A lot of what you say, sounds very relate-able to many aspects of the experience, which I've had having Narcolepsy with Cataplexy.
As for the, or a, 'rabbit hole' - couldn't agree more- but unfortunately that's all there seems to be and maybe there are multiple or endless holes; in fact I refer to it as a possible 'black hole'.!
Since the tetrad 4 symptoms (EDS, Sleep Paralysis, Hypnagognic Hallucinations and Cataplexy) are quite odd and very hard to really grasp at all, or begin to recognize, that is until you've grasped an understanding of how they're occurring and/or what is perhaps causing/influencing/relating, to why such all occurs (all being related to the brains hypothalamus, and specifically the neurotransmitter Hypocretin which regulates a lot of important functions including sleep states); it can be really difficult to accept as well as feel comfortable, believe, that Narcolepsy or Narcolepsy with Cataplexy is there. It seems hard to recognize at first, or was definitely hard for me yet the Cataplexy was finally explained by such. It seems a common thing on the forums for other too (to an extent), to be in disbelief and/or with complete confusion of the symptoms.
Regarding Cataplexy specifically, it is a very confusable and difficult thing to understand or have familiarity with, unless you experience it.
I think the terminology around both Narcolepsy and Cataplexy really needs some updating as it is broadly variable and different in so many varying ways, for each person with Narcolepsy or Narcolepsy with Cataplexy. That is to say Cataplexy can be anything from a light bobble of the head (or head/facial spasm/weakness, or such of any part of the body) to complete (sometimes immediate/instant or within seconds, like a freeze then collapse) temporary paralysis (mine is usually 15 seconds or so but I am fully conscious and able to think, hear, often see too; while there are some who will fall into actual REM sleep and not awaken for hours). Cataplexy 'occurs only from some trigger' though, it seems to be commonly like 90% of the time from pleasurable interactions (vast variation/s and endless degree/s of things). It varies from person to person though in both how they're triggered and what is triggered and there is no consistency or predictability, or hardly ever at least, when it comes to Cataplexy besides for pleasure being related.
What you mention about vivid dreaming feeling more 'real' than reality; what I can relate there is only that my dreams can almost feel like an entire day or, ordeal, awakening exhausted from the dream. Thankfully, I've never had any difficulty in differentiating the dreams from reality (besides while having perhaps a Hypnagognic Dream with Sleep Paralysis, yet upon actual awakening it is clear), but they can be so exhausting and can be very easily remembered at times, often mixing familiar places and persons/friends within the dream. I won't say that they're controllable, but there is at times obvious mannerism or thought processes, which would be how I'd (or what I'd) think normally if I were awake. And, they can be unusual in manners like, awakening within one dream, thinking that you've awoken, then finding yourself awakening again, and possibly even again; like dreams within dreams.
Now, I do not want to discourage you in any way, but Polysomnography (sleep study) and the Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT - a series of naps to determine how quickly you fall into REM and more, to determine if you have Narcolepsy) are what is used to determine it all. They can do a spinal tap to measure the Hypocretin levels, this seems to relate more specifically to when Cataplexy is present and am not sure how often it is done.? There is no 100% test to determine it though, and there seems like the terminology a lot of confusion; and there is still a lot of unknown/s and misunderstanding all over regarding it all... As you may see by searching around on the forum/s there's not always success in treatments, but there is some. Personally I've not had much or any success with them, so I basically have found lifestyle adjustments, food/routine/stress-avoiding/sleep-hygiene/recognition/paying-close-attention, to help. I should mention I have many other health matters which come and go (plethora of ENT matters plus migraines and headaches, depression), some are persistent (neck pains/allergies/many sensitivities/tremors).
Please don't take what I'm saying with too much weight.
Do what you need to do, take whatever test and try what you're comfortable with.
The best of luck.