Epilepsy reared its ugly head for the 1st time in my life when I was 18. I was 2,000 miles away from home, rushing between my physics mid-term and my biology mid-term. I was stressed, tired, and hadn’t eaten – pretty typical of a normal college freshman in the middle of mid-term exams. Then, the world disappeared and I woke up in an ambulance with a stranger, another freshman who saw me collapse and didn’t want me to be alone at the hospital. Her name was Candy, and she was right. I was terrified and afraid. I was confused and battered thanks to a face-plant in the snow and then sidewalk. And, I was so, so, so angry. I will admit that I never managed the courage to walk up to Candy again on campus. For me, she saw me in one of my weakest moments. At 18, I couldn’t handle that. Candidly, at 37, I still struggle.
I wasn’t diagnosed with epilepsy until I was 26. I’d had 4 seizures at that point, so it was time to accept they weren’t disappearing. Essentially, my brain just likes to short-circuit once in a while. I’d already lost a job, my first job out of college. I had a seizure just before I started, and the company rescinded my offer, saying that I could not perform the duties of the position because I would not be allowed to drive for some time. The job came with a company car – from a business liability perspective, I can understand now but at 21 it was quite a blow.
I broke my back with the remaining two seizures. I have learned that you can literally break vertebrae through shaking… or falling. Epilepsy is not pretty. But, you just keep going. You have to. You can’t let the fear that is always present in your mind get the best of you. I follow medical advice. I do everything that I’m supposed to. But, the truth is epilepsy’s a bitch. She’s always there, even when I do everything that I can to keep her at bay. She’s my arch-nemesis right now. My kryptonite.
So what do you do as you live with epilepsy? You LIVE!!! You find a way around the hurdles she throws up. And you find a way to laugh and appreciate that it could be so much worse. I will not let her get me down. I have an amazing husband, three amazing kids, and I am blessed with some amazing family and friends.
And hell, I know how to make an ENTRANCE! Because when I have my first true breakthrough seizure in 3 years, why not have it at the registration desk of your company’s annual forum surrounded by 250 clients and 20 coworkers. This time, I was not alone. This time, my boss held my head and one of my closest friends held my hand and went in the ambulance with me. Of course, I was in a lovely dress so I managed to flash every single senior leader in my entire company, but (A) my legs were shaved and (B) my underwear were clean and pretty.
Epilepsy, you snuck in a quick punch while I wasn’t looking, but I assure you that I am winning the battle!