4 posts in this topic

I used to be a full time college student with a major in theatre and a minor in music. I grew up on dance and music as if it were my bread and butter. I started ballet when I was 3 years old, but had to quit after an injury in high school. I still loved ballet though, even if my pointe shoes didn't love me anymore. When I was diagnosed with N, we were in the middle of an opera production at my college. I had a small, unnamed part, but it was a step above the chorus, and that was wonderful for a music minor, plus I had two, short ballet solos in the production, and I was costuming the entire show. I was so excited I could barely stand it, despite the stress. It was going to be my first full opera production, and it was going to be my first time performing ballet in ages, not to mention my first time costuming an entire show on my own. I had been very open with my director with the process of my diagnosis and all of my symptoms, and perhaps that was my ultimate mistake. 4 days before the show was supposed to go up I was very ill, but I still managed to make it to rehearsal, and to get through it, despite the fact that I collapsed (cataplexy) backstage (not on stage, backstage) twice. The next day I was informed that I was being removed from the production. I got pulled 3 days before the show opened because my cataplexy made it unsafe for me to be on stage, I was told. 


After that experience, I'm scared to death to even try anymore. I had to leave school and move back in with my parents. I haven't even sang in the shower since I came home. Part of me wonders if they were right, if my cataplexy is too great of a risk, even if it is pretty well controlled. If I can be pulled from a production 3 days before it goes up, how can I ever be sure that I will really get to perform at all? I was a really good actor. I never even used to get stage fright. I can throw any emotion on my face and no one would know the difference, but I can't just cover if the real me is actually nervous or if I get into the scene too much and I just drop to the ground on stage. How do you act your way out of that one? "I'm so angry! I hate you! *splat!* See how angry I am!? I'm lying on the ground instead of punching you in the face like I'm supposed to!" I guess what I'm trying to say is I really don't know how to deal with this. If there are any other performers out there who have figured out how to deal with this, I would really love to hear from you...

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Wow, I'm dealing with a similar but very different issue at my university. I suffer from Cataplexy (full body paralysis + ragdoll) but no Narcolepsy and I study Geology which entail a lot of fieldwork but at the beginning of this year I was told I'm being removed from all fieldwork due to when I had a C episode and was millimetres from smashing my head of a boulder and possibly falling of a cliff!!! Thankfully I have a very good support system with my best friends and they do anything to keep me safe even if I don't like it and I also have the full support of my lecturers but health and safety times me up. I should also mention that I've recently lost my job because of this condition as well.


I've found the best way to deal with these barriers that are placed before me is to smash right through them and just prove to everyone that I can do these things, and this is how I've gained the support of everyone who knows me and my condition.


So my advice to you would be start performing again in anywhere you can get, be fully honest with the people you work with, if they don't want you to perform or work then quite frankly you shouldn't work with them. And keep doing it until you feel more than confident to do anything because you CAN. Don;t let this condition define how you live your life but be realistic with it as well.


Hope this helps



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In all honesty- keep your love of dance and performance- and make it an avocation- a hobby that you are passionate about.


Don't stop enjoying what you love, but adapt it into a sustainable life and profession. Like a professional athlete who has a bad knee.


I do not want to be a downer but the arts are a difficult and competitive environment. It will be important for your future to build a life you can sustain.


For example, if you became a teacher you could have a long future of instilling your passion into children and watching them develop as artists. You could do community theatre for your own pleasure without relying upon it to pay the bills.


As PWN, we will always be square pegs in a round hole to some degree or another in many professions- we have a chronic illness to manage. The closer to a natural fit that you can find, the happier you will be long term.


Use your passion, perseverance and enthusiasm to propel you forward, rather than just getting a leg up. The fact is that this illness is not fair. Try to direct your life in a way that minimized the unfairness and maximized your happiness.


This is just my opinion.

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Like Hank said. DON'T STOP!

I was a theatre kid in high school (and football. And choir. And band.) And I was very open with everyone about it. I had one collapse but my director didn't make anything of it. I was Audrey II, both voice and puppeteer. In a hot, stuffy puppet. Which I have found narcolepsy LOVES warm and stuffy. Knocks me right out. Regardless, my director allowed me to keep my role and the production went off without a hitch.

I struggled more with narcolepsy than I did with cataplexy when it came to acting. In another case, for regionals, I did a very emotional duo scene from All My Sons. The scene where the father tells the son he knew he was selling engines that would fail and kill fighter pilots. To make it even worse, one of his sons was enlisted as a pilot and has not been heard of and is presumed dead by all but the mother. Anywho, the scene involves agitation, anger, rage, father-son love, and the feeling of having lost both sons. (I played the father). I would yell, get up in his (the other actor portraying the son) and yell at him as he is very emotional too. The scene ends with the son tossing me to ground and nearly beating me but cant. The way we played it, the people sitting in the hallway could not only hear us but feel our emotions seeping out of the doorway. All in all, never had an issue with cataplexy. Not when rehearsing (aside from screwing around) and not when performing.

For my monologues, I only had a very very very minor moment of cataplexy when switching characters (you do two scenes in one, 5 minute? performance). My jaw slackened a bit, so I just made it look the part.

I think if you collapse on stage in anger and you need to punch the guy, play it up. Collapse, have the guy stoop down to see what happened and as he does *SMACK* Jab straight to the face!!! It would some comedy to the scene I think :)

In your case, I think your director overreacted, as many performance directors do. I can understand how devastating it must have felt. I think my closest experience to yours would be having a strong desire to be in the military or LE. I did so much studying and researching of all the different branches, jobs, ways to get it, enlisted vs. officers, etc. Two and half years of anticipation and dedicated research and preparation (I do Search and Rescue with the Sheriff's Office and wexploring have a Law Enforcement academy and team). The moment I got diagnosed I went straight to the Internet to check if this would affect my ability to serve.

Narcolepsy is not just a no, it's a HELL NO!

You can't even be in the National Guard if you have narcolepsy. Or coast guard. Or many federal agency equivalents. I was so upset and distressed. The one thing I knew I wanted to do and spent so much time investing into it and because my mind is doing something I can't control, I can do what I dreamt about doing.

Luckily Im too determined to get bogged down and not find something new. My new drive is Humanitarian aid. And I'm working every angle I can to get there.

What's my point?

I think that you shouldn't let your C affect your passion for performing. Finding a director who understands or that you have C will help prevent incidents like your opera experience. Once on stage and engaged in the scene, real life fades away and so do all of those issues. It's a giant mental game. I can't stress enough DO NOT STOP!!!! Giving up something you love ESPECIALLY because of you can't control, will only make one you depressed until you find a way to fill that hole.

I wish you nothing but luck. Go break a leg!!! ;)

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