There IS a difference between laziness and narcolepsy

23 Jan

So who’s familiar with narcolepsy? For anyone who isn’t, the definition according to Wikipedia is:

“Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder caused by the brain’s inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally.[1] People with narcolepsy often experience disturbed nocturnal sleep and an abnormal daytime sleep pattern, which often is confused with insomnia. Narcoleptics, when falling asleep, generally experience the REM stage of sleep within 5 minutes, while most people do not experience REM sleep until an hour or so later.”


“The main characteristic of narcolepsy is Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS), even after adequate night time sleep. A person with narcolepsy is likely to become drowsy or fall asleep or just be very tired throughout the day, often at inappropriate times and places. Daytime naps may occur with little warning and may be physically irresistible. These naps can occur several times a day. They are typically refreshing, but only for a few hours. Drowsiness may persist for prolonged periods of time. In addition, night-time sleep may be fragmented with frequent awakenings.”

Now, you might be wondering why I’ve gone all Bill Nye the Science Guy right now, but there is a point so bear with me. See, I have narcolepsy and it’s surprisingly not at all fun in any way. The reason I’m getting into this is because I’ve been applying for a lot of jobs lately, yet I am well aware that having narcolepsy makes working traditional hours extremely difficult to do on a consistent basis. The worst part of this is that people tend to misconstrue an actual medical issue with simple laziness, and I doubt you’ll find many employers who don’t subscribe to the same philosophy.

To give you an idea of what it’s like, let me pose a question: how many people have slept for 27+ hours straight with only a single five minute period of wakefulness to go to the bathroom during that entire time? How many people have awoken from that lengthy slumber just as exhausted as they were when they initially fell asleep? Anyone besides me? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

People with narcolepsy are typically pictured as individuals who fall asleep while cooking or in the middle of talking; while this can be the case sometimes, it manifests itself in a lot of other ways as well. The first time I worried that something was legitimately wrong (which was not after my 27 hour nap, shockingly) was when I was driving to my old job one morning and I blinked and suddenly found myself about 2-3 miles further down the road than I had been a second ago, with no recollection of how I got there. Thankfully I didn’t get in an accident, but imagine going 75 MPH down a highway in morning rush hour, and then blinking and realizing that there was a stretch of 2-3 miles that you just drove through and cannot remember. Scary, huh?

I ended up having a sleep study and, long story short, I was diagnosed with narcolepsy. Now, the only medication on the market specifically designed for narcolepsy is called Xyrem, and it is a medication that uses GHB as the active ingredient. Yeah…the date rape drug. I’m not going to get into the details of the medication (you can look it up here) but needless to say, it requires a background check and costs and fortune, and I’m not a huge fan of doping myself up with a medication that moonlights as a DRUG FOR RAPE.

So I’m basically resigned to taking 174 mg of stimulants every day (I also have ADHD but still, 174 mg is insane), as well as losing two jobs so far because of this illness. For the record, narcolepsy and other sleep disorders are also protected by the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) as well as being covered as a diagnosis that qualifies for intermittent FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) protection. You’d think that would protect someone, right?

Yeah, no.

Apparently if someone bitches about any absences or tardiness that you might experience as a result of your illness, it can be used as a reason to terminate your employment, regardless of any federal or legal protections you might have. It’s considered a disruption to regular business functions, though I’d argue that anyone who spends more time complaining about you than they do on their actual job is causing their own disruptions far more than your illness is. Regardless, companies would rather have incompetent people who can work 8-5 than competent employees (with a Bachelors degree, years of experience, and a MBA in 6 months) who might need to work 9-6 or 10-7 due to a documented medical condition. WTF?

This all ties back into what I was talking about before, which is that we are all expected to find gainful employment according to rules that really don’t hold up under scrutiny:

  • It’s easier to find a job when you have a job (bullshit – trying taking tons of personal days to interview at other companies without pissing off your managers).
  • Typical business hours are from 8-5 (unless you do any business in ANY country outside of the US, where the time zones tend to leave a massive gap between OUR 8-5 and THEIR 8-5).
  • You can’t afford to take chances or take time to explore what you REALLY want to do since you have bills to pay and if you’re unemployed and exploring what you WANT to do makes you lazy, whereas being miserable in a job that you hate is a sign of a productive life.
  • Money is everything so you should always be striving for a shit job that pays well over a job you love that doesn’t allow you to buy stupid crap you don’t need.

I’ve had days where I’ve woken up at noon and accomplished more by 4:00 than I have at jobs where I’ve been chained to a desk from 8-5. The fact is that we’re not all wired to run on the same universal clock and find satisfaction according to the same universal standards. Regardless of whether you have medical issues, or other responsibilities that impact your available hours, or if you’re simply a night owl who finds more productivity after dark than during the day, you shouldn’t have to conform to something that does not work for you because that’s the standard that we’re supposed to live by. There’s a reason we’re not all cavemen or totally reliant on agriculture anymore – someone said, “fuck this,” and created a future that worked for them. I have narcolepsy and it is very difficult for me to consistently work under an 8-5 schedule. I’m smart, talented and extremely skilled so if your company wants to pass me up because it’ll piss off someone in the company who doesn’t understand (or need to understand) someone with a different schedule that they have, it’s your loss.

It takes a stubborn bitch to change things, and I don’t think people full understand just how much of a bitch I can be. I slapped my best friend Andrew in the nuts on his birthday (just because), and then I slapped his roommate Andrew in the nuts too just because they both had the same name. That’s a bitchy (though hilarious) thing to do. I’m about to open-hand slap the employment thing square in it’s nuts…and it’s going to be amazing.

In closing, here’s a cat picture:


Finn loves to give me kisses, and I’m not complaining.




One Response to “There IS a difference between laziness and narcolepsy”

  1. kelseyndavis2 January 31, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    FINALLY! Someone who understands! I, too, suffer from Narcolepsy. I am in my junior year of college, and struggle in my classes everyday. People assume it’s laziness. It drives me up the wall!! I wish someone would just make a Public Service Announcement about Narcolepsy and inform the general public. Very well written article!

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