I believe in the power of self acceptance.
When I was a child, I didn’t have much self-confidence or strength to face obstacles standing in my way of success, such as school bullies, mean teachers, or even sometimes my twin sister. But the real problem was the hushed secret of my life. At age seven, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. At that time, epilepsy was much more of a closet disability than it is today. And so it was in my family; the words “epilepsy” or “seizures” were never used in our house as if they were a poisonous substance.
I was lucky that my seizures were fairly well controlled during my childhood. However, that did not remove the stigma of epilepsy. We told only the people who had to know about my condition—family, close friends, and school officials.
When I reached adolescence, my seizures increased, causing upheaval during these years. Because of this, I had to deal with many uncomfortable, embarrassing, and painful situations because of my seizures and the side effects of my medications: lost bladder control, dizziness, and nausea, among other things. I realized then that hiding was not going to solve anything. I finally decided to take things into my own hands and freed myself from the shackles of silence. The first thing I did was to give my disorder—epilepsy—its rightful name and not to be ashamed of it. After this, I set out to learn as much as I could about epilepsy by reading as many pamphlets, books, and articles that I could get my hands on.
During college, I joined a support group. This was my first real taste of meeting others who understood the challenges of epilepsy. I saw how they made no excuses and lived their lives to the fullest. They were truly role models for me.
Still, I’ve had my share of rough times living with epilepsy, going through the whole gamut of treatments throughout my life, trying several different concoctions of medications, with limited success at seizure control with a minimum of side effects. In fact, there was a time when I was so overmedicated that I was constantly lethargic and hardly able to function. In addition, I made regular trips to the ER because of many seizures that could have endangered my life. (Fortunately, the worst that happened was that I ended up with a few stitches in my head.) During these times, I became depressed and questioned the reason to go on. However, I was always able to pull out of it when I witnessed others in similar situations and saw how they went about life with a positive attitude. Who was I to sit around and feel sorry for myself?
To this day, I continue my journey for seizure control and overall well being. However, through all the trials and tribulations I have faced, I have learned that, in the end, what is most important in life comes from acknowledging my self-worth and not letting others dictate who I am.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.