ABC’s Bachelor franchise isn’t exactly known for not dramatizing the medical experience of contestants (if this article were in video format, we’d insert a montage here of all of the times the show has used ambulance shots with dramatic music in the previews.) This can be a good thing– The Bachelor is a major platform, and when contestants share their stories, it helps raise awareness about different diseases. For example. contestant Elyse Delhoum shared her sister’s story and promoted Sarah’s Closet, the charity created in her memory, and lead, Colton Underwood, discussed his Legacy Foundation for CF patients. Other times, it feels like the franchise is commodifying medical experiences, which can be a little icky.
This past summer, Bachelor in Paradise starred a woman with narcolepsy. The condition wasn’t explicitly brought up in the show, but the contestant, Katie Morton, has discussed her experience via Instagram. However, while it wasn’t discussed on the air, the effects of the disorder showed up in the periphery of the show.
What is Narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy is a rare neurological disorder that causes disruption in the brain’s sleep-wake cycle. It’s characterized by symptoms including excessive daytime sleepiness and brain fog, and can cause people to fall asleep in moments at unusual times. In some patients, it may also cause cataplexy. Most patients don’t receive diagnosis or treatment for years after onset, and often face stigma and misunderstanding. Learn more about it here.
Who is Katie Morton?
Katie Morton first appeared on Colton’s season of The Bachelor. She’s a 26-year-old dancer and medical sales representative with a sense of humor and a down-to-eath disposition. After a tumultuous relationship, she and Chris Bukowski recently got engaged at the end of Paradise,, although in the finale on Tuesday, she shared that it hasn’t been easy between them since.
Throughout the season, Katie has had some moments where it seemed like she was having a rough time. For example, when another contestant, Wills, expressed interest in her, it evoked an emotional and hard to understand response which confused many people– Wills included. Viewers asked: were we missing something? Was this alcohol-induced? Was it editing?
Maybe it was, but maybe it wasn’t. Often, people with chronic illness have their symptoms misunderstood by others– and it’s not hard to imagine that the brain fog that comes with her condition could have made this experience more strenuous.
Katie discussed her experience with narcolepsy on Instagram. One fan had seen that she had the sleep disorder on a post, and asked if it made travel difficult during The Bachelor– an intense, physically and emotionally exhausting show.
“I sometimes say WHY THE HECK am I so emotional? Or WHY am I so tired? Then I’m thinking…duh Katie, you are narcoleptic stop forgetting. But as a narcoleptic you know that you have brain fog and you’ll keep forgetting. It’s a cycle.”
She explained how she controlled her symptoms– both with medicine and behavior modification.
“I am constantly tired but I’ve learned when to take my medicine, what I can and can’t eat that will make me more naturally tired, and that sometimes I have to say NO to neon carnival at Stagecoach bc I just can’t go out with everyone else and stay awake.”
She also compared her experience with narcolepsy to being a kid who needs to take extra naps. “Sometimes I’m hyper before the nap and sometimes I’m whining.”
She joked that, on the brightside, this had kept her out of the stagecoach drama– quipping that it was a good year to turn in early.
Read more about this story in People.