When I was diagnosed with epilepsy a year ago, it came completely out of the blue. I woke up on the floor of my college’s dining hall and I didn’t even know what was happening. The doctors explained it, but it took a few months to sink in. At first, the only thing about my life that changed was having to take a pill every morning. When I suffered my second tonic-clonic seizure, everything changed. I realized that I needed to change my lifestyle completely.
I had always been the person who put everyone else first. There were people in my life that took advantage of that. Taking care of them left me devoid of all energy. I would give my advice and be ignored day after day, ignoring my own needs and well-being because I wanted them to be okay. Epilepsy taught me that there were people in my life who would make my life more difficult when things got tough, and it pushed me to finally remove them. All along, I should have been taking the proper time I needed to put myself first if I wanted to be healthy.
I had always been the person who was bothered by the littlest things. People who didn’t use their turn signals, the robotic voices that you get when you try to call the doctor’s office, and rush hour traffic. I would have panic attacks over a big race or test the next day. I realized that I needed to start sleeping enough, stressing less, and putting things in perspective. It could be worse. Life isn’t going to end if I’m late for class one day.
But most importantly, I had been taking my own life for granted. I was one of those people that was so lucky and I didn’t even realize it. I had some tough times growing up, but it was nothing compared to what I went through when I was diagnosed, and looking back now, I realize how trivial everything was before. I remember when I was first faced with the fact that my life had to change, I thought I couldn’t do it. I looked my situation in the face and genuinely believed that I would never be the same person.
I pushed through the hospital visits, the tests, and the countless panic attacks. At first, I didn’t know how to be calm. I didn’t know how to live my life knowing that I could collapse at any moment. I didn’t know how to get through the days that left me paralyzed with depression because of my anti-seizure medication. I didn’t know how to redefine myself when I lost my lifeguarding job and swimming career after 13 years.
I survived it all, and gracefully. And with every challenge, I swear I got stronger. People told me that everything happens for a reason, and I didn’t believe them because I was so wrapped up in fear. But one day, things started clearing up. It started to get clearer that I was able to push through this. It was my biggest challenge yet, but it made everything I had been through before look so easy. I began being proud of myself and my story, and that made it even easier to tackle. The newfound confidence changed my life.
Now, I wake up every morning feeling lucky. Not only was I able to go back to being who I was, but a much better version of myself. There are still bad days, don’t get me wrong. There are still things that trigger panic attacks and limitations I face as a college student, but I know my life is better for what I went through. I never thought I would say this, but I wouldn’t change a thing about this past year. I needed to go through what I went through to be the person I am today.