Something we all strive for as social creatures. Acceptance from peers, colleagues, and coworkers. We even strive for self-acceptance – for example an acceptance of a new condition or issue within. For some of us, coming to terms with Epilepsy can be a challenge. For some, this challenge is extended to family and friends while we struggle with accepting it ourselves. How does someone ‘accept” something they never asked for.
I could never stress this point enough; education is key. It is the key to acceptance within social standards and within ourselves. Things become harder when you do not know the root and cause or how things will play out. For some of us, myself included, we never get the “cause” or satisfaction of knowing why Epilepsy decided to choose us – it just happened. But for some, they know – they have some understanding. While this does not mean one is harder than the other, educating yourself on either personal factors or possibilities can help ease your stress of the unknown. If you are newly diagnose and do not know much about Epilepsy and other Seizure Disorder, look it up! Educate yourself as much as possible. Never be afraid to ask your specialist a question or to rule out possibilities you come across – that is part of their job and you may think of something they could have overlooked!
Look up stories, check out credible sites, talk people who have been living with Epilepsy, join support groups – do anything you need to in order to educate yourself and get a better understanding. The unknown will slowly become the known and you will be one step closer to acceptance
Be Honest with Yourself
At first, we may be a little bit in denial about the extent of our condition. We may not want to accept that it will/has changed our lives or the true severity of it. We may feel embarrassed or overwhelmed with everything going on – but we will not get through it if we cannot be honest with ourselves. This can be hard, very hard. It is okay to feel overwhelmed, angry and upset. It is okay to wish this has never happened. But be honest with yourself on how you feel and try to find out why. “Why do I feel this way?” It could stem from a lack of understanding or social rejection. It could stem from watching a close family member or friend go through it. You will never find an answer if you cannot be true to yourself.
It took me years to accept my condition entirely. Does this sound silly? Maybe. But it was not until I saw the impact of sharing my story – even if it was the tiniest bit of information, it still made a big impact for someone else. Only then did I realize I was not being honest with myself. I told myself I accepted it when I truly never did – I was afraid of the stigma. I told myself it was not big deal, when in reality it was. It changed my way of life, my friends, my support, and my interactions. I was in denial that it ever affected me at all; but every hero falters, everyone has a heart, and everyone feels – it will affect you in some way and that is okay.
Grieving? We are not dying, but simply have Epilepsy. You are right – but this still can be an emotional and upsetting time when the diagnosis is given. You are right, it could be much worse – but let us have time to adjust to the changes, the constant appointments, the medication, the brain fog, and the stigma. Let us have our moment of sorrow for something we never asked to be placed upon us. We all grieve differently and we all take different losses with Epilepsy – a loss of independence, loss of the ability to drive or to work, loss of a dream we were chasing…it is okay to be upset.
More importantly, allow yourself time to be upset and time to let reality set in. You will not be able to accept something you harbor hate or dislike towards. Talk it out with family, friends, significant other, or even your doctor/specialist. If you need some extra help, go seek it – go to counseling if you have to, it is okay! Epilepsy and mental health go hand in hand more often than not. You will be surprised how many of us have mental health conditions alongside our Epilepsy, reach out to us – we exist.
When you first get a diagnosis that may potentially change the usual flow of life – do not dwell on what is lost, but focus on what is gained. Yes, allow yourself time to be sad but then allow yourself to be happy. You may have met new friends, you may have a stronger support system, or you may finally have answers to questions about yourself that you have been afraid to ask. Perspective is everything some times and with any type of new diagnosis, try your best to keep a positive outlook. While yes, Epilepsy may be part of your life, it is NOT your life and it is not YOU. You are you, and you need to be the best you that you can be. Do not let Epilepsy stop you, but empower you. There are positives to this. Remember: You can still live a normal life, you just might need to do things little differently or take things a little slower. But life will go on, and you will too.
If you are struggling with keeping a positive outlook, I challenge you every morning or every night (or both!) to say three positive things about yourself and one about Epilepsy/Seizure Disorders. It can be small thing such as “I am alive, it is sunny, I have a home, and I did not have a seizure.”
Strength & Pride
Once you begin to look at things with a more positive outlook, you will slowly begin to find strength in new places and a new sense of pride. Your journey may test your limits but it will only make you stronger with each passing day. You will gain pride in every accomplishment, no matter how small or large – you were able to still continue on despite your adversities. Take pride in your journey, take pride in your strength and let your strength keep pushing you forward as it continues to help you grow.
Once you understand, once you allow time for your emotions to pass, and once you change your perspective – only then can you begin acceptance. Only then, will you fully accept your diagnosis for what it is and start to wholeheartedly accept yourself. Like I said, it took me years to get here; everyone will have a different time line, but you WILL get here. The more light that gets shed onto the unknown, the easier it is to accept and navigate through. Just take it one step at a time, there is no rush. If you need to stay a while on one step, that is okay – I will stand with you, we will get there. Just breathe, tomorrow is a new day and with every day, you are one step closer. Promise.
What Ultimately Helped You?
For me, it was the moment that I shared my experience with others, face-to-face, and gave them the confidence and positivity that I never received in the beginning of my treatment. I treated them in a way I wish I was treated and gave them a real life example of life continuing on. I was able to give them hope. It was in that moment I realized that I was not honest on how I personally felt, that I tried to ignore it as others have done when I tried to reach out, and that educating myself would only go so far. At that moment I made a promise to myself to be more accepting of my condition and use it help benefit others. Over time, I gained acceptance of myself.
Remember, acceptance does not mean you will not struggle. There is a lot that comes with Epilepsy/Seizure Disorders and yes, struggles will arise – but accepting those struggles is part of the journey. Accepting the good with the bad and always being honest about it is part of overall acceptance. And you will get there.
Feel free to share you journey to acceptance below and what helped you along the way