Meet Grisel: Living with Narcolepsy & Becoming a Voice for the Misunderstood

The Story Behind the Smile

Grisel Pantoja received her Bachelor of Arts from Florida International University (FIU) in Psychology and with a minor in education in 2017, and is now pursuing her masters degree in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in mental health. Diagnosed with narcolepsy in 2016, Grisel is now raising awareness by sharing her experience as a speaker in Project Sleep’s Rising Voices of Narcolepsy program. In her free time, Grisel enjoys playing the violin, journaling, photography, and spending time with her family.

If you were to meet this ambitious and radiant young woman today, you may not realize the adversity Grisel has overcome. In her inspiring presentation, she explains:

“My narcolepsy symptoms began at a young age, but coming from an immigrant family who struggled to make ends meet day-to-day, I did not want to worry my parents with these issues. I felt helpless – like I had no one to turn to. Eventually, I learned to seek help and I’ve realized that life is full of events that mold us into who we become, depending on how we respond.”

Grisel’s experience facing an invisible chronic condition in an immigrant community is a powerful and important story. Likewise, her tenacity to never give up on her dreams is so inspiring.

Raising Her Voice for Others

Like many people living with narcolepsy, Grisel’s decision to speak up wasn’t an easy one.

“I was hesitant to apply for the Rising Voices of Narcolepsy program because I knew that speaking in front of people would be a challenge, but I also knew it would help get me out of my comfort zone and that I wanted to be a voice for others like myself to spread awareness.”

Since completing our health communications narcolepsy leadership training, Grisel has given FOUR amazing presentations:

  • FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management Staff Meeting (Dec. 12, 2017)
  • Psychopathology Class at Trinity International University (Feb 7, 2018)
  • Senior Seminar at FIU to 40 students (Feb 27, 2018)
  • Senior Seminar at FIU to 40 students (Feb 28, 2018)

Grisel’s first speaking engagement


A Heart Filled with Joy

Grisel now shares:

“My heart is filled with joy and all of this feels so surreal! Now, I feel confident about my presentation and I strongly feel that I am sharing an important message. It is quite uplifting that not only am I able to raise awareness by sharing my story but that I’m also inspiring students to pursue their dreams and continue their education.”
“I even told my best friend that I felt like I was experiencing a wonderful dream that I never would have thought I would be living and it wouldn’t have been possible without Project Sleep’s support.”  
Grisel is currently pursuing additional speaking engagements in the Miami, FL area. Special thanks to Diann Newman for her incredible kindness and support.

Request a Narcolepsy Speaker or Writer

Project Sleep’s Rising Voices of Narcolepsy program empowers patient-advocates to share their stories and improve public understanding of narcolepsy. To request one of our trainees to speak at your event or write for your publication, fill out this form:

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • You are a fierce, strong young woman. My daughter also struggled with narcolepsy in college but is now a successful graphic designer, married with a child. Don’t ever give up! This is such a misunderstood disease and by educating people you will help so many. By the way, her father is a immigrant so I understand what you are talking about. Wish you all the best!


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