gradually became worse. I started falling asleep behind the wheel while driving. Those were my first signs that something was very wrong. It wasn't until I collapsed in a heap after laughing at a joke that the gravity of my situation sunk in.
After 6 months of testing, I would finally have a name for my condition: type 1 narcolepsy with cataplexy. These words ring in my skull even years after I first heard them spoken.
I have other scars too. I've avoided using blankets since college. When visiting friends, they would tease me for it, and I would laugh along with them. I figured it was a sensory thing. It wasn't until today, 4 years after my diagnosis, that I realized why I hate using blankets – especially other peoples'.
Blankets remind me of that one time that I didn't advocate for myself, and I ended up with a lifelong disease because of it.
I hate the reminders
I hate blankets for the same reason that I checked for open COVID vaccination slots every day for over 3 months until I finally got access to the vaccine.
I hate blankets for the same reason I fear walking into a doctor's office. All of these things remind me of the traumatic experience of my narcolepsy onsetting and the steps that led there.
Missing the person I was before my narcolepsy
Some people are born with narcolepsy and don't know what life is like without it. I do. I was a different person before my narcolepsy. I miss that person sometimes. I'd like to think that I'm stronger for all of this. Fighting for every second your eyes are open can do that to a person.
When did your narcolepsy symptoms first start?
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