As most people with invisible illnesses know, it’s hard to explain certain behaviors to people when you don’t “look sick.” There’s an endless list of symptoms that need to be better understood, but one symptom I often find embarrassing is that I fall asleep EVERYWHERE. I’m not trying to be rude, I’m not drunk, and I’m not bored. Sometimes, I don’t realize it’s happening until I’m waking up. Other times I feel hit with a wave of exhaustion and understand I have 45 minutes to get myself to a bed before I pass out wherever I am.
My rare, chronic, and invisible illness, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, makes me tired all of the time, so I miss out on a lot of different experiences. Sometimes I plan a day, but I’m just too exhausted to make it, and other times, I’m physically there, but I’m not there. This phenomenon isn’t limited to EDS, of course– a lot of different people with chronic and invisible illnesses experience the same thing.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more okay with this. I understand that there are lots of things I can do, but my body needs more rest than a lot of other bodies. However, even though I accept it within myself, there’s still stigma about falling asleep in random places– and a lot of conversation to be had about public exhaustion. It’s important that other people with chronic illnesses know they aren’t the first or last person to fall asleep in a movie theater, and it’s important that people without illnesses understand the role health can play in an unexpected public nap.
Here’s a list of 7 weird, embarrassing, and inappropriate places I’ve fallen asleep:
1. At a comedy show I had been looking forward to all week
Fact: the more excited you are about any given event, the worse your chronic illness body will behave.
2. Inside my friends fireplace?
I don’t know how, and I don’t know why. To be clear, this wasn’t a functional fireplace, just a small painted alcove. I think that just like cats love to crawl into small boxes, I, too, wanted to curl up in a tiny enclosed space.
3. In my bed. With the fire alarm above me blasting.
My boyfriend was making pancakes in the morning and the smoke set off the fire alarm just above my bed. I didn’t even stir. This one kind of concerns me.
4. Also in my bed. With my obnoxious Taylor Swift alarms going off all morning because I heard using different songs as alarms is supposed to help you wake up but it just woke up everyone but me.
There is no dread like the dread of waking up at 9:17 am and finding three texts on your phone from your roommates, saying “Hey, can you turn your music down?” and realizing you didn’t even hit snooze on your alarms because they just didn’t wake you. These roommates still hang out with me after that incident, so most days, I marvel.
5. At the bar
I know this doesn’t sound great– people make assumptions if you have your head down on the counter at the bar. However, when this happened, I wasn’t even drinking at all. I was just out past my bed time.
6. On the bus
Normally, I love that I’m able to sleep on public transportation, since it helps past the time. I love it a little less when I wake up half an hour after my stop, but there’s a give and take to everything I guess.
7. On the couch, minutes after insisting to everyone that I was totally awake
“I’M NOT ASLEEP. HOW COULD I BE REPLYING TO THIS CONVERSATION IF I WAS ASLEEP? RIDDLE ME THAT.”
8. In a movie theater
If they don’t want you to fall asleep at the cinema, then why do they make it so dark?
9. In the chair next to the giant speaker at a house show
If any member of the band ever reads this: I AM SO SORRY.