The White Noise has a very interesting post discussing the parallels between the blogger’s experience with narcolepsy and the experience of an addict.
Some days I feel like an alcoholic — unable to think of anything else but the craving. Sleep and I have a tumultuous relationship. I’m constantly exhausted and wanting more, more, and will never turn down a nap. On the other side of the coin, or pillow, I despise it.
On the stress it puts on relationships:
Most addicts harbor an urge to hide what feels like a terrible secret, myself included, though it’s just biology.
Worse than hidden mental battles are those that scoff. Various relatives have fallen into this category and have tried to shame me awake over the years: “If you loved me, you’d want to spend time with me while you’re visiting; you wouldn’t want to sleep.”
The irony: when relatives play the emotional hand to encourage me to stay awake, my stress level spikes, which triggers my need to sleep. Addicts feel an overwhelming need to use in stressful situations, and then they feel irrevocably guilty, since really they don’t want to use the stuff in the first place. Guess what? I would love to be awake! Addicts would dearly love to lose their compulsion to use.
On the daily grind of actual craving and anticipated craving:
Like an addict, I spend my days trying not to think about it, trying to avoid situations that set me off. Situations like being near a bed, or the dreaded 1-3 pm block during the day, or just thinking about sleep might be unique to narcoleptics, but other compulsions are not. For instance, emotional situations either good or bad (i.e., family turmoil or a great new job) send addicts spiraling. At such emotional cues, for me, it’s as if the universe’s force momentarily manifests to drag my eyelids closed.
On professionals’ quixotic search for other explanations for symptoms:
My psychiatric conversations can be summarized neatly like this:
Psychiatrist: A lot of people that are depressed feel the urge to sleep. Do you feel depressed, or sad?
Me: No, I’m not depressed. I just need to sleep.
Psychiatrist: That might mean you’re depressed. It’s perfectly OK to feel depressed.
Me: I know it’s OK. But I don’t feel depressed. I’m pretty happy in life.
Psychiatrist: I think you’re denying the fact that you’re depressed.
“Circular,” “tiresome,” and “discouraging” are mild terms to award the frustration I’ve felt. Unfortunately, many a therapist isn’t trained to counsel and treat addiction or similar disorders. Diagnoses are hard and take years, especially when there isn’t a cure-all solution.
She goes on to discuss how life and goals become organized around the problem.
She closes with this message to family and friends on behalf of addicts and alcoholics:
We do love you, and we’re sorry we put you through this hard journey of ours. We don’t mean to, and we’re trying to figure out how to work on it. The trouble is, no one really knows how. But don’t write us off yet. For everything over the years, Thank You.