I was recently reminded of the lessons which come from our struggles.
Truth be told, there are some seasons I have lived as well as witnessed (with friends) where even I question why one person or family would be “put through so much.” That’s a common phrase isn’t it? Something we ponder as we push through or support someone we love as they journey through.
This past week however, I returned to a time in my life I now truly give very little thought to. A time in my life, which no doubt offered more challenge to my mother than myself, but had very much to do with shaping who I would become just the same.
It’s a story I’ve shared before, but after 16 years of penning my random thoughts, last week I realized maybe it’s a lesson worth sharing again.
I live with epilepsy.
I had my first seizure (a grand mal) while away at Winter Camp in Lake Tahoe with our church at the age of 12. I had no prior activity with seizures, head trauma or the like. Just one day – it happened. A year and a half following that day and LOTS of testing and doctors later my condition was given a name.
The name meant little to me, yet I watched my mom struggle with tears as the doctor simply said “Your daughter has epilepsy.” It’s one of those memories embedded in my head forever. My poor mom, all alone with her one and only child at her side hearing this word which she knew little about. It was the early 1980s after all and Google was far from being discovered.
In a nutshell, we (my mom and I) lived through some tough times. Navigating my triggers, adjusting my meds, learning to do life with this new “epilepsy” word.
I was taught early on that things could always be worse. My mom was the master of this. Her outlook on life was one which would never allow for a pity party or ego of epic proportions. She always kept it real, reminding me of this lesson.
As she learned about living with epilepsy she would share stories of others living the same struggle. Often much worse off than myself. We watched documentaries of children who lived wearing helmets for safety, as their seizures were more frequent. It could be worse.
Aside from being delayed from getting my driver’s license and living like a pin cushion for a few years, I never truly felt different from my friends. Oh sure, the diagnosis placed my mom into a coddling/overprotective phase for a period of time. Now as a parent myself, I understand it. At the time, of course, I felt she was trying to ruin my life.
Yet my life wasn’t ruined, if anything it was enriched. Through this speed bump I learned some valuable lessons, perhaps the largest being gratitude. Yes, at a time in my life when I could have curled into a corner and felt sorry for myself (and some days I did), for the most part I learned to be grateful. I was grateful for the doctor who finally solved my seizure mystery, grateful for a mom who found answers, as well as educated me and of course grateful to not be wearing a helmet.
I also learned a lesson which I still return to now in life, as well as in my yoga teaching – pain is temporary. That’s my experience. Our life continues to go through seasons and as it does we travel through many things which are temporary.
True, some pains run deep and take years, maybe decades to truly journey through. The loss of a loved one first comes to mind here. Yet through time, through learning and mostly through living we heal.
I am happy to report it has been 28 years since my last seizure. Through proper medication as well as personal care we have managed to control my “activity.” The option of removing medication from my life – which is common – was ruled out a few years back and that’s honestly okay.
The lesson here is simple; we never truly know what someone else is going through. Their path at any given moment might be better or worse than yours. Rather than stay stuck in self-pity it is only through gratitude that we cannot just grow, but be effective in other’s lives as humans.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.