“I have Narcolepsy”

I picked to watch the episode True Life “I have Narcolepsy.” I remembering watching the episode a while back and was interested to study and analyze it from an experiential approach this week. The episode follows the lives of two young girls, Julie who is 16 years old, and Katy who is 25. They both suffer from narcolepsy, which is a sleep disorder, and cataplexy that involves sudden loss of muscle control when laughter is triggered. After comparing the three types of narratives discussed in lecture, I believe both girls use a restitution way of sharing their experiences. They both believe the condition is an illness they suffer from and affects their lives, but they do have hope it will get better and medical treatment will improve their symptoms or even the condition. Julie who is in high school struggles from narcolepsy and cataplexy attacks in her every day life. She worries about getting cataplexy attacks while hanging out with her friends and at dance practice. She suffers from needing to sleep several times a day and that gets in the way of her schoolwork and applying to college. Her responsibilities are influenced by the condition and she hopes to improve them but is afraid medication will be the only answer. Julie expresses that she does not want to give in and take medication but her mother tries to push it on her. She hopes to get away with a small dosage. Her visit to a neurologist makes her realize her condition will not improve unless she takes medication and she is restricted to drive, swim or take baths on her own. The condition is not allowing Julie to live a normal life. Stigmas exist in our culture and people question is someone is acting different from others. Therefore suffering from these illnesses can get in the way of social situations. After starting medication and seeking alternative therapy, Julie begins to manage her narcolepsy and cataplexy and is on her way to live a normal life. Katy’s story is similar to Julie’s but she is a few years older and has finished school so a job is one of her responsibilities. She also has a supportive boyfriend who is the person that helps her out with her condition. She also suffers from narcolepsy and has a hard time waking up in the morning, staying awake throughout the day and sleeping soundly at night. She also feels many jobs are not well suited for her because of the condition and has found being a real estate agent works better for her lifestyle. Working from home and picking her own hours helps her manage her condition. This is also an example of her taking the sick role and her rights and responsibilities are influenced. Katy believes that medication and drugs are the only way to treat her symptoms and by doing so, she can eventually lead a normal life. As it was mentioned in lecture, illness has a cultural context, and social expectations and stigmas contribute to illness and the process of healing. The support of the people around someone suffering from a condition is important when it comes to managing symptoms and the healing process. Illness narratives are beneficial to all patients, their families, and their health care providers. It allows others to be involved in the illness by hearing it from a first hand perspective and being able to understand better what someone might be going through. It also helps doctors diagnose and treat a patient the best way possible.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Anthony Jurayj says:


    This video is a interview between Chris Goetting and Dr. Downey, and focuses on a specific case, Chris Goetting, who is suffering from narcolepsy and cataplexy but maintaining a normal lifestyle. Chris Goetting was a on the path of a high school drop out because he was unable to deal with the lifestyle that narcolepsy produced. However, with the help of a strong community, his family (specifically his mom), and Dr. Downey who has been with him through the entire circumstance. He also was very disciplined and stayed focus on his goal to overcome this problem, which he has found a way to cope with. He has opened a website that allows other narcoleptic patients to converse about their treatments and lives that can help make narcoleptics feel more wanted and hopeful. Chris has succeeded so well that he eventually wants to go into medicine to study sleep disorders and find a universal cure that can help other narcoleptic patients. Granted, I think chris may have been one of the lucky patients because it seems as though he has all the necessary resources, and although he worked hard, was presented with opportunities that not everyone has available. Unlike Katy from true life, chris seems to be confident that he can overcome his condition, as compared to katy who thinks that drugs and medication are the only cure, and that she is held back in some way because life cannot continue normally until narcolepsy is cured.

  2. Meghan Kinter says:

    I chose to watch an article on about Carrie-Ann Burns who is a woman living with Narcolepsy. She has now been living with the condition for 5 years and diagnosed with it for about a year and a half. Just like Kathy in the True Life video she too is prescibed to medication. However, it seems as though the two girls in the post above have a more positive out look about their condition and hope to get better. Carrie-Ann in the youtube video I chose seems to have a more negative, chaos narrative. She doesn’t seem to have much hope and majority of the video she emphasized all the things she “can’t” do instead of focusing on the things she can do to make her life better. Kathy from the post above seems to have a strong support system while Carrie-Ann doesn’t appear to have a good relationship with her family or friends, its almost as though she has isolated herself. The differences between the support systems I think is a major contribution to the difference between their illness experiences. The two girls in the True Life video I chose also had awesome support systems and I considered their illness narratives as restitution, I think there is a major connection between illness narratives and support systems.

    Carrie-Ann Burns. “I Have Narcolepsy”. Online Video Clip. Youtube. 05 May 2013. Web. 28 July 2013.


  3. Aaron Schmidt says:

    I found a blog post that a woman with narcolepsy posted. She is taking the drug Provigil, and talks about how it changed her life and that her existence is intertwined with this drug. She says that it helps her function in her daily life, and improves her quality of life. She wants to get pregnant, but this drug can increase chances of a miscarriage. She was scared to stop taking the drug because she will have sleep episodes. She said she can stop them for the most part if she stays active. I think this this is similar to both True Life narcolepsy stories. The high school girl doesn’t know if she should take medicine or not, and is scared she will be dependent on the drug like the woman from the blog. The high school girl also has more social pressures from being younger, because younger people usually don’t accept flaws and differences as well as adults. The second girl from True Life seems more similar to the blog I found. They are both adults that have a job, and they both use medicine to control narcolepsy. The lady from the blog says she has a husband to drive her and take care of her, and the True Life episode girl has a boyfriend that helps take care of her. The girl from True Life seems a lot less optimistic. It seems like she thinks her life is over without drugs, while the girl from the blog is talking about how with family and friends, she is able to stay off drugs with little problems. I think willpower and family are important in dealing with a problem like narcolepsy.

    “Life Without Provigil.” The Narcolepsy Narratives blog. 01 January 2010. Web. 28 July 2013

  4. Katie Peterson says:

    In a Youtube video, “My Day Out With Narcolepsy”, Muhammad is faced with a day to day struggle of having narcolepsy and cataplexy. The experience of this patient differed slightly from the individuals in the true life episode, it seems. Muhammad is taken care of by a care taker, who assists and looks over his every day activities. I don’t think this narrative is a restitution narrative, but rather a chaos narrative because it seems like he is living with such suffering and is being forced to accept the fact that he will continue his life like this. I definitely think culture and society influences his experience with this disease. As he stated in the first part of the video, he rarely goes out anymore because when he falls asleep on the sidewalk, people tend to either think he’s a drunk or a druggie or they try and mug him for his money and wallet. This culture is so quick to judge people on their imperfections, especially when it comes to alcohol, that they just assume this poor man is drunk rather than dealing with a debilitating disease. I think overall culture and the harsh views of society have made this man’s illness experience a lot more challenging to deal with.
    Channel 5TV “My Day Out With Narcolepsy.” Online Video Clip. Youtube. August 11, 2008. Web. 28 July 2013.

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