Updated: Jun 29, 2018
The first time I had a seizure was on the way back to class from a school assembly when I was 7 years old. I fell to the ground and began to convulse while the whole school watched. The children laughed while a teacher yelled at me to get up. Now that I think back it’s actually pretty amazing that nobody was alarmed that I was having a seizure or even thought to call my parents or even more appropriately, 911. That evening I had a grandmal seizure and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. After a week in the hospital and many tests, I was diagnosed with Epilepsy.
The doctors could not really explain why I had developed Epilepsy but thought it may have been hormonal and something I would outgrow once I became a teen.
I was the only kid in my school with a seizure disorder and as you could imagine, it was not easy. Even though I was on two types of meds and roughly nine pills a day I still continued to have convulsions, both petite and grand mal, day and night. Bullying was definitely an issue but despite the difficulties, I think I was a positive kid for the most part and did not let the disorder hold me back from doing what I wanted to do, or at least I like to remember it that way. In hindsight, I think these childhood struggles allowed me to blossom into an empathetic and compassionate woman. It is hard to appreciate the light without first experiencing darkness.
My seizures stopped when I was 14 years old. My mother secretly lowered the dose of my medication until I was free of all pills! I enjoyed a completely seizure free life until 27 years old when I had a grand mal seizure in my sleep. I took this seizure as a wake up call to take better care of myself and was successfully seizure free for another 3 years! I went through a particularly stressful month when I was 29 and had another seizure after a night of excessive drinking. This pattern continued for about 5 years until recently when I decided to overcome my fears and go back on medication. It wasn’t a smooth transition but with perseverance and support I came out a better version of myself.
What I have learned through this very long experience is that regardless of what is going on with your life, your health is number one. Eating healthy, maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising, proper sleep and stress management needs to be a priority for quality of life, whether you are on medication or not. I have been on both sides and for me, it makes all the difference in managing my condition. The medication I take (Keppra) does have side effects and I find that I can minimize them greatly by being mindful with my diet and releasing stress and managing my moods through exercise and meditation.
Epilepsy is definitely not an ideal condition but it is easier with the support of community behind you. It has been especially supportive to know that I am not alone in this. I feel incredibly lucky to now have the ability to connect with so many beautiful and inspiring individuals who are able to share their struggles and triumphs in a public forum. Having a platform to connect is such an important step in ending the stigma and spreading awareness so that experiences such as my own (and so many others) never happen again.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.