Sleeper Agent

I fell asleep in a meeting at my new job today. Unfortunately, that is not an unusual occurrence. I’ve spent a fair amount of time explaining myself to my new bosses and coworkers. It’s been awhile since I’ve been around people who don’t know that about me who are affected by it after being in my previous job for so long. So I’ve had to give my explanation several times. It generally goes something like this:

“I’ve been like this since I was a kid. In school I would fall asleep during lectures, regardless of whether I was well-rested or not. I upset a lot of my teachers over the years. I know it looked to them like I was disrespectful and lazy, but I’ve never had any control over it. In my adult life, it happens in pretty much every meeting I attend. I can usually manage to have somebody talk at me for about 10 minutes before I start to fade out. My eyes glaze over and the head-bobbing will start shortly after that, then I’m gone. I’ve managed to control the yawning for the most part, at least. But there’s a switch that flips in my brain during periods of non-interaction and I can’t seem to do much to stop it. I try to doodle or take notes to stay with it. That helps, but sometimes I don’t do a good job of that, or looking like I’m doodling comes off nearly as badly as nodding off does.

I also have a hard time reading books. After 10-15 minutes of that, I’m usually out as well. I learn primarily through doing things. Having somebody sit near me and tell me what to do step-by-step and allowing it to go through my own fingertips is highly effective. Absorbing instructions via text book is harder, but expecting me to learn by lecture just doesn’t work for me. I’ll do my best not to embarrass myself or my department by falling asleep in important meetings with VP’s present, but I really can’t control it. Sorry.”

I also fall asleep reading or doing repetitive tasks. This has been a pretty big problem for me throughout my life. I have countless embarrassing stories of things that have happened because I fell asleep at an inopportune time. Many of them happened when I knew I would be highly visible and was on my best behavior. I even fell asleep playing little league softball while standing in the outfield a few times. I resembled a turtle on its back until I woke up with a start. I’ve just accepted it as part of how I am. A part I don’t like very much, but part of me nonetheless.

I thought about it a lot today after I gave that explanation for the thousandth time. “What if there’s something I can do about it, after all? I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Maybe I can get some help and change it.” I’m already wondering how this is the first time that thought really occurred to me in all these years. Seems silly and obvious. Regardless, I’m glad that I had that thought at all.

I’ll be eligible for benefits next month. I’d like to get the ball rolling now in hopes that I can actually get started on treatment soon. I don’t know what it is yet. But the fact that there’s something going on with me that affects so much of my life at least deserves some examination.

If this is something that you or somebody you know has dealt with and you have any treatment suggestions in Columbus, OH, let me know in the comments section, email me (jacki890 at yahoo) or ping me on Twitter (@jacki890).

Update:
I have a coworker who has almost identical symptoms to mine. I talked to her a lot today. She has narcolepsy and has been treated for it the past few years and said that medication has made a huge difference in her life. As soon as I get benefits, I’m going to talk to my general practitioner about having a sleep study done on me to work toward diagnosis and treatment. I’m pretty excited about it. Now I just hope I can get a benefits package that will cover things like this. It would be amazing to finally get a handle on these symptoms.

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