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The Blight on My Daughter’s Life

The Blight on My Daughter’s Life

I gave birth to my daughter at 7:28 pm after 33 hours of labor. I was worn out, so I relinquished my baby to the care of the nurses within a couple hours to get some sleep. I didn’t see Cait again till 6:00 am. And, for the first year and a half of her life, if I put her down at 7:00 pm I knew I wouldn’t hear from her again till 8:00 the next morning. In retrospect, I wonder if it was an omen of what was to come.

Cait settled into normal sleep-wake patterns as a toddler. Toward the end of grade school, though, I remember that, if I took us out to dinner, she would invariably complain of being tired. I kept having to tell her not to lay her head on the table in restaurants.HPIM0292.JPG

Through her adolescence, I learned the hard way that it was best not to say anything to her early in the morning. “Not a morning person” was the understatement of the decade.

Cait completed her first bachelor’s degree on schedule and stayed on to get another BA and earn a teacher’s certificate, having settled on a career path late. It was during that program that the wheels came off. She lost motivation. Her sunny disposition disappeared. She earned the BA but couldn’t complete the certificate. After about 5 months living with a friend and making no headway with a job hunt, she moved in with her step-dad and me.

She landed a job. I thought she’d gotten her feet under her. But then she just tanked—spent all her time in bed except for when she had to work. It looked like depression to me. She found a counselor. Eventually she agreed to take antidepressants. Her mood lifted, but the fatigue didn’t go away. Her doctor checked her B-12 and her thyroid and screened for Lyme disease. She was sent for a sleep study and diagnosed with mild sleep apnea. She invested in a CPAP machine and used it faithfully. It didn’t help. She kept going back to the sleep study site asking why, and they would ask, “Do you meditate? Do you exercise? How much protein are you eating?”

Five months later, she thought she might have had a mini seizure. She was referred to a neurologist who happened to be a sleep specialist. The pre-appointment questionnaire drilled down on questions about sleep, and Cait answered them fervently. On her first visit, this doctor quickly resolved the question she came with and then said, “But I think you have another problem and it isn’t sleep apnea.” It was another month before a sleep study with MSLT confirmed it, but, when we did the Internet search that night, we knew he was right. Idiopathic Hypersomnia.

I hate this blight on my daughter’s life. I’m her alarm clock. I pack her lunch daily and make sure she has a good dinner every night. She doesn’t have energy for anything except her job. What kind of life is this? She’s planning now to move back to Illinois where she has a cadre of friends and a beloved church community within a 15-minute drive radius. I want her to have a life of her own, but I wonder, “Can she pull this off? Will she have the support she needs?” How I hate this blight on my daughter’s life!!

Ellen Swinford

Germantown, MD



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