I developed epilepsy while in high school. I suffered from both petit mal and grand mal seizures. After undergoing several different medications, testing, injuries, memory loss, anxiety, depression, etc., I realized that I needed to trust myself and my gut. I realized that in order for me to overcome this, I needed to learn how to be my own advocate while accepting that I will always have a limitation. I’m not even a religious person, but I came to the conclusion that God created all of us to have a challenge – something that we need to battle early in life in order to prepare us for adulthood. That was the gift that epilepsy provided to me. I realize how that sounds – epilepsy being “a gift” but in some ways, it is for me. I want to be clear that I am not grateful for being diagnosed with epilepsy or experiencing seizures but rather am grateful for the journey that has led me to where I am today.
I’ve been on countless ambulance rides, experienced several seizure-related injuries that resulted in scaring, been prescribed four different anti-seizure medications, undergone multiple testing, had a suspended drivers license 3 times, but what was the hardest for me was allowing my own kids see me in these vulnerable situations. Well, that was how I used to feel until my children grew. My kids are only 7 and 10; however, enough years and experiences have past where both already have identified a challenge he and she will need to overcome in life. Being able to reference my experience, something that both of them have witnessed has allowed seeing that even someone, their mom that has fallen down on the pavement, her head breaking her fall, convulsing and bleeding uncontrollably, can still be strong, run half-marathons, teach group fitness instruction, while having a lucrative career is proof that a challenge cannot destroy our goals if we don’t allow them to.
I have been seizure-free for 5 years, 6 months, and 13 days. I have been hesitant to write that down for fear that I will break that streak. At the same time, I am proud of what I have overcome and feel blessed that my friends and family are always so supportive. I have been fortunate to have my tenacity with my health also reflect in other areas of my life: work, family, and fitness. I do attribute some of this tenacity to the battle I have fought with epilepsy.
I am no longer ashamed of admitting to my disability. I consider myself lucky to have the resources and support in my life that have allowed me to overcome, for now, this misunderstood condition. I have been able to have kids, which I know not every woman with epilepsy can experience. I see this as the compromise in everything else that I have endured. I have had the misfortune of knowing others with epilepsy having their lies cut way too short as a result of a seizure-related incident. This is not fair. At the same time, I must see the positive in order to remain seizure-free. I will continue to set goals for myself, one of which is to eventually be off of medication. This is my 10-year plan that would require strength, motivation, moral support, and grit.
Please continue to stay strong and listen to your body.