Narcolepsy: Woman Fights to Stay Standing, Even on Dates


Narcolepsy Is Socially Isolating

Holohan first collapsed at 12 on top of a boy she had a crush on.

"I once rushed out of a bar after flirting with a study partner and fainted on the steps of a church," she writes. "I once passed out in an alley, banging my head on a garage door, waking up in a puddle beside a guy I was dating, who said, 'I thought you were dead!'"

Holohan, 33, has also been accused of being drunk at a party. "I find anything is easier to deal with using humor," she told

Flygare knows how socially isolating narcolopsy can be and doesn't attend large parties anymore.

"The challenges are huge and they are internal," said Flygare. "People hear the word narcolepsy and get weird reactions -- people don't think it's a serious thing."

Experts work with narcolepsy patients and their families to avoid situations that could be dangerous.

"New moms should breast feed lying down, so they don't fall on top of the child," said Harris. "If you are walking with a child around the house, push them in cart."

Narcolepsy is a lifelong condition, but treatable.

Flygare takes four medications a day -- including one in the middle of the night -- and must take twice-daily naps. She wears a special bracelet that alerts people about her condition and who to call.

"I was angry for awhile, sad and depressed -- it was really hard," she said. But it hasn't stopped her from living a full life.

In 2010, she completed the Boston Marathon in four hours and 41 minutes, raising $6,000 for charity. Today, she writes a blog, REM Runner. Flygare has also shopping around her memoir, "Wide Awake and Dreaming," to publishers.

And in June, she will compete in the Mount Washington Road Race in New Hampshire, a seven-mile, 4,500-foot climb.

She tries to keep her emotions in check so as not to trigger an episode. While running the marathon, she kept her music going and looked to the ground.

"People think a marathon is difficult, but it doesn't compare to the daily struggle of living with narcolepsy," said Flygare.

But she challenges herself to be optimistic about her future and has found working part-time for Wake Up Narcolepsy rewarding.

"I really enjoy doing awareness [work] and I am a little bit less afraid," said Flygare.

As for the boyfriend who watched as she went limp on date, Flygare said he broke up with her. But she knows one day, a special guy will appreciate her unique disorder.

"For a long time, I kept it a secret," she said. "But now I am a spokesperson for narcolepsy. A guy can Google my name and I can't really hide it."

"I have overcome adversity, and the right kind of person will find me fascinating," she said. "To me, it's a good way to weed the guys out early."

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