The Narcoleptic Nurse

The story of Kristi

To say I had an interesting journey through nursing school would be an understatement. When I started college in 2009, I never expected that I would be in a position where my own mind and body worked against me. In the fall of 2011, I noticed my brain no longer absorbed and retained information like it used to. My mind was constantly hitting the snooze button, looking at the words of pages and slideshows on auto-pilot. A cloud of fatigue was permanently hovering over my head and it was just a matter of time until the brewing storm struck and knocked me into a deep slumber. It seems like it occurred so suddenly; a girl who always had it together had suddenly lost control of life. I could not wake up on time, or even stay awake during classes and I fell behind in the nursing program. Some teachers gave me annoyed looks and seemed un-interested in my inability to show up to class on time with a kempt appearance and eagerness and energy to learn. I was told that at the time it appeared as though I fit the stereotypical un-motivated college student, suffering from side effects from the party life, an inaccurate assumption. No matter how much caffeine I drank or how hard I studied, I just could not seem to stay afloat, and I felt extremely worthless and incapable of finishing college. Finally in August 2012, I received a diagnosis of Narcolepsy. Although developing a rare chronic sleep disorder was not ideal, this was hope to me. An explanation for my strange behavior, a sign that there is the chance that I may be able to feel awakened again. The next two years of college following the diagnosis was a time of tremendous challenge and growth. Trying to adjust my medications to fit my hectic work, extra-curricular and school schedule was extremely difficult. The dose had to continue to be increased because I could not wake up for classes and at times was still falling asleep in class. Eventually, I was able to find a routine that worked for me and always had friends and family on board for major events I needed to be awake for that knew to call if they hadn’t heard from me saying “I’m awake!” by a certain time. I had limited free time for myself, because any time I was able to stay awake was dedicated to my sorority, my job and my homework. I was exhausted (more than normal), but I plowed through the stress and continued to take my medications and look for support wherever I could from teachers, family and friends. Some days, it was hard to prove to myself and others that I could continue to fight through nursing school despite the never-ending fatigue and difficulty finding medications and routines that allowed me to do the overwhelming list of tasks and activities I had. But somehow, I had found the motivation within myself to continue to pursue my dream to become a registered nurse.

Now in February 2015, I’m working as a mental health and substance abuse registered nurse. My medications, a good sleep routine and making sure to take care of my self through exercise and healthy eating habits have allowed me to continue to pursue my passions. It takes much discipline and diligence to keep me on my toes and out of the sleep cycles during the day, but it is the desire to help others find their own strength that helps keep me going. There are still times I still sleep through alarms, or find myself napping in the middle day if I have too much down time, but I have accepted it as part of who I am and pick myself back up again when I get knocked down. To others living with a rare illness, don’t give up hope and keep fighting the fight. I hope that you are able to find your own passion and know that your diagnosis does not define who you are, it is only a part of you. And thank you for sharing your story, you never know who will find inspiration in your words.

Meet others who understand on the international Narcolepsy community on