I am an expert faller. I could win medals for my falling prowess. It’s not that I do so gracefully. I mean, honestly, how does anyone fall gracefully? I’m convinced that those beautiful, ballerina-style swooners are faking it. No, there’s nothing graceful about watching me hit the floor. I just manage to crash to the carpet (or hardwood, concrete, tile, linoleum, etc.) with a certain style. “Why do you say that?” you may ask…. Well, I suppose it would be because people always tend to become somewhat dramatic around me when it occurs, so it must be quite a site to behold. If I had to guess as to why, I would assume it is because it’s never quite expected. Granted, I’m not speaking of my husband, children, parents, or other close family members. They’re used to it. No, it’s when I’m near people I don’t know that it becomes traumatic for them and humorous for me.
The thing is, if you don’t know me, I look remarkably healthy. I’m not too fat or too thin. I have a healthy, if somewhat pale (sunblock keeps away skin cancer and wrinkles), skin tone. There isn’t anything obvious about me that would indicate that I might hit the floor unexpectedly and that it would be a normal thing. I look like your average, everyday, 30-something woman.
So why do I create the occasional frenzy when I hit the pavement?
I have Narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is largely misunderstood. I don’t fall asleep and hit the floor in unconsciousness. Neither do the majority of actual people with Narcolepsy. Mr. Bean and that woman on Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo have the world fooled. I experience something that not all people with Narcolepsy have to deal with: cataplexy. I know what many are thinking, “Cata-whatsy?” Cataplexy… Not to be confused with catalepsy, the condition with which Madeline Usher suffered in Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. There will be no burying me alive, thank you very much.
Cataplexy is sudden paralysis resulting from heightened emotion. So, the short explanation:
I’m walking along and someone jumps out in front of me, shouting “BOO!” Plop, down I go. (Haunted Houses are not my friend)
I’m arguing (lovingly and respectfully) with my husband and I’m rightfully angry and frustrated (because, of course, I’m right and he hasn’t yet realized it). Plop, down I go.
The children and I are playing and it becomes “TICKLE MOMMY” time. Plop, down I go.
Really, there isn’t any emotion that isn’t plop-worthy. Now, for the record, this doesn’t happen every time I get emotional. Thank you pharmaceutical manufacturers (even though you actually suck and charge far too much money, gouging patients for medications that cost pennies to manufacture and were once sold over-the-counter). It doesn’t even happen 50% of the time, anymore. But when it does happen, if it happens around someone new, I get to listen to the hysteria around me and witness the drama caused by my paralyzed body. That’s the key point. I’m fully conscious and aware, just paralyzed.
You can learn a lot about people when you experience this symptom. I’ve heard people talk badly about me, thinking I couldn’t hear them. I’ve heard genuine concern from people I thought didn’t know I existed. I’ve heard panic from the cool headed and calm from the usually emotional. I’ve heard 911 calls. I’ve heard jokes. I’ve heard, “Daddy, Mommy’s on the floor again!” yelled through the house in a simple demonstrative sentence, as if someone’s yelling, “Dinner’s on the table!”
The statements that always strike me as the most bizarre are the “I don’t know how she does it” or “That poor woman” or some other such comment. I’m not one to be pitied. I’m also not one to be admired. I just live my life. My life just includes the occasional plop.