Julie Flygare was on an ambitious path to success, entering law school at age 22, when narcolepsy destroyed the neurological boundaries between dreaming and reality in her brain. She faced terrifying hallucinations, paralysis and excruciating sleepiness aspects of dream sleep taking place while wide awake.
Yet, narcolepsy was a wake-up call for Julie. Her illness propelled her onto a journey she never imagined from lying paralyzed on her apartment floor to dancing euphorically at a nightclub; from the classrooms of Harvard Medical School to the start line of the Boston Marathon.
Wide Awake and Dreaming is a revealing first-hand account of dreams gone wrong with narcolepsy. It s the brave story of one woman trampling over barriers and finding light in the darkest of circumstances.
My long-winded review of this awesome book
I happened upon this book when visiting the Narcolepsy Network one day recently. I’ve long been a fan of memoirs (especially health-related), and years ago I searched far and wide for a book about narcolepsy. After a long and arduous search, I was finally diagnosed with narcolepsy with cataplexy in May of 2011. Oh, how I wish there had been a book like this back before I was diagnosed!
I have so many feelings for Wide Awake and Dreaming that it’s hard to put them into words. Let me try to sum up why you should read this book, no matter who you are. This might be a bit verbose. I apologize.
As a person with narcolepsy (with or without cataplexy)…
This book will be a welcome friend. As Julie described her initial symptoms – cataplexy while laughing – I could easily relate. (That is how my symptoms began, too!) In reading this book, I experienced Julie’s struggles with cataplexy, overwhelming sleepiness, sleep paralysis, and nightmares — all while she was fiercely working her way through law school. Reading about someone else’s experiences and being able to relate to them so much was a really great experience. Having an illness like narcolepsy, which most people don’t know much about, can make you feel pretty isolated. Being able to share these experiences with another person reminds you that you’re not alone, and there are other people out there who know what you’re going through.
As a person struggling with undiagnosed sleep issues…
This book will be a guiding light. When I was struggling with my sleep symptoms, I went to several doctors who tested me for many possible diagnoses. While one neurologist suspected nerve and muscle issues, my mind kept going back to sleep issues. I researched like you wouldn’t believe, and I searched and searched for a book about narcolepsy — just so I could see if I related to the symptoms. If only this book had been available back then! But at the time, Julie was still searching for her own diagnosis. Despite all of the fatigue, unsympathetic friends, and frustration, Julie persevered. Not only did she finish law school, but she found a doctor who would help her, and she got herself back up on two feet. Even if narcolepsy is not what you have, just reading about someone else’s experiences with similar struggles is comforting, encouraging, and inspiring.
As a person who knows/loves someone with narcolepsy (or other sleep issues)…
This book will be a gentle reminder. While reading Julie’s story, I was continually frustrated with her boyfriend, who seemed to have zero empathy and did not really care what she was going through (even if he did carry her to bed when she had cataplexy!). I was, however, very happy to learn that her father was so supportive. It was nice to see that even though he was her mentor and encouragement to finish law school, he didn’t let that cloud his judgement. He always listened to her, supported her, and helped her through each ugly moment. One of my favorite parts of this book was when her dad and stepmother accompanied her to the Narcolepsy Network Conference. Because then, his eyes were opened. Then, he more fully understood her struggles, and the gravity of narcolepsy. Let him be an example of how to treat your loved one who has narcolepsy.
As a person unfamiliar with sleep issues or people who have them…
This book will be a learning experience. I’ve always enjoyed reading memoirs because you get to experience another person’s life and memories at a very close perspective. Reading about the struggles someone has gone through not only teaches you about new things, but it lets you develop your empathy muscles! Aside from all that, this book was a flat-out interesting and inspiring read. It starts out as a mystery, and by the end of it you’ll be cheering Julie on!
So, should you read this book? I say, undoubtedly, yes.