What God’s teaching me through epilepsy

brain scan

Photo by Miranda Knox

It’s been about two months since I wrote about being diagnosed with epilepsy. And so I’ve had two months to grieve, accept, do some research, grieve some more, then accept, then do more research, then start to kind of hate the Internet for proving me with so much information to drive myself crazy with. Then I do some more research.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned, both about epilepsy and about myself:

Doctors who study epilepsy find seizures and brain surgery very interesting, and have full confidence in their own abilities. One of the websites I visited gave a description of temporal lobe surgery, and ended it with “but don’t worry, your hair will grow back.”

Yeah, because I was super worried about my hair.

There are some things to be thankful for. The type of epilepsy I have is a kind that doesn’t cause me to lose consciousness (or my bladder). Others are not so fortunate. So I’m able to care for my kids, and I don’t have to worry about peeing myself in public. I call this a win.

A positive side effect of my medication (yes, a positive side effect! How often does that happen?) has been an improved mood. The medication I have been prescribed is also used to treat bi-polar disorder; anxiety and depression had been an issue for me in the past, and I have perceived a real improvement in my ability to talk myself through negative feelings. Spending less time on the big comfy couch of sadness located in my mind is a good thing.

But what have I learned about myself? I have had the opportunity to see how prideful and self conscious I can be. For the first few weeks I really didn’t want to leave the house at all. Not because I could have a seizure; because people would see me have a seizure, and that was way worse.

When I have a very large seizure I wretch like a cat with a hair ball, which sounds exactly as pleasant as the sound you are imagining in your head right now. It feels like the auditory equivalent of soiling myself, especially when I’m able to get up and I look around and see that people are doing their best to “act natural”. But life must go on. My daughter still needs to go to school and I still need to run errands, and maybe even go on dates with my husband. So out into the world I will continue to go, and God will have to soften me from the inside out on this point.

Another thing I’ve discovered about myself now that I have an identified illness is I want to play the “epilepsy card” when both Aaron and I have had a bad day:

“Oh, something crummy happened at work today? Well, I have epilepsy. I win.”

Clearly this would be an unhelpful strategy in my marriage, but the temptation is there. I assume I’m not the first person with an illness or a disability to want to make much of myself when things aren’t going my way (at least, I hope not!).

Lastly, I have seen how small my faith can be. Due to a mistake in the pharmacy, I ran out of my medication 5 weeks early. As soon as I realized that I did not have enough pills, I was sick with worry. What if I call the pharmacy and they don’t believe me? What if they think I’m irresponsible? What if they think I’m lying? What if I can’t get the pills in time and my brain starts sizzling left and right and I end up in a coma because I didn’t count out how many pills I had a few days ago? What if I die for this ridiculously mundane reason?!?

I don’t think a person in a spaceship with only one portion of freeze-dried space food would be more worried.

Of course, it worked out alright. The pharmacist understood the error and Aaron picked up the rest of my medication. All is well, and I need not have worried.

But this is a process. I’m still learning to do all those things that seem so easy when you don’t have to do them:

  • Be humble.
  • Value others more highly than yourself.
  • Believe that God has everything in control.

I am grateful knowing that He will gradually cause my character to become more Christlike. I would already be in a sorry state indeed if I was doing this on my own.