“Writing is better than morphine.”
-Dr. Oliver Sacks
This week, I had the opportunity to attend a book event with Dr. Oliver Sacks at Sixth & I in Washington, DC. Dr. Sacks discussed his recent book, Hallucinations – which includes a chapter on narcolepsy’s hypnagogic hallucinations.
Dr. Sacks explained, “Hallucinations are high-jacking your perceptual system… You can create colors that don’t exist in real life. Hear songs that you’ve never heard before. Your imagination goes as far as possible, using parts of the brain that aren’t usually active.”
After the presentation, Dr. Sacks signed books on-stage. I waited nervously with my friend Gail for our turn. What would I say? With over 300 people in line, I clearly wasn’t Dr. Sacks’ only super-fan.
For me, Dr. Sacks is the man – the person I’d most like to have a conversation with in the entire world. Four years ago, my dear friend Lexie recommended The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat as I began working on my narcolepsy memoir. My life was changed.
As a person with an invisible neurological disorder – Dr. Sacks’ writing was validating. As a writer myself – his words gave me courage. Dr. Sacks inspired me to tell it like it was – hallucinations, cataplexy and all – no matter how “crazy” it may sound to outsiders.
Finally, I approached the signing table and Gail got the camera ready to take pictures.
“You do?” He looked up from signing my book.
“Yes, and I recently wrote a narcolepsy memoir…”
“Oh yes, what’s it called?”
“Wide Awake and Dreaming.”
“Yes, that’s it. It’s next in my pile to read. I’m reading slower these days, but it’s very next.”
Dr. Sacks handed me my signed book with a smile. I shuffled off-stage mumbling nonsensically. I forgot to thank him for inspiring me. My hands trembled. Did Oliver Sacks really just say he’s going to read my book? A few months ago, I’d sent him my book on a whim – but had no expectations.
Thank you to my amazing friend Gail for inviting me to this event. Meeting Dr. Sacks was a surreal moment I will cherish forever.