Earlier this week I had an amazing opportunity to speak at another event. It was for the British Columbia Epilepsy Society Epilepsy Awareness Expo and AGM in Vancouver. The event was called “I Am A Voice For Epilepsy Awareness”. There were a lot of really phenomenal people there, speakers, sponsors, and attendees. I got the chance to hear about the experiences that other people have gone through with the condition (or that people they care about have). It is always incredible to me to meet people who have had such similar experiences while still being so individual. It was a really fantastic event and it was great to see people learning more, reaching out, and both giving and being support to each other. Everyone was so inspiring, and I was so honoured to be part of that day.
My topic for my presentation, as a marathoner, was that “I am more than my epilepsy”. I wrote out my speech. I re-wrote it in point form so it was condensed. I practiced. I listened to my inspiring music playlist beforehand. I tried to give myself the motivational points that I have presented in this blog. I was *so* ready.
Of course, I was also *so* nervous that I forgot half of it, got a little off-topic and jumped around on my points rather than the streamlined linear plan I had made. I was practically shaking at the podium I was so nervous. Yet, I am pretty darn happy with how it went. I got at least half of it out, my tangents weren’t too bad, and I was able to bring the conclusion together in the end. To be honest, I don’t even entirely remember everything that I said now, because the people I met stand out so much more for me.
Here’s kind of a streamlined summary based on my notes, which actually includes the parts that I forgot while standing at the podium.
I have epilepsy. It would be easy to identify myself only as a person with epilepsy. I could make the decision that because of my specific condition and the circumstances specific to me, that I am only that. I could spend my days choosing to limit myself. Instead, I have decided to be more than that, more than epilepsy.
I have a long history with my condition (almost two-thirds of my life), and for most of that time, I kept my condition to myself. I took my medication, I went to the doctor, but I did not talk about it. I didn’t acknowledge it or reach out to others in similar circumstances. I felt like there was no one else in a similar circumstance. I felt like no one understood. I felt different, and while I think everyone wants to be different, it wasn’t in the way that I wanted.
Running has been cathartic to me. It is not without risk. Those risks come from seizures, but also just from the same things that anyone (medical condition or otherwise) would be at risk for. I think it would be impossible to run along the sea wall, or in the mountains, and not stare at the surroundings. Staring at your surroundings however means you are not watching where you are running. There are a lot of times that I have fallen just because of that. I have sustained a lot of injuries through running. I have fallen a lot of times. For all the times though that I have fallen, I have gotten back up and tried to keep going (whether actually possible or not).
It has only been in the last two years that I have been speaking about my medical condition. This blog was only started two years ago (two years ago this month!). With the writing, I’ve brought to my own attention the other things I do or have done that make me more than just my epilepsy. Yoga, roller skating, costuming, anything to do with superheroes, working out, travelling alone, reading, socializing, university, speaking at events.
I am proud of the opportunities I have had to speak, at running clinics or epilepsy awareness expos. I am honoured that I have been asked and included to stand in front of a room full of people and tell my story. This isn’t something I could have possibly imagined doing a few years ago. For 18 years I tried to ignore my epilepsy, and now, I talk or write about it all the time.
Epilepsy may be a significant aspect of my life, but not the only aspect of my life. I am multi-faceted. There are so many things that I choose to engage in, to be part of. I choose to challenge the lingering belief that I am so limited by my condition that I cannot move forward. I choose to challenge the haunting thought that I have to change or limit what I am able to do because of my condition. I will continue to go forward and to defy expectations. I choose a life where I am sometimes at risk, sometimes exhausted, and sometimes have fallen and just don’t feel like getting back up again. But I will. I will always get back up.
I am more than a speaker.
I am more than a marathoner.
I am more than my epilepsy.
I Am a Voice for Epilepsy Awareness.