After writing last week about how frustrated and angry I felt with having narcolepsy, a funny thing happened. I began to feel better about the situation.
Initially, I debated even writing that post. Narcolepsy is a part of my life, but I didn’t want my struggles with it to define me. I wondered if I shared my feelings, would I suddenly be “that person who can’t cope.”
Why that would bother me is a post for another day, but in retrospect, I realized it was silly to think a one-time post would become the essence of who I am as presented to the world, more so than my dozens of posts about writing, playing with dogs, procrastinating, and dreaming about seeing bears in the wild.
Instead, I felt free from the hold that my poor-quality sleep had on me. Once I got out all my feelings, the anger and resentment stayed on the screen and allowed me head space to start moving on. I thought to myself, well, if this is how it’s going to be for the rest of my life, does that change anything? I realized, no, it did not. I still have goals and dreams I’m working towards and I’m not going to stop. I may be more tired along the way, but I didn’t come this far to quit now.
My gratitude habit also kicked in about 24 hours after I wrote that post. For years now, I have either written prayers of gratitude for the blessings in my life or I have practiced gratitude in a meditative form. I honestly could not help but think of all the ways narcolepsy has improved my life. The biggest way is that I realized if I only have so much energy to expend, then it’s going to go towards things I value the most:
- prioritizing my health
- being an animal enthusiast
- serving others with the best of my talents
- connecting to nature
- traveling to new places (preferably with my husband and/or family)
- growing my spirituality
- and now that I’m married, loving my husband as much as I possibly can (super easy; he’s such a good person and so cute!)
Not on the list of things I valued was being an associate professor of psychology, and so my narcolepsy was one of the biggest motivating factors to give me the courage to quit my job, and give up tenure, amazing benefits, and a matching retirement account. Thank you, narcolepsy.
I also didn’t expect the amount of love and support I received from friends and family who read my post. My phone blew up with blog comments, Facebook comments, IMs, emails, and pictures of polar bears, all from people who wanted me to know they heard what I had to say. I received validation, empathy, and sympathy, and let me tell you it felt really good.
These responses were especially meaningful to me because there was a time when I lived a rather isolated experience. At that time, my closest friend at work had moved on, my office had changed locations to accommodate my narcolepsy so I could have a space with natural sunlight from a window and my new suitemates didn’t have the same level of socialization as my previous ones, I wasn’t on social media, and most of my friends (the few that I made since moving to Illinois) lived more than 30 minutes away (on a good day), and the ones who lived close by were married with families. I felt lonely for many days and then a doctor told me, “you need to spend time with people.”
It took me several months to really buy in to what the doctor said, but once I did I began to realize just how important community is. Especially when you are dealing with chronic illness.
So, thank you to everyone for showing your love and support. Two days after I wrote my blog post last week, I got a decent night’s sleep. And the night after that, and another night after that. For three days in a row, I felt like I had won the sleep lottery. I believe it can happen. I plan on using a natural sun light for when the Connecticut mornings are dark and dreary. I’m going to utilize my health insurance for therapy to help me cope on sleepy days. I’m also going to investigate acupuncture as an option.
There are so many wonderful things going on in my life. It looks like narcolepsy just may be one of them.