Life isn't a fairy tale and as we grow older we realize no one is going to rescue us from a tower and crown us a princess. Mice aren't going to spin us a brand new dress, animals aren't going to help us clean the apartment, and no one can transform into a mermaid.
But there is a real-life Sleeping Beauty and she doesn't fall asleep after pricking her finger on a spindle.
Hermione Cox-Denning, an 18-year-old student in Aberystwyth, Wales, has a rare neurological condition called Kleine–Levin syndrome (KLS), also known as Sleeping Beauty syndrome. KLS causes Cox-Denning to fall asleep for several days at a time. During these episodes of exhaustion, she can go an entire week without waking up, eating, drinking, or going to the bathroom. She has suffered from these episodes for three years.
For a long time, Cox-Denning couldn't quite pinpoint what caused the episodes:
It took me a long time to see what was triggering this for me. I knew it wasn't stress and I couldn't see a particular food pattern.
When she fell into a bout of extreme exhaustion after a night out, she realized alcohol was the culprit:
I realized that when I drank alcohol, I would often have an episode the next day. I've learned that I can have one or two drinks, but much more than that causes me to plunge into a deep sleep for days afterwards. I'm like the real life Sleeping Beauty.
Friends became worried when her sleeping episodes started since she would go as long as a week without talking to them.
Cox-Denning doesn't have a clear memory of the first episode:
I just remember waking up for a few minutes throughout the hours and hours of sleep, dreary and confused. My mind was so confused - I couldn't speak, I didn't eat, or drink and I didn't go the toilet. It was like my body shut down.
She was diagnosed with KLS in March 2018. Now she is taking a gap year before attending college, trying to control the condition as much as she can.
Cox-Denning has missed out on opportunities because of her illness:
I'm on a gap year at the minute and I wanted to volunteer overseas, but I couldn't because of my illness. It really upsets me that I miss out on opportunities like that.
She hopes to go to university but, because of her illness, she cannot go far:
Eventually I would like to study veterinary medicine. My plan is to stay close to home though. I'm still having my episodes regularly.
Some cases of KLS become easier to manage as people age, and some patients grow out of it as time goes on. Cox-Denning hopes she will be one of those patients. Until then, she'll continue to manage and control the debilitating condition as best she can.