Mum who collapses if she fancies someone has to avoid eye contact with all men

A brave mum-of-two has opened up about living with a rare sleep disorder that causes her to faint whenever she sees someone she is attracted to.

Kirsty Brown, 32, suffers from cataplexy, a form of narcolepsy, that causes her muscles to relax whenever she is faced with strong emotion – including laughing, being scared or feeling aroused.

She explained: "I can have an attack at the top of a flight of stairs if they're steep because I don't like heights. I'm trying to move to a new house that doesn't have stairs or where I can have a stairlift.

"Anger and laughter trigger it and me and my sisters are either arguing or making each other laugh because they're the funniest people I know.

"I think they know what they're doing sometimes, if they know I won't hurt myself then they'll make me laugh.

"Even if I just find myself funny, I can have an attack. It's any strong emotion or loud noises like beeping cars or shouting.

"I haven't had an attraction that strong recently that it would trigger an attack which on one hand is brilliant but also a bit sad because I'd like to feel that attracted to someone.

"There's been times when I've been arguing, and I've collapsed which does put an end to the argument. I'm due to have physio on my back because I hurt it when I had an attack."

It is estimated that there are 25,000 people with narcolepsy in the UK, but not all of them suffer from cataplexy.

A cataplexy attack can be as mild as losing slight movement in your face or as extreme as, or fully collapsing to the ground – which sometimes happens to Kirsty up to 50 times a day.

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It has had a huge effect on both her personal and professional life, and admits that telling employers she might pass out at work has made it hard for her to get work.

She explained: "It has been a struggle because I brought my kids up on my own and it's hard to find a job when you need to explain that you could collapse at any point.

"When I have an attack I don't feel anything go through my body, it's like a short circuit from the brain to the muscle is interrupted and I just lose control over my legs, but the top half of my body does feel strong."

One particular attack has really stuck in her memory, and it happened when a handsome stranger caught her eye.

She recalled: "It's so embarrassing. I was out shopping once and I saw someone that looked alright, and my legs just went and I had to cling onto my cousin for support.

"If I see someone attractive, my legs just go so I try not to put myself in situations where that could happen, or I try to keep my eyes down for my own safety."

The attacks can be made worse by tiredness, and for her own safety, there are some days that she daren't leave her home in Northwich, Cheshire.

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She added: "Considering it's a sleep disorder, we don't sleep much and when we do it isn't a deep sleep so if I'm really tired, I have more attacks than usual."

Kirsty had no idea that she had the 'narcolepsy gene' until it was triggered after a knock to the head when she was nine.

She said: "Me and some friends were throwing stones into a tree to get conkers and one hit me on the head.

"I would have suffered from cataplexy eventually because of the gene anyway."

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