When you have epilepsy and live with the struggles it brings on a daily basis the thought of ever living an independent life seem practically impossible. There seems to be a mountain of obstacles standing in your way. How is one supposed to handle their epilepsy in their daily life and live a life of not only independence but a life that makes you happy too? I remember how impossible it seemed when everything was spiraling out of control and now I am happily married, have four kids, and have found control with my seizures. While I can’t give you control I can give you my top tips to living a happy life with epilepsy.
Tip 1: Don’t Let Fear Dictate Your Future
My biggest regret in searching for my own happily ever after was letting fear hold me back for so long. When I graduated high school instead of moving out and living in a dorm somewhere and majoring in something that I actually liked I let fear rule me. Instead, I went to a dinky community college and majored in medical administration because I figured a doctor’s office would be a good place to have a seizure.
I also let fear keep me from calling up someone who offered me a job while I was at school. I was too afraid to tell them I had epilepsy so I stayed in a minimum wage job at a grocery store where I was severely mistreated. I stayed at that miserable job for over 5 years because I was lead to believe that if I lost their health insurance my world would end. Every time I mentioned I wanted to quit gasps of horror quickly followed allowing fear to keep control.
I can’t help but look back and wonder if I might have my bachelor’s degree in a field I enjoy and a good career as well if I just pushed past that fear. Could I have had a normal college experience? What friendships did I miss? How many people have I not helped by letting fear rule me? Could I have had a place of my own? Could I have overcome my fear of the terrible bus system and found my own transportation instead of relying on my parents?
One of the best things you can do is to stop letting fear be a barrier. Instead, see it as a challenge to overcome. The bible tells us not to be afraid at least 365 times. That’s enough for each day. Fear is not of the Lord. Fear is a weapon that is used to keep you from your path. You will not find happiness if you let fear rule you.
Tip 2: Planning is Your Best Friend
First, let me be clear I am not a person that likes to plan. I have always been more of a go with the flow person. Enough to drive my husband and friends crazy. They ask what I want to do I would shrug and respond with whatever. My hubby asks where we should eat I again shrug and say I don’t know. It’s enough to drive anyone besides myself crazy.
So this was something and is something I have to force myself to do. Planning is key to achieving that life you want for yourself. So sit down with pen and paper and write down what you want your life to look like. What things do you want? My list was something like this:
- find seizure control
- get married
- have kids? (This was up in the air for a while before baby fever hit)
- have a dog
- have a career
- move out of my parent’s house
All of these have taken planning. I began asking more questions about my options at doctor’s appointments and began to let doctors run more tests. I asked my doctor and others who had seizures if having kids was possible. I was told with proper planning it wasn’t a problem. They put me on folic acid just to be safe. Folic acid is often used to help prevent birth deformities that could be caused by seizure meds. I joined an online dating site and eventually met my husband.
All these took planning. I thought out worst-case scenarios and came up with safety plans to keep me safe. I told my husband on our first date about my epilepsy. To my delight, he didn’t need the seizure talk as he already knew about them and didn’t care I had epilepsy. He knew what to do. I quit that miserable job, went back to school, and found a better job that treated people with dignity. I told employers upfront about my epilepsy after I was hired. I didn’t give this info out in interviews when I was hired because of my epilepsy for a job I wasn’t qualified for. Instead, I told them on my first day and told them what to do if I had one.
Because of life and having babies I have not quite finished my bachelor’s degree. I often whine, complain, and at times lose hope. We are trying to sort out a hiccup now that’s keeping me out of school, but I still want that career I let fear keep from me for so long. I know one day I will have it as long as I don’t let fear get me back in its icy grasp. You can have what you want to with determination and planning.
Tip 3: Practice Gratitude Daily
It can be hard to see what’s so great about life when you struggle with epilepsy. It is so easy to be sucked into the darkness that is depression and other mental disorders. All you want is to be happy and you become so focused on what’s wrong that you don’t see what’s right. When epilepsy sucks you into depression it’s a bit like seeing the world through a funhouse mirror. Your view of life is distorted and you just can’t see the positive anymore.
Good news is that your brain can be trained to think more positively so you aren’t sucked into that depression as easily. A way to do this is to keep a gratitude journal. Write down 3 or more things each day you have to be thankful for. This forces you to see the positive in the most hopeless of times.
They don’t have to be grand things. It can be as simple as a sunny day. That you have clothes on your back and a roof over your head. It could even be as simple as your still breathing today. Practicing gratitude can be a powerful tool for training your mind to see the positive and allowing you to finally be happy. Even when it seems hopeless.
Tip 4: Seek Help From A Therapist or Life Coach
Epilepsy can make mental illness a very serious barrier to a happy, independent life. One of the best things I ever did was to seek the help of a therapist. When depression becomes a serious problem and I can’t kick it on my own I call my therapist and see her regularly till I am better.
There are numerous kinds of therapists and life coaches. I chose one that would respect my wishes to not medicate for my depression. As someone whose major has a strong emphasis on psychology, I decided I wanted to avoid that route and use other methods that would help retrain my brain. It has been a great route for me. However, if medication is something you need to conquer mental illness that is nothing to be ashamed of. My path isn’t right for everyone. Just like there is no one treatment for epilepsy there is no one treatment for mental illness either.
Therapists and Life Coaches come in all flavors. If you need the extra help I strongly encourage you to find one that suits you best. Once again overcoming the fear of asking for extra help can be a life-saving step. It changed my life for the better when I needed it most.
Tip 5: Lean on Prayer and Faith
Last but certainly not least is prayer and faith. Maybe you roll your eyes at this one or this one annoys you because you don’t have a faith or don’t see how your own faith could help. When I say lean on prayer and faith I am by no means trying to imply that with enough faith you’ll magically stop having seizures. That is just dangerous nonsense. By no means, I am trying to strengthen the myth that epilepsy is caused by demons. That also is dangerous nonsense.
What I mean by this is that prayer and faith can give you the strength you need to get through each trying day. When I was first diagnosed I had already walked away from my faith after a year of ruthless bullying at the hands of my peers so I tried to go through it on my own strength. Epilepsy brought me to my knees. I couldn’t do it on my own strength and epilepsy actually brought me back to my faith.
Now, this doesn’t mean it suddenly got easier. It was still as hard as ever. The difference was I somehow had the strength to keep going. I eventually found the courage to do the testing for brain surgery. Something that had petrified me before. I suddenly had strength to push through my fears. When my strength gave out God helped me up and helped me to keep going. There is no doubt in my mind that if I hadn’t leaned on God I would not be here today.
Prayer: Dear Lord, Help me to push past fear. Give me the strength to get through each day. Hold me during the hard times. Bless those who help me during my seizures with wisdom and a caring heart. Help them to know what to do when I am unable to tell them what I need. Help me to take the scary steps I need to take to live a happy life with your wisdom and protection. In your name. Amen.
It may seem hard to believe now but you can have a happy life. You just have to be willing to fight for it. If you have any tips to achieving a happy life with epilepsy leave them in the comments below to help others like yourself. If you are tired of having the seizure talk with people check out my free printable brochure with all the info they need in one place taken from the CDC and MAYO clinic. To help spread awareness check out my epilepsy swag shop on the menu at the top!