As a child, I was told that I was prone to seizures, but I never thought I would experience them as part of my day to day life. Everything changed, however, the first day of orientation during my freshman year at Wheaton College.
I spent the day like everyone else - moving into my dorm room, unpacking, saying goodbye to my mom and saying hello to the next chapter of my college life.
And then it happened. I was out with some new friends, eating pizza, when a piece got stuck in my throat. Seconds later, my right arm lost sensation. I started to lose consciousness. I screamed for help. I thought I was dying.
I was told my seizure lasted for a few minutes; I fell out of my chair and my body shook uncontrollably on the floor. EMS came immediately and rushed me to the hospital.
From that moment on, my life shifted. Suddenly it revolved around regular visits to doctors and hospitals, as well as frequent testing (MRIs and EEGs). I also had to try out different seizure medications to find the one that was the best fit for me.
In my college years, if anyone mentioned the word “epilepsy” or the word “seizure” I couldn’t tolerate it. I worried about my future. Would I graduate college? Would I get a job? Would I have friends?
Around this point in my journey, I met Dr. Devinsky from Finding A Cure for Epilepsy and Seizures (FACES). I have vivid memories of how I felt during my first appointment. I don’t remember much of what he said when we first met, but I definitely remember that I was crying hysterically. Dr. Devinsky has played an important role in my journey. Over time, he found a medication to adequately control my seizures. I am grateful beyond words.
I have been seizure free for six years. This was a critical step forward in my journey, and it presented me with the next important transition in my life with epilepsy.I needed to decide how I wanted to live. Was I going to live live with fear and or live with courage? Was I going to tolerate the fear of never following my dreams? Could I live with my fear that my life would be crushed by my condition? Or, would I find the courage to persevere? Would I find the courage to push forward?
I chose to live with courage.
I refer to this choice as “my acceptance.” For me, it’s about finding a way to cope and live with the condition - for what it is - while living my life as fully as possible.
Acceptance and life experience led to four big shifts in my outlook, and my life:
BEFORE, I thought: People would not accept me because of my epilepsy; I worried they would doubt my abilities because of my condition. NOW, I can see that people recognize how capable I am - based on my performance, rather than my epilepsy.
BEFORE: I could not tolerate epilepsy.NOW, I am comfortable with my epilepsy, and I can talk about it openly.
BEFORE, I thought: I could never drive or socialize freely.NOW, I have my license and drive myself to and from social events with friends.
BEFORE, I thought: I was at the mercy of my disorder, loaded with anxiety and fear. NOW, I am on the right medication and have educated myself about my condition. My choices make me a healthy and functioning person.
I’ve come a long way…
As a girl, I didn’t understand the word.
As a young adult, I couldn't handle hearing the word.
Now, as a woman, I can talk about my condition and say: epilepsy is a part of me.