Helen Waterson, now 36 years old, knew from an early age that there was something wrong with herself, when her friends would go on adventures and she would spend her summers asleep—only waking to eat or go to the bathroom.
After she was misdiagnosed with severe depression and put on antidepressants, Helen only learned four years ago that she suffers from Kleine-Levin Syndrome—widely known as Sleeping Beauty Syndrome. The condition causes her to sleep for 21 hours a day. Incapacitated by her illness, she relies upon her two dogs for company and support, while she struggles to do simple tasks like walking to the couch.
Describing her life she said:
“At least in the fairytale she got to wake up from her sleep. I go through life either sleeping or feeling like I’m sleepwalking. I’ve missed all the important moments of my life. I don’t have a social life; I don’t have a love life. With this illness you don’t live, you just exist.”
Her suffering is so severe that she is physically unable to stay awake without the aid of heavy medication, the Mirror reported. The hours of sleep cause Helen’s muscles to stiffen and ache constantly, and the prolonged periods of unconsciousness has impacted her long-term memory.
The condition has ruined her life, forcing her to quit her job, and preventing her form leaving the house more than maybe once a month. When she is briefly awake for only a few hours, the side effects of the medication and severe pain force her to rely on her mother for simple things like groceries.
There are only about 1,000 people around the world who suffer from the same condition, but their experiences are very similar to Helen’s–missing out on life events and living a life of pain and isolation.