At this point, not many people know that I have narcolepsy. I’ve told a few, and I try to keep it light so that the conversation doesn’t get weird. Nobody really understands narcolepsy, because it’s extremely complicated and involves science stuff, and I don’t blame them. It can hurt, though, when people are dismissive of a condition that colors my every waking moment (waking moment! Get it?).
Case in point: I was catching up with an old friend, and mentioned that I had been diagnosed with narcolepsy. His response: “Oh, yeah, your ex-boyfriend told me about that. How’s that going, by the way?”
I took a deep breath and began to launch into the whole thing: My cataplexy, the diagnostic process, how I’ve been adjusting, all that.
Midway into my first sentence, my friend stopped me. “No, no, I mean the situation with your ex. How’s THAT going?”
He didn’t mean anything by it, but his dismissal stung, and we haven’t really talked since.
The truth is, most people are like that, myself included. Be honest — wouldn’t you rather hear some juicy gossip than a detailed description of how it feels to live with a chronic and incurable illness? Being sick is a downer, and people don’t know how to respond to it. This is especially true when you’re 21 years old, and the rest of your friends are still feeling the heady, lingering effects of teenage invincibility, living as if they’ll be special and pretty and full of potential forever. It’s strange to be young and limited.