Many of you may not be aware that I have a sleep disorder referred to as narcolepsy. “A Narcoleptic Twin Mom?” you may ask yourself. “Is this the beginning of a joke?”
Well, it probably could be! Narcolepsy is, by its very nature, funny. It’s comical to think of someone conking out in the middle of a conversation with friends. Or exploding in laughter and subsequently tumbling to the ground asleep (a related condition named “cataplexy”). Or nodding off in the middle of a meeting at work. (Nodding off at a work meeting? Your thoughts are detouring to numerous schmoes you’ve known whose eyes remain at half mast any time The Boss begins yammering away.)
Yep, this is my life. Allow me to clarify, lest my neighbors run screaming in the other direction when I come rollin’ up in my minivan. No, I’m not one of the more extreme cases of this disorder. I don’t fall asleep at the dinner table or driving down the road. (OK, I don’t anymore.)
I previously was on a drug that will remain unnamed in this post. Not to lapse into a pharmaceutical lesson, but the idea of this particular narcolepsy drug is pretty amusing. You drink it once before bed and again in the middle of the night. After doing so, your body turns the stuff into GHB. What’s GHB? Unless date rapists frequent my blog (please God, no), you probably aren’t familiar with it. However, you may have now deduced that GHB is, in fact, a popular date rape drug. So how does this seem when you’re the one taking it?
After it was initially prescribed to me, my husband and I both were required to watch a video about the drug. In short, how to take it and what would happen to me.
The drugs would arrive in a nondescript box from a specialty pharmacy – usually to my department when I worked for The Man – and had to be signed for by an individual over the age of 21. This person signing would unknowingly consent to more than likely a stint in maximum security prison if this drug got in the wrong hands. I would hide it in my cubicle and smuggle it on the bus back to my house where I then would take a Sharpie and go to town on the box and bottles inside, marking out every little detail. (Not by choice. Again, I was required to do all of this.)
You’d best be completely for bed when you swig this stuff down. I would have about 15 minutes to do whatever I had to do before I crashed. (When I say “crash” I mean CRASH. Lunesta and Ambien are like Tic-Tacs compared to this stuff.)
Unfortunately for me, I would drink the special potion and on most days, 5 minutes later, drunkenly proclaim to my husband, “Ahm staaaarving!” There was no getting between me and our junk food. I would take a man down before I’d be talked out of cruising downstairs to get myself a snack.
Miraculously, I made my way up and down the steps each and every time. I’d reappear in our bedroom several minutes later with armfuls of edible garbage. On more than one occasion, my husband swore that I passed out with one arm in a potato chip bag, one arm in a box of cookies and a mouthful of a combination of both of the above. Sexy. He’d dutifully do his best to ensure that I wouldn’t choke before going to sleep himself. My hero!
I was able to return the favor on one occasion. Jed and I had gone out to eat earlier that evening. I went to bed content with a tummy full of brisket (plus the obligatory edible garbage from the midnight snack). He, on the other hand, went to bed with a gurgly tummy full of tainted barbecue.
I awoke to take my second dose of Date Rape Brew in the middle of the night, then witnessed my normally able-bodied husband crawling on the floor toward me. “Did you drink your stuff yet?” the desperate shell of a man asked me. I regretfully replied to the affirmative. At this point, I began to fully understand that he was in the throes of food poisoning and graciously offered to barf it up in the name of love. Jed quickly concluded that he was not going to die (although he may have wished death in the moment), and declined my proposition. I had 15 minutes to get this sad sack of bones situated on the floor with a pillow, a blanket and a bucket before I passed out again.
Eventually, I surmised that if I couldn’t adequately help my husband throughout a nighttime illness that all this drugging would not be conducive to becoming pregnant and definitely not to attending to the parental responsibility of waking up in the night. Adios, Date Rape Drug.
When I became pregnant with my twins, I went cold turkey with the narcolepsy meds. Oh boy, this was a sight. I would customarily eat alone at work. This was not because of lack of fondness for my co-workers (a fantastic group of folks I enjoyed immensely), but because I’d be ready for some Alone Time.
As a pregnant chick, I’d eat my lunch in a common area, and set my alarm for an hour later. Sitting straight up, I would then lapse into a lovely dream sleep. (I dream on average within 3 minutes of falling asleep). Picture a comfy chair right beside a walkway connecting 2 buildings at the east coast headquarters of the 3rd largest bank in the country. I’m talking, hundreds of people streaming by at lunchtime. Total cacophony. No problem!
THEN my kids came. I was nursing, so no drugs then either. I cannot lie: This was punishing. Waking up countless times a night is terrible for anyone, much less a narcoleptic. Nevertheless, I survived this time (an utter blur). Finally, I was able to get back on the meds….a glorious day!
Narcoleptic parents of young children, you may wonder how does narcolepsy has affected my life as my kids moved past the brutal infancy stage?
I am thrilled to report that this crazy, hilarious sleep disorder has not slowed me down much at all. My medication has been holding steady for years now and manages my symptoms beautifully. I am able to drive my twins around town, confident that I can be “on my game” enough to dodge all the other horrific drivers around me.
The adage as ancient as life itself “sleep when your babies sleep” can be beautifully adapted for older napping children. (Sadly, not an option for parents who work outside the home.) I feel like a rock star after a quick afternoon snooze.
Other useful guidance actually came years ago from the elderly clients I met through my old banking job. Although I became invested in the lives of lots of my customers, there was often a particular perspective and openness that could only come from those who have had many more years of life experience.
These older clients enjoyed being asked about their lives. They would freely answer my questions, many of which were about parenting and relationships. I stored their answers in my mind, knowing I would want to retrieve them one day.
There were valuable nuggets of advice ranging from the long-term importance of friendship in a marriage to exercising patience with rowdy children and more.
Never once did I hear one of these insightful seniors lament over poor housekeeping.
After wearing myself down as a mother of twin infants, attempting to care for them and keep the house tidy, I recalled these conversations. Only then did I realize that I would be unable to
regain a mental and emotional balance if I tried to be Holly Housekeeper.
Mama’s going to be present with her children while they’re awake and will turn in at a respectable hour when the day is done.
With renewed evenness in my life and a clear, rested mind, motherhood has become enchanting, not exhausting. Certainly there are still foggy days from time to time, but I remain optimistic about the days to come when the energy will wash over me. That’s when I feel unstoppable.
Dirty dishes be damned.
(Author’s Note: This post is intended to be a humorous depiction of my personal experience with narcolepsy. It was written in the spirit of using humor as a coping mechanism for me. Narcolepsy and cataplexy are disorders than can range widely in severity and can be debilitating for many who suffer from it. I am in no way making light of the life-changing impacts that this disorder has on so many. For more information on narcolepsy, please click on the link below.)