By Hannah Phillips
A teenage girl who collapses every time she LAUGHS due to a rare brain condition has to avoid her funny friends.
Student Billie Hodgson, 17, suffers from cataplexy meaning that any strong emotion, particularly laughter, causes her to pass out.
Billie, who is currently studying at sixth form, is forced to steer clear of certain joker friends to avoid collapsing when she sees them.
The teenager, from Sheffield, said: “I’m a bubbly person so to go from that to feeling like I can’t laugh is really strange. I feel like I can’t be me.
“My friends try not to be funny and if they make me laugh they feel like they have to apologise.
“When I’m with them, I tend not to be as involved in funny situations to avoid cataplexy and especially in front of those who are not as familiar with it.
“We joke about it like friends do because t’s a funny thing in itself, and I have to make light of it.
“If we’re eating and everyone is laughing around the table, everyone tries to stop but then the silence makes you laugh.
“It’s so hard to explain how it feels when I collapse, it’s like you have no control over your body – I don’t have any control over what’s happening.
“I can’t speak or respond to anything – but the most frustrating thing is that I’m conscious.
“I shake, and I can’t hold things.
“General excitement triggers it, and since I was diagnosed the triggers have become more sensitive.”
Billie, who lives at home with mum, Sharon, 49 and sister, Harley, 14, was only diagnosed with cataplexy in March this year despite finding herself on the floor every time she laughed throughout her school years.
She says her first memory of cataplexy is collapsing in the dinner hall at secondary school when she was around 14.
There is no cure for cataplexy and the condition’s only available treatment involves taking daily medication to try and control it.
Billie said: “I remember once walking through school with a friend and we were laughing, then I just fell to my knees.
“Everyone thought I’d tripped but I knew something wasn’t right.
“At first we didn’t think it was that serious and the doctor told me everyone shakes when they laugh.
“But when I was diagnosed, I felt mixed emotions.
“I was relieved that I finally knew what it was and could then start treatment, but at the same time scared because I didn’t know how much it would affect my life.
“It’s also a lifelong illness which meant it was quite a big thing to accept.”
As well as forcing her to avoid social situations, Billie’s dreams of becoming a midwife have been thwarted by the rare illness.
She now wants to speak out to bust myths around the unusual disorder.
Billie said: “My dream was to be a midwife but I can’t do that because I lose control in my hands.
“It’s stopping me from doing what I really want to do and now I don’t know what to apply for at university.
“I’m anxious about going out and I’m not allowed to drive.
“But I want to speak out and raise awareness because it’s not something that many people know about.
“I want to show cataplexy isn’t like what people stereotypically think – it can have a major impact on someone’s life.”