It is a very easy thing to slip into the mindset that I am “just an epileptic”, in the sense that I have no other defining characteristics, no other qualities, that my entire existence is limited to only the sphere of being someone who experiences seizures. For me certainly, a lot of things can trigger that thought. A seizure, obviously. Sometimes just a little thing, like being on public transit (i.e. the train stops, it’s close to when I have to take my medication, and I don’t have any water with me). It could be a comment from someone that would normally be totally reasonable but somehow strikes a nerve. It could be something like going into a Halloween store and the display has flashing lights and I think “geez, this would be bad for someone who is epileptic”. That thought process spirals immediately and thoroughly. All of a sudden I will feel all sorts of negative things. I won’t even describe them because that is in no way constructive to this entry.
How much of our health (physical and mental) comes from our perspective? There are times that I’ve been in a terrible mood and as a result gone to bed early. I wake up feeling terrible. That means that my feelings the previous day carries to the next day. Then I go to bed early and the cycle continues. How long can this go on for? I’m exhausted, I’m grouchy, I won’t eat. This goes from being a bad attitude to a physical ailment, and could continue in perpetuity.
The thing about perspective is that I have to acknowledge that I have epilepsy and I have to accept that there is more to me than that. There are the things that have developed over my life and also things that are daily decisions. I talk a lot. This has developed since I learned how to talk. My parents can attest to that. I run a lot. This is a decision I have made and continue to actively make. I think the concept of a zombie apocalypse is really interesting and I am more than happy to discuss in full length (which combines both my love of talking and running).
I keep a list, and I think everyone should keep a list like this. It’s a list of all of the awesome things about me. Everyone should have somewhere a list of all of the awesome, amazing things about them and it should be a list that constantly grows. Eventually you may need additional paper. Keep it on your phone or in your wallet. Even if you don’t refer back to the list regularly, knowing that it exists can be enough. The items on the list do not need to meet any kind of criteria or standard for what is fantastic except for your own.
As some examples of what I have:
- “Can run a half marathon” (I hope to amend that to “marathon” in a few weeks)
- “Have been to Greece”
- “Can cook manicotti”
What I don’t have is that I can’t cook more than manicotti. Or that I’ve never been to Australia. The list is constantly evolving and if I ever learn to throw a battle axe, I will add that. It’s like a resume of awesome.
There may be things on this list that are not particularly impressive to anyone else. That’s not the point. The point is that when I feel like I am nothing more than my condition, I remind myself (without needing someone else to do it) that I am a runner, a traveller, a limited but enthusiastic cook and a quick learner. I work hard at my job. Few people can beat me at the board game Risk. I’m a good friend and a good pet owner. I know how to set up a campfire. I’m not afraid of spiders, snakes or heights.
I realize that there’s a depressing aspect of our culture that makes it completely acceptable to be self-deprecating but HEAVEN FORBID we be our own cheerleaders. There may be someone reading this thinking “OMG she has a list?!?!” So the idea of me having a list of things that are awesome is narcissistic, vain and conceited. Rather than accept accolades, I demur any compliments (or should).
Invisible diagnoses like epilepsy mean that people don’t look at me and know that I have a condition. People who know don’t necessarily understand. Those are in no way a failure on anyone’s part. It just means that sometimes people don’t know or don’t understand. It doesn’t mean that being epileptic solely defines who I am even if that’s what someone else sees. Maybe I am a different person than I would be if I didn’t have this condition. I don’t know. I will never know. Dwelling on that is not constructive.
What would happen if everyone made a list? Don’t limit it to a maximum number, but start with at least 10 things. Yes, 10 things. Not three, or five, but ten. Ten amazing things about yourself that you are proud of.
This picture was taken a few weeks ago when I was in Bellingham on the South Harbour Trail. It was prior to a wedding and a beautiful day and I’ve never been to Bellingham. I am proud of myself for getting up early, finding a highly recommended route and going for a run. It was a gorgeous run and when I go back to Bellingham at some point, I will definitely do it again.