Imagine life with epilepsy. Consider yourself among us—one of the statistics. Though each person living with epilepsy is different, select a seizure type, choose a cause, pick a particular damage in your brain.
Stare at the server as you sit at your favorite restaurant—with music playing and the smell already tasting delicious—while you can’t locate the words in your brain to voice your order. She waits. You search. Friends at the table stare. How do you feel?
Sit in your normal chair for the business meeting with your corporate team. You know the drill. It’s your turn. This is your area of expertise; you own it. But this time the words aren’t as clear. You slightly stutter, staring at the computer screen. Your hands twitch. Your eyes blink. You begin to sweat. The team waits for your response. How do you feel?
Stand in front of the crowd to perform your favorite solo. You’ve embraced the scene for a decade. The band plays; you get ready to change the audience’s mood with your voice. But the first lines don’t flow. You’re dizzy. You’re not sure if this is real or a dream. The last thing you remember is looking away from the flickering light—its glare was so bright. Soon you’re being picked up from the floor and taken to an ambulance. You thought the seizures were gone. Now it seems like the life you love is gone. How do you feel?
Walk around the house. You live alone. Neighbors speak. They’ll come by if you call. But no family nearby. No true friends. You wish someone else knew how many seizures you’ve had the last month. You wish someone was there to remind you what your doctor said in your previous appointment. But you just look out the widow, watching how others appear to be “living life.” How do you feel?
Imagine having a seizure during class in middle school. Puberty. Competition for popularity. Body and emotions and beauty and friends. And now this. How does that define your teenage identity?
Imagine preparing a year for a vacation. You’ve always desired to visit Ireland. Your family heritage seems to have invited you there. You’ve saved the money and finalized your flights. But the seizures return. More severe than normal. The doctors and your family are concerned. Your trip is cancelled. You’ll be enjoying an MRI and an EEG instead of music and food in a place of your dreams.
I’ve asked you to image because those are some of our encounters. Those are our adventures at sea. Underwater, we aren’t sure if we’ll remember your name or our most recent conversation or you. We aren’t certain how long we’ll remain seizure-free—if we’re fortunate enough to be one of those. We aren’t sure if our anti-epileptic medication will work well—or what the side effects might be. We aren’t sure how to pay for next month’s medication. We aren’t sure when the energy will return, if ever. We aren’t sure.
That’s us, so often.
We just aren’t sure.
A therapist can help. They will listen to your description of sinking deep. They will ask questions. They will assist you in no longer denying your life underwater. They will comfort you amid the current. They will also help you—often slowly, and after drifts and strong waves—come ashore.
When encephalitis shoved me underwater, I was slow in seeking therapy. My speech therapy helped, but eventually I needed more. I needed help to gain a better view toward life, toward the present and the past and the future.
What is the list of realities of your ocean? What are you doing to face them and to pursue recovery? Who is helping rescue you?
Though much of each life struggle is a journey underwater alone, please do not always swim alone. Please, seek rescue. Please, do not suppose you will always stumble on the shore alone.
Notice the lighthouse. Hear the ship. Detect a swimmer coming to your aid.
Make the call.