3 Ways My Seizures Influenced My Spirituality
I was 12 years old at the time.
My sister and I play with dolls on the floor and the accessories laid out around us. I remember building a makeshift apartment space filled with kitchen amenities for my doll’s homemaker lifestyle.
My sister asked me a question and I blacked out.
According to my sister, I was in a seated lotus position on the floor at first and I fell backwards. My sister’s first reaction was to laugh and she thought I was “fake sleeping”. When she realize that something was wrong she attempted to wake me up by shaking my upper body and calling out my name.
Unsuccessful, she yelled out to our mom who was in the adjacent room. My mom came rushing in attempting to wake me up as she instructed my sister to call 911. Within minutes, my skin and nails were turning blue as I was deprived of oxygen.
Thankfully, the EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) arrived and delivered oxygen as they rolled me to the side and hoisted me onto the gurney. My eyes slowly opened as the EMT looked into them and ask questions like, “Do you remember what happened?” I had no clue as to what just happened.
“It looks like you just had a seizure!” the female EMT informed us as we scurried away. It was cold out that day as I felt a sharp coastal breeze hit the small my back. Inside the back of the ambulance truck, the EMT began to administer fluids. She asked me more questions like if I knew what today’s date was and the name of our president at the time. Surprisingly, I answered them correctly considering I was still in a confused state.
Later that morning after leaving the emergency room, I had a CAT scan done (which later revealed no findings), received one powerful dose of anticonvulsant, and a specialist referral instructions to see a pediatric neurologist.
Without haste, I arranged for an appointment to see the physician. After EEG testing and examinations, I was diagnosed with a seizure disorder of an unknown origin. In my head, I pondered the possible contributors- childhood vaccinations, genetic mutations, or a tumor.
At 12 years old, I succumb to the pressure of feeling like this was all my fault. I thought of suicide and the fastest possible ways to take myself “out”. I fell into hardcore depression doing my very best to hide it.
My physician handed me a prescription for an anticonvulsant called Depakote. The side effects are awful as they come: weight gain, hair loss, irregular menstrual cycles and headaches. In little than two years, I gained 50 pounds, had a visible loss of hair at the crown of my head, was moody and suffered with cystic acne. The symptoms didn’t stop there.
I had tremors. Before the med could kick in, I would tremble unexpectedly with explosive movements at any given moment. For instance, my family and I were at a restaurant for Sunday brunch after church. I would have the fork in my hand and a tremor would occur. I found myself banging on the plate until my mother stepped in to grab it from my hand. I didn’t hurt myself but I did embarrass my family.
Going out to public places was hard because I didn’t know what to expect. Going to school was just as terrifying. Kids were cruel as they could not understand what was wrong with me and having to explain my health condition was annoying. I felt out of place like most pre-teens and I always sought refuge- alone.
As weeks went by, the medication helped to stop the tremors and the seizures. I resumed a “normal” life well into my teenage years between battling my weight gain and keeping up academically and socially.
In retrospect, having the seizures taught me the importance of being spiritually plugged in even when it felt like my soul was unplugged.
Here are three ways how it influenced my life lessons in spirituality:
1. Do not identify yourself as the disorder, disease, etc.
You are a spiritual being having a human experience. I fell so much into the idea of being the seizure disorder that I lost sight of who I am in the process. I tapped into my self-awareness eventually and it made me realize that I am not the disorder. I have it, yes. But, I don’t see the need to identify with it either.
2. Stop making excuses and take accountability.
I would complain about how my tiredness from taking the medication kept me from doing things. The truth: it wasn’t coming from the medication at all. I was going to bed really late at nights and lack the proper amount of sleeping hours.
That habit resulted to my sleepiness but it took a lot of humility to realize that I was not paying attention and taking responsibility. Not everything was my medication’s fault. It was one of my biggest lessons about conquering the ego at a young age.
3. Give yourself credit for having to walk this path.
I easily associated the disorder as a negative thing. Yes, the symptoms were less than ideal, but there are so many options to improve the symptoms over time. I proved it to myself by taking the steps to research, absorb as much information and put it into practice.
As I made progress to heal I acknowledged (and still continue) my strides in this journey. If this speaks to you, give yourself credit for desiring healing and having to go through your process. Your testimony may help someone else.
Now at the age of 34, I still take Depakote and have been seizure-free for about fourteen years. I no longer view the condition as a curse. I see it as an opportunity. I see it as a tool for my storyline. May my storyline encourage you to find the healing you need.
This post is dedicated to my pediatric neurologist Dr. Melvin Grossman who passed away in 2016. Rest in peace, my old friend.