Katie G. Nelson
It’s June and I’m on another first date, drinking at a sidewalk cafe in Minneapolis.
My date, an artist with a penchant for putting Sharpies to skateboards, seems wholly unaware that I’m already buzzed, though happy hour’s close remains in the distance.
I have rediscovered my love of coffee- and cocktail-fueled writing benders a few weeks after flying to Minneapolis from Kenya, where I work as a freelance journalist.
“So what brings you back to Minneapolis?” my Tinder Swipe Right asks, oblivious that my answer is spiked with two glasses of chardonnay and about a gallon of espresso.
“Well, if you’re talking literally, I would say a nonrefundable airline ticket to visit my now ex-boyfriend,” I answer. “But figuratively, I came home to spend time with my 94- year-old grandfather, who’s in hospice.”
I pause to take a long drink from my gin and tonic.
“I also have narcolepsy,” I add. “I take Adderall — like, a lot of Adderall — to function. They don’t have it in Kenya, so I bring it from the U.S.”
Silence. I probably should’ve just said I was visiting family, omitting any mention of my autoimmune disease made famous by the movie Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo.
“I work with a lot of overmedicated kids,” he replies, referring to his gig moonlighting as an art teacher. “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard anything positive about Adderall, ever.”
I ease into the awkward silence with another sip.
“Trust me, I wouldn’t be alive without it.” I deadpan. “Adderall saved my life.”
This might seem a lofty statement for a prescription stimulant known for its addictive qualities and reputation for abuse. But the truth is Adderall did save my life. The proof reveals itself in the spider webs of scars carved into my forearms.
“Can I get you two anything?” the waitress cuts in. He looks at me. I nod back, suggesting it’s up to him.
“Yeah,” he replies. “Another round.”
I was a few days shy of my 30th birthday when I returned to my parents’ house in south Minneapolis. My recent repatriation from the chaotic streets of Nairobi was a result of a sucker punch of shitty situations: an out-of-the-blue breakup with my Minneapolis boyfriend, the pending death of my much-loved grandfather, and a lingering lung infection that landed me in a Nairobi hospital, which resembled something from The English Patient.
But of all the crappy situations I was facing, one was most formidable: dealing with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota.
I was diagnosed with narcolepsy when I was 25. It’s an autoimmune disease that disturbs the restorative stage of sleep, leaving me exhausted during the day and an insomniac at night. Still, as bizarre as it seemed, my diagnosis ended a 10-year cycle of depression so intense I almost didn’t survive.
Click below to read more about my fight for health insurance coverage at City Pages.