You may have a done a double take on that title up there. If you yourself have epilepsy or know someone who does it may confuse or even make you angry. My journey is what it is and while epilepsy sucks and does kill more people than breast and colon cancer for me it has been a blessing. One that took me a long time to recognize. I tell my story in hopes it helps someone out there not give up and to try and see things in a way that offers hope for them.
To understand my story I have to go back a bit. You see the year before I was diagnosed with Epilepsy would have been my seventh grade year in junior high. Things started well, but things soured quickly. My once friends turned against me and became my bullies. They took and twisted everything I said so that they could spread nasty rumors about me. It wasn’t long before I was the black sheep. Talking to me meant social suicide so…I was very alone. The day at least two of my teachers participated in this bullying was the day I broke.
Having my once friends and peers bullying me was bad enough, but the teachers participating took it to a new level. It suddenly made all the nasty and cruel things said seem true to me. I began to take it all to heart. I began to believe I was stupid, ugly, and disgusting. I began to believe I was a waste of space. It was then that a rage began to build up inside of me. This rage festered and spread. It destroyed my ability to trust anyone and caused me to walk away from God. In my mind, a God that allowed this kind of betrayal to happen must be cruel and I wanted nothing to do with him.
Fast forward to the next year when I was in eighth grade. Things had gotten a bit better. I had made a few friends and my teachers actually seemed to enjoy teaching. (For all you teachers like those who do their best to help every student…thank you for all you do!) I was faking the Christianity thing with my parents and I had gotten really good at pretending to be happy. I never told my parents how bad things were the previous year, although I am sure they had suspicions. I was also doing my best to keep everyone at arm’s length.
I didn’t trust anyone anymore. My bullies the year before started off as friends, so in my mind, I was always waiting for the inevitable knife in the back. So when I had my first tonic-clonic seizure since I was two, the last thing I wanted to do was acknowledge that this seizure thing could be an actual problem.
I decided to tough it out and pretend like nothing happened, but life wouldn’t have that. I suddenly had doctor’s visits, medication, tests, and not to mention one of my friends had been there to see this seizure. So trying to forget and move on was impossible. Everyone had all these questions I couldn’t answer and for that matter didn’t want to answer. My sleep in Saturdays seemed to disappear as I had to wake up bright and early for medical stuff.
Still, I was determined to do this alone. I was going to push through and try and be freaking normal. I needed this to go away. I needed it to go away now, but my brain had ideas of its own. I continued to have seizures. So I continued trying medications, having tests, and seeing doctors.
The year before my mental state had become unstable and with the added stresses of my Epilepsy it only got worse. I became suicidal and I was isolating myself more and more. I kept trying to do everything on my own and the weight of it all kept getting heavier and heavier. I began thinking that I wanted this all to stop. That if I died it would ease the burden I was to others and all the suffering would stop.
In fact, I almost followed through one day, but my father came home from work early that day. I figured I could wait a day, but in that time God reminded me how much my parents loved me. He made me realize how devastated they would be if I followed through so I promised to never kill myself because I didn’t want to hurt my parents like that. It was the one thing that kept me going and it was the reason I decided to just focus on keeping my breath going. It was the day I chose a semi-colon for my life instead of a period.
We began attending a new church up just over the Ohio/Michigan border in Temperance. It was called Crossroads Community Church. It was my first time experiencing a contemporary church. I had become completely numb and deaf to traditional services. I had no idea church could have electric guitars, drums, food in the sanctuary, skits, videos, and sermons that didn’t bore me. I had grown up thinking church was just a boring outdated thing and that they lied to me about who God was.
The more I attended that church and listened to sermons. The more I went to the Youth Group and listen to Pastor Al speak the more I began to question the image I had of God. These people not only preached about a loving, accepting, graceful God, but exuded those same qualities.
Everyone was welcome in that church no matter what you were wearing, what was in your past, or even who you loved. They just wanted to show us God’s love and love us like God asks. It was a challenge to the image of a cruel God I held.
One night at youth group Pastor Al had this drama group come and perform for youth group. I can’t remember the exact drama or what was said, but I remember that night I felt so broken and tired from trying to do it all myself. I was tired of feeling alone and not being able to trust anyone. I wanted that love they spoke about. I wanted so badly what they talked about. I wanted rest. I wanted peace. Most of all I wanted to be happy.
It was that night I fell to my knees and for the first time asked God into my heart if he would have me. I was tired, broken, unworthy, a sinner who had spurned him and said cruel things to him much like my bullies did to me. To my surprise he took me back. Oddly things got easier.
The burden wasn’t so heavy anymore. I found myself able to carry on. Even though I continued to seize, take meds with horrible side effects, take tests, and see the doctors. Suddenly I stopped isolating myself so much. I began to hang out with my friends more and making new friends at youth group. Suddenly my epilepsy didn’t rule and was just an odd thing I dealt with. I stopped thinking about it so much and began to smile and laugh again.
This was just the beginning of a happy and full life. My epilepsy seemed like such a curse at first. If epilepsy hadn’t intruded into my life I would have continued living my life keeping everyone at a distance. I may have even broken under the mental stress and given in to my depression. I wouldn’t be married or have kids. I wouldn’t have such a strong passion for helping others. While my epilepsy really made life ridiculously difficult it made me stronger. It brought me to my knees so God could heal me, build me up, and transform me into a better person. In the end, Epilepsy turned out to be the blessing that saved my very soul and taught me how to keep going. I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.
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