It’s official: Saturday marks one year of blogging! Girl Emerging taught me tremendously about healthy living, recipes, dietary experimentation, fitness, running “competitively,” transitioning from lacto-ovo pescetarian to omnivore, and writing in a public forum. This site, as my new-ish extension of Girl Emerging and segue to more sophisticated blogging, has allowed me to expand my writing and healthy-living horizons. In fact, these days I find myself writing more randomly and freely when I don’t pigeon-hole myself as a healthy-living-blogger. I still think of myself as such, but I tend to think of the term loosely so I can incorporate a healthy “diet,” health-promoting exercise habits, mental health, and healthy daily practices (e.g. meditation, prayer, routine). I want to celebrate the first anniversary of my little slice of the blog-o-sphere (as well as accomplishing my goal of writing 250 posts by the blog’s first birthday) with something very personal.
Today’s topic is more on the serious side. I’ve been trying to find a way to write about this practically since I began blogging. Unfortunately, I haven’t told most people in my life about this topic. I apologize to those of you who were not aware previously, especially my closest friends, but this isn’t something I’m at all comfortable discussing, for numerous reasons. I’ve decided it’s finally time to reveal it in a way that some might find impersonal, but in a way that gives me (a sense of) solace and peace of mind. I’m finally relieving the pressure I have put on myself for so long to keep this secret. So, here goes:
I have a seizure disorder. It’s not technically epilepsy and I’ve never been told specifically that I suffer from grand mal seizures, so the doctors don’t want to classify it as anything other than a “seizure disorder.” It’s well-controlled on anticonvulsant medication and monitored by a neurologist now, but things haven’t always been so carefree. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything as terrifying as waking up surrounded by concerned parents and paramedics asking me questions I can’t answer, being told I’ve just experienced something I can’t remember, and feeling intensely panicked. Most of the time, my seizures caused me to bite my tongue so badly that my speech was affected for a few days, eating and drinking were miserably painful, and my tongue now has permanent tooth-shaped indentations along both sides of it. Sounds awesome, no?
Fortunately, my family knows how to cope with this when it occurs. Even more fortunately, my medication has kept me seizure-free for nearly two years. However, I will probably have to take medication for the rest of my life in order to be able to drive and live a normal life. My neurologist has told us that there is no need for me to go to the emergency room when a seizure happens as long as I’m responsive within five minutes of the end of it. This condition isn’t something that even crosses my mind on a daily basis (even when I take my medication). I’m grateful that I’ve never seriously hurt myself or someone else during a seizure, and I’m also grateful that I’m able to drive. I have had to give up my license twice for six months at a time until my doctors and the DMV could be sure that my disorder was well-controlled — for my safety as well as that of other drivers. I literally thank God that all of that is behind me and that my health is good. I also thank God that the most I have to do to continue to live and drive normally is visit my neurologist to renew a prescription and file a form with DMV annually.
The reason I chose to share this with you is because for almost ten years, I’ve kept this secret to myself. Of course, Ian knows, and my roommate of four years knew (because she had to call the paramedics one evening when we were freshmen), but precious few people have ever been informed. One of the main reasons I’ve kept it to myself is because of people’s general insensitivity. Have you ever heard someone say something to the effect of, “Looking at that strobe light is gonna give me a seizure!” Let’s be honest — people joke about heart attacks, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, intellectual disability (i.e. mental retardation) and all manner of other serious conditions — and I’m not exempt when I say “people.”
I elected to finally share this publicly for three reasons: (1) As a future counselor, I need to seriously consider clients’ co-occurring health concerns along with their mental health conditions, as well as their feelings about said medical conditions. No one except my parents and Ian have ever asked me how I felt about having a seizure disorder. Decisions were simply made for me by doctors, and I was expected to go along with them silently. (2) This is a bit premature, but Ian and I both have a love of children and want little ones of our own. That said, it may not be possible for me to become pregnant while on such medication, though as I mentioned, the medication is vital. This is something we’ll need to carefully consider with various doctors in the years to come. (3) And lastly, I’m tired of pretending that this condition doesn’t exist in my body or in my mind. It’s high time I came out with it, because there’s no shame in having this medical condition. (4) Okay, I’m ad-libbing this fourth reason, because it was unanticipated when I wrote this post several weeks ago. Sometimes things happen that are simply beyond one’s control… like my annual appointment suddenly being postponed by the doctor’s office four months after I made it. It’s not fair, it isn’t just, and people don’t deserve the medical conditions bestowed upon them by genetics or by chance. The point is, life can go on, even when things are difficult or unfair. And in the grand scheme of things, this condition hasn’t altered my life in such a way that my daily living is affected or so that I cannot live “normally.” For that and for my good general health, I am grateful.
Guess the cat is out of the bag now… So here’s to a future of confronting my fears, facing my challenges head-on, and owning every part of myself — the good, the bad, and the ugly!
P.S. Please feel free to ask me questions — it’s part of the process I began initiating weeks ago toward becoming more comfortable acknowledging and discussing my condition 🙂