5 Rules for Arguing with Narcolepsy
5 Rules for arguing with narcolepsy
This piece is also available as a video on my YouTube channel
As you know, I’m not a doctor – or a mental health professional – I call myself a coping advocate because that’s what I believe in the most, that learning how to cope, how to keep going beyond coping, is the biggest part of managing chronic illness. That hated phrase, “It’s all in your head,” is pretty much the subject of my “research.” What you think about, you bring about, so when you’re saddled with chronic illness, sometimes you have to “teach” yourself how to “think better.” Especially as the chemical soup in a tired brain is wired to lean toward negative emotions.
Arguing is something I was NEVER good at. I would yell, shake, sleep, repeat. Just exhausting. I used to be a very angry person, for a bucketful of reasons that are all irrelevant now. Not all of the things I was mad about were “real,” many of them were just exaggerations of a tired brain.
After many years of actively working on it, I was able to alter my personality from “strike first, think later” to “meh, whatever.” After discussing it with someone this week, I decided to do a video about how I completely changed the way I “argue” to be more effective for my relationships and myself and less about blowing up bridges and being “right.” What you probably don’t want to hear, is that everything is your fault lol. Going back to the oft quoted, “It’s not what happens to you in life, it’s how you respond to what happens to you.” This is a great thing to try to remember when arguing.
Why do we want to “learn” how to argue better?
To help with symptom management.
“You can be driven to sleep simply by having a lot of emotional memories to process,” says Dr. Rebecca Spencer, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Department of Psychology. Naps are the brain’s administrative assistant. It takes sleep to provide the space needed to sift through the days’ experiences, and make permanent those that matter.
I came up with 5 rules for arguing. Once you learn and implement these rules, you’ll find your arguments may be more effective and less damaging – both to you and the person you’re arguing with. It’s going to take some work on your part, and may take awhile to accomplish but if you stick to it, it will become easier as you go.
Rule #1 On a scale of irrational toddler to the get-off-my-lawn old man, establish how mad you are.
First, let’s take a look at why we get so darn mad.
The part of the brain affected and causing Narcolepsy is a part of the Hypothalamus which is:
“… responsible for regulating your hunger, thirst, response to pain, levels of pleasure, sexual satisfaction, anger and aggressive behavior, and more. It also regulates the functioning of the autonomic nervous system, which in turn means it regulates things like pulse, blood pressure, breathing, and arousal in response to emotional circumstances.” Wikipedia
They are also referred to as our primitive or innate responses – we have them from birth.
So, how mad are you? Are you just annoyed or are you having a physical response (shaking, breathing altered)? If you want to have an “effective” argument (I define that by one that has a positive outcome for both parties), you need to make sure you’re “rational” enough to be arguing at all. Are you still in fight mode? Can you be “calm?” If not, you can’t. Period. This is one of the most important aspects of managing relationships with people. If you’re furious, you’re just going to make whatever it is worse. Once you’ve identified your level of anger, you need to…
Rule #2 Rationalize with your tired brain.
Rationalization: The action of attempting to explain or justify behavior or an attitude with logical reasons, even if these are not appropriate.
This becomes easier once you are able to realize that your brain, on its own, may be unable to regulate your anger. Many people, not just people with narcolepsy, just go to sleep after a stress response. For me, I would just ask myself the question… why u mad? Most of the time, when I asked, I was able to realize when I was overtired, or just woke up, I was MORE mad than the situation called for. At that point, I have a nice big glass of STFU. Nothing I say at this point is going to be helpful, and arguing at this level of anger = losing the argument, even if you win. You need to get yourself to at least a neutral place, so, if possible, excuse yourself to go “think about” your mad.
Rule #3 You must become an island, and know yourself
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
There’s a song I love called Islands. “When will you realize, you must become an island.” This concept came to me after examining my lifelong feelings of abandonment, only to be disowned by my first born child. In quiet reflection I came to the realization that we only have ourselves as a constant. People will come and go but the ONLY character required for your life story… is you. You are an island. People can come and visit but you live there alone, always. Once you can be comfortable with that, the arguments of others lose a little bit of power and you are able to see that even though the hurricane may come, everything on the island might take a hit, but the island remains.
One of the most important things in relationships is boundaries. Setting them and holding to them. Insistently and at all costs. Boundaries are not something that’s taught in school so you have to teach them to yourself! Lack of knowledge in 2019 is almost a crime lol. It’s all free to learn, you just need to make the time – and, if you do, you’ll have more time!
Here’s a list of boundaries that help with relationships (and arguments!). I’ll do a separate vid on boundaries some day. https://www.bustle.com/articles/133438-9-boundaries-you-need-to-set-up-in-your-relationship
Knowing yourself is probably the MOST effective tool for coping with chronic illness. Self awareness keeps you from “accepting” the labels or assigns of others. It helps you solidify your philosophies and the way you carry yourself in the world. When you know who you are and what you’re all about, anyone’s opinion on the matter is pretty much irrelevant. They don’t know you, they can’t but you do and you can. So, carefully consider the other person but not to the detriment of the self.
Rule #4 Once you’re more in control, seriously consider the other person’s motivations, words and actions from THEIR perspective.
Arguments are about feelings. Something happen that left one of the parties feeling a certain way and they’re unhappy about it. So, listen through what they are saying and find what they are trying to say.
Figure out what they want, and then figure out if you can give it to them. Many times, we can’t. We can’t add more wakefulness or coping, can’t manufacture time we don’t have.
The bottom line is, people don’t typically fight just for the heck of it, unless they have N lol. If you WANT to have a good relationship with the person you’re arguing with, you gotta really dig deep for this one.
Rule #5 Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be happy?
Many of us can focus on the wrong thing, like “winning” the argument. Or being “right.” The focus of every argument should be ending it so you can go back to being happy. Often when my husband gets mad at me, it’s because something that I said came out of my mouth funny. That happens, I screw up words or say things one way when I meant them another.
One thing that worked for me in that regard is saying to my hubs, “I love you more than anything. So, if I’ve said something that hurts your feelings, we need to discuss that because I would never hurt your feelings on purpose.” It really made a difference. Sometimes he gets mad and I can’t “resolve” it for him. That’s where the island comes in. I say things like, “I always give you my best. If you feel I’m falling short, you need to remind yourself that I have chronic illness and while I’m Super Comma Dawn, I’m not actually a super hero.” Inevitably he always says, “I forget.”
And, its totes normal for people to forget! Have you looked in a mirror? You look great! Even the people closest to us need to be reminded sometimes. Heck, I STILL think to myself, 38 years in… why am I so darned tired?
Look to resolve the argument, not win it. Islands don’t care if they win, they just want to keep standing.
Bonus rule – say what you mean but don’t say it mean.
This is huge but 6 rules didn’t seem as exciting lol so bonus rule. Very often people say things they don’t mean. I was in a relationship with someone who would hurl accusations at me… I would dig deep and think for days about what they said, coming up with all sorts of refutable arguments. Then I would go back and say, “the other day when you said I was ___, I want to talk about that.” Only for them to respond, “Oh I didn’t mean that, I was just mad.” Wasted, wasted, days, time, energy… for what? This is a big part of the whole “porter” analogy. Don’t carry other people’s baggage, it’s too heavy.
If you are the one saying mean things, you MUST excuse yourself. A lot of times sleep deprivation leaves us feeling this weird sense of urgency. One thing that helps me with this is repeating, “Everything doesn’t have to happen right now.” It helps me slow down. It helps me say, “You know, I’m really irrationally angry right now so my hypothalmus is not working properly. I need to go (take a walk, have a nap, hang up now). I hear that you are saying you feel ___ because of ____ and after I’ve had a rest, I’ll be more able to discuss it with my whole brain.
Fight or flight are hard wired emergency responses. These parts of the brain hold powerful emotional responses that are affected. The parts surrounding this area develops as the brain develops and they manage these primitive responses. While being affected, they are areas that “can” repair. This is why children, who are still growing rapidly, appear to improve more quickly. But, there’s hope for you yet.
Through conditioning you can learn to change your behaviors, effectively “rewiring” your brain for success.
If you’re interested in getting a little daily dose of positivity, you can sign up for my daily email list here: Daily Dose of Positivity – it’ll be a song, or a quote, or a coping skill delivered at 12:15 AM PST daily.