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Laughing Makes Me Collapse

15/12/2016 16:56 | Updated 16 December 2016

No joking, I'm not making it up. If I was joking and we started laughing, then I'd be on the floor. Welcome to my life with narcolepsy.

Like most people, I often fall asleep in front of the TV. But most people don't also fall asleep in their dinner.

I was a working man who enjoyed a few pints and a lot of laughs with my mates. But I became a sleeping man who has to keep himself to himself in case I end up collapsing and causing myself harm.

Before I got a diagnosis me and my girlfriend couldn't figure it out. At first, she said I'd stopped breathing in my sleep, so I went to the doctor and he said I probably had sleep apnoea. It's like the worst kind of snoring you can get, you end up grasping for air and end up waking up absolutely knackered still. I had those exact symptoms, but worse. I had the most insane nightmares, waking hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and sleepwalking. This was more than just sleep apnoea.

I went to a specialist and had a polysonogram of my brain, eye movements, and blood pressure. No sleep apnoea. So I went to a different specialist and they recognised my symptoms immediately. It was narcolepsy with cataplexy.

Before my diagnosis and finding a suitable treatment, I was falling asleep about ten times a day. This got pretty stupid. We had a fancy new bath put in and I couldn't even use that. Falling asleep in the bath isn't so good if you can't wake up again. Falling asleep at the worst times isn't so good for your sex life either.

I sleep in another bedroom to my partner now. I can't cook as I could burn not only food but myself. I can't go to the corner shop as I could collapse in the road. You've got to see the funny side, but I can't laugh either!

paul smith

On the plus side, everyone at work was pretty good about it. I was working as a machine tool maintenance fitter in Yorkshire at the time. My boss gave me a chance to get sorted before I came back and it took a fair bit of time to find the right treatment.

My workmates could tell if I hadn't been taking my treatment. They had a good feel for when I was tired and reminded me to take my medication.

Now I'm trying to raise awareness and let people know what it's like. I once collapsed into a train when the doors opened and everyone just stepped over me. They thought I was drunk, they had no idea what was really going on.

Narcolepsy stops the brain from regulating the normal cycle of sleep. Most people also have cataplexy, which is triggered by strong emotions. These emotions can affect your muscles so you feel weak and tired or just collapse on the spot. That's why laughing is so dangerous. It slurs your speech too, no wonder people think you've had too much to drink.

I was 43 when I was diagnosed, which is much later than most people. I want people to know about the symptoms so they can have it seen to sooner, it can cause a lot of grief if it's not under control.

I wear an armband so people know why if I end up collapsing. I've also had tattoos of the missing genes that cause narcolepsy. It's a massive part of who I am and I think it's better to be straight up about it than scared of it.

I'm raising money for charities because they have a lot of good information and support for people like me. If you want to read more then visit www.narcolepsy.org.uk

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