I chose to watch True Life: I have Narcolepsy. This episode was about two girls, one named Julie (diagnosed four months ago) and Katy (diagnosed ten years ago) who both struggle with Narcolepsy and Cataplexy. Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder where individuals are extremely tired at inappropriate times during the day and fail to have a normal night’s sleep. Cataplexy is a sudden muscle weakness that disables the body to perform movements when a person laughs or cries.
The type of narrative that Julie is going through in the beginning is a Restitution Narrative. She believes that her illness is something she can overcome. Not until the doctor’s visit does she fully realize that she will never grow out of it. At this point she starts a Chaos Narrative. Her illness is permanent, she suffers socially, and is also frustrated. Katy experiences more of a Chaos and Quest Narrative. Her illness is also permanent and it is frustrating for her and her boyfriend, Robby, but she is trying to make changes and improve her health.
The culture and stigma stage for Narcolepsy is the same for most illnesses. I believe it is the lack of knowledge and understanding from healthy people to the suffering ones. For example, Robby does not think they are consequences to stopping Katy’s medications cold turkey. He also does not understand how hard it can be for Katy to try and live a normal life. Some people may think that narcolepsy can be controlled and taken care of, but like other illnesses there is not a cure. In this case, some people may not be empathetic towards Katy and Julie.
There was not a lot of the medical professionals in this episode. When they did show them, they were understanding and helpful. The doctors told Julie what her restrictions were (driving with Cataplexy, swimming without supervision) and gave her medicine to help her deal with her illness. One of Julie’s doctors even helped her balance both sides of her brain. I noticed that it was all westernized ways and when Julie’s mother introduced to her things about spiritual healings, she was not interested.
Both girls in the episode acknowledged that they were not healthy. They were diagnosed with Narcolepsy and Cataplexy and began to search for treatments. Julie was concerned with side effects from her medicine. Katy and Robby were distressed about her health because of the amount of pills she was taking. Acknowledging their sick roles was good for both girls; they found happy mediums that will help them cope with their illness.
Illness Narratives are useful for everyone including the patients, their families, and medical professionals because they make sense of the suffering, help everyone adjust to the disability, empower themselves, feel less-isolated, and model on how to continue living even though they are faced with a non-curable illness. It physically, mentally, and spiritually assists everyone involved.
MTV. “True Life: I Have Narcolepsy”. Director Carlos Puga. MTV Video, 41:12. October 18, 2011. http://www.mtv.com/shows/truelife/true-life-i-have-narcolepsy/1672872/playlist/#id=1672872 (accessed July 24, 2014)