At my day job, we have a lot of fun with various creative and/or funny projects. The other day, I walked into my co-worker’s office to tell her something, when I saw some of the fun things she’d been working on.
I was looking at them and giggling until I took a closer look at one (and omg I wish I didn’t have to be so vague here, because I want to share the joke with you), and it was so surprisingly hilarious that I flat out dropped to the floor and barely kept from hitting my head on the corner of her desk on the way down.
Don’t worry — the atmosphere was still one of amusement. “Look, you made Kelley fall down,” said her office-mate, and we proceeded to have a great time giggling at these creations. After about a minute, I stood back up and went on my merry way, completely recovered.
So, what’s with the falling down?
Falling while laughing… that’s how the cataplexy generally manifests for me. Cataplexy* afflicts some (but not all) people who have narcolepsy, and it can best be described like this:
SUDDEN, STRONG EMOTION —> muscles give out —> person falls down
For me, it varies in strength from my legs going wobbly to my whole body collapsing into a puddle of giggling jelly on the floor. Often, I can hold myself up with a nearby doorframe or table edge, etc.
*There are all kinds of varying degrees of this, though, so please learn more if you’re interested.
When a Book Makes Me Cringe (and Fall Down)
It is rare that a book can trigger this reaction from me, but so far this year, I’ve experienced it on multiple occasions and MAN is it AWKWARD. Two different books have evoked such strong emotional reactions in me that they’ve given me cataplexy! In fact, these books may just have helped me uncover NEW triggers for cataplexy that I didn’t know about until now!
Book #1: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Challenger Deep was one of those books that I read as an e-galley; one of those books that I sneak in little bits of reading every time I take a bathroom break at work. This book was so fascinating that I often made excuses to read it on my phone whenever possible. But during this time, I noticed something peculiar happening.
I would get a strange form of cataplexy. A… mild, lingering cataplexy. Basically, my legs would feel wobbly all day long. I’d be uncomfortable just sitting at my desk, and wasn’t always sure that I could trust myself to walk without falling. I even asked my doctor about it, and he told me that it’s a thing, and that it’s called Status Cataplecticus.
One day, I was riding in the backseat of my in-laws’ SUV during a road trip, and I took a cue from my teen sister-in-law (who was reading a book), and pulled out my phone to read some more Challenger Deep. And then it struck again! I realized that the BOOK was triggering the cataplexy!
I knew that the book was causing emotional reactions in me, but I hadn’t realized quite how strong they were. So I took a moment to examine what was happening, and tried to pinpoint the emotion in question. I think I’d describe it as dark despair (deep, dark despair — to the point of nausea). Needless to say, such a visceral and lingering response has forged a very strong connection between me and Challenger Deep. It’s not exactly a comfortable connection, but it’s potent and important and real.
Book #2: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
See, here’s the thing. First, I was listening to this one on audio, which means I just pressed play and enjoyed the story as I drove to and from work, etc. Secondly, Deborah Harkness is a very descriptive writer, and it’s definitely to her credit — the depth of atmosphere and sensory vividness within these books. But you see, that is also my problem.
I don’t think that I’m spoiling anything by telling you that there is a scene in which a vampire drinks blood from a person. The thing about this scene is that is was so wonderfully and descriptively written that I was helpless to keep myself from hearing all about it (the narrator is also phenomenal) as I was driving. This scene caused such a strong emotional reaction from me that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to drive!
YOU GUYS, I had to turn the volume down and pray to the goat gods that my leg would hold out and allow me to keep pressing on the brake (I was stopped in traffic), because the cataplexy was rearing up. I mean, you know how there are those scenes that are just so icky that they make you cringe? YES, THAT. All the way into leg-wobbliness. It was terrifying!