Parenting with Epilepsy

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What’s it like to be a mother with Epilepsy?

It is hard some days. It is hard work being completely healthy but imagine having a chain-linked fence in the way. You can reach through this fence but you are barely touching your child’s hand as they reach out for yours. Imagine having to console your children every night that mommy will be okay. Imagine your children being afraid to go off to preschool because mommy might have an “accident.” Imagine your children’s morning motivation to get up is to help you take your medication. This is motherhood with Epilepsy.

There is only so much I can do at their ages of 2 and 3 to help them understand. They try their best and try to help me. Some people question why I allow them to help me; it has helped them cope. Even though my accident has now been almost a month ago – I still have marks and every day my 2-year-old asks to see them and kisses them to make me better. They have not picked up on mommy’s jerks and probably see it as normal due to frequency but one day I am sure they will ask.

There is guilt. There is anger. There is joy. Guilt for me comes from having Epilepsy. I had a seizure and thought I dropped my newborn but luckily and probably subconsciously as well as instinctively, I placed her down to sleep. I had another seizure while they were both in the tub and the reality is that they could have drowned. There is guilt I carry from those almost events. There is guilt I carry for every tine my children worry. My anger stems from guilt. I get angry at Epilepsy. I do not want my children’s first memory being that mommy had a seizure. Unfortunately, the reality is that it was traumatic for them and that might indeed be their first memory. But alas there is joy. They are more aware, more forgiving, and kind. They understand sometimes people need help; even adults. In one aspect it brought us closer, if that’s even possible.

They are my heart and soul. They inspire me. They push me forward. I would be lost without them. They make me fight harder every day. They are the sun on my rainy days.


How do you explain to a child about your seizures?

This will depend on the age group and what YOU as a parent feel comfortable disclosing. Let us take a quick glance over the development of children.

  • Infancy (0-1 year) | Coordination sensory experiences with action
  • Toddler (1-3 years) | Egocentrisim, questioning through play,
  • Early Childhood (3-5 years) | Rudimentary conscience, knowing right from wrong, magical thinking
  • Middle Childhood (6-12 years) | Perceive past and future, questions others point of view, question beliefs, trial and error, problem solving
  • Adolescence (13-18 years) | formal operations, strategic interventions, interpretation of earlier experiences

(Note that this goes a lot more in depth and by theorist; again this is a brief and simple overview)

 

For my children; they are about the age of magical thinking – what this tends to mean is the child may blame themselves for why something has occurred. The believe that their words have power. Also they are still routine orientated so when something gets interrupted it is an anxiety provoking experience. For me personally, I saw how much stress this caused my children. I saw their confused and tearful looks – curious if mommy was going to be okay. I decided right there I would be honest, use as many proper terms as they could grasp, and communicate with them in their own words. They call my seizures “accidents;” when I used the word seizure they automatically connected it to accident and that is how I explained it to them. When I talk about my medication, my two-year-old calls them “beans;” so that is how I explain it. It is important to explain things in a way that THEY will understand. It may sound silly but this also alleviates their stress and you know they understand what you are saying to a point.

I also decided I wanted to be transparent. I want them to know; I want them to know what to do. I feel that this would be easier for them as I am a single parent. No one else would usually be there to help them in an event or shield them from the truth so for me it was best to prepare them. Plus, they will be able to get some form of help if needed. Again, this is entirely your choice and your decision.


Did this affect them?

I cannot say for sure to what extent but as of the most recent one, truthfully it has. They worry still every day. Just earlier today my three-year-old told me she would buy be a special present if I did not have any accidents. They check on my old wounds and confirm that they are going away and they make sure to watch me take my medication. They are a lot more concerned when routines get disrupted or things have changed. My oldest refuses to sleep in her room since the accident. My youngest is starting to follow in her footsteps. I reassure them the best I can in a way they can understand but it is not that easy.

Some people may automatically blame their stress on my transparency – but I ask you to think about this situation. You are by yourself with your child/children and you fall to the floor unconscious and convulsing for 5 minutes, possibly bleeding due to an injury. What is more traumatizing? Not knowing what is happening or knowing that there is help and this can be fixed? It is a personal choice and preference and I respect everyone’s opinion, please respect mine.


From my Three-Year-Old

“What’s it like with mommy having Epilepsy/accidents?”

Kaylin: Lots of doctors…and more doctors.

“Are you scared mommy might have an accident?”

Kaylin: Sometimes..no more accidents. You have to be a good girl.

“How do you feel about mommy’s medicine?”

Kaylin: I like your medicine. It keeps you safe


From my Two-Year-Old

“What is it like that mommy has accidents?”

Autumn: Beans and doctors. Doctors give you beans

“Do you get scared?”

Autumn: mmm (did not want to respond)

“How do you feel about mommy’s beans?”

Autumn: Your beans, B6 and Keppra! Can I help tomorrow?”


What can I do to keep them Safe?

  • Dress/change young children on the floor
  • Bathing young children on a mat or towel and give them a sponge bath
  • Get a wrist attachment for a stroller or purchase a jogging stroller (typically comes with one)
  • Feed a baby/young child in the lowest position possible. If breastfeeding, feeding them in bed is a good option
  • Keep your house as hazard free as possible (“baby proof”) if the little ones are mobile. That way if you are alone, less of a chance they will get themselves hurt.
  • Keep medication in a secure place away from little hands
  • Develop a seizure action plan if the child is old enough and if you feel is necessary
  • Have emergency contacts posted somewhere for easy access for older children as well as what to do during a seizure
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help if needed after a seizure. Your health and your child’s health are key priorities.
  • Reduce your own risk of having seizures by taking care of yourself!

Feel free to leave your thoughts, comments, or experiences below

Dealing with the Diagnosis

“You have Epilepsy.”

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This can be pretty devastating to some people. Most people do not understand the weight of the words unless they have been directly impacted. For me personally, I will never forget that day. The same epilepsy I watched my brothers go through for years, just in a different form.  My first neurologist told me I should rethink having children in case Keppra did not work and because of the type of seizures I have. He told me since I could not figure out my triggers and neither could they that I would have to be careful in everyday life. This also added to his rant about having children because the stress of labor could cause me to have a seizure and there is a potential of me losing my life. He also told me my chances of getting pregnant would be harder – but this was back when not much was available on Keppra.

I was devastated when I got this diagnosis. I knew things would change. My friendships changed, the relationship I was in at the time changed, how coworkers treated me changed…everything changed. Some for better and some for worse. I denied the diagnosis for a while thinking it was a mistake. When the seizures did not stop and the dose kept increasing I learned to accept it. This was my new reality. I hoped every night I would grow out of it, but that was not the case. The neurologist said I would be on medication for the rest of my life and so did the second.

I cannot tell you how to cope, we all cope with things differently. But I can tell you this, it gets better. The hardest time is always the initial moment of the diagnosis and trying to find the right mix of medication to slow the seizure activity. I went through a medicated coma and a Keppra overdose before my tonic-clonic seizures were under control. I was having myoclonic jerks every day since high school and only now am I just finally having that be taken seriously as they are probably seizures – thank you to my third and hopefully final neurologist. But things it did get better.  I might have to do things a little slower or take more time out to accomplish a task, but I can do them – and so can you.


Do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help. This was something that took me years to learn but better late than never. You will meet people who are fighting the same battle or who are farther along on their journey and these people can truly help you out. Do not be afraid to ask family and friends to help you because most of them will. I will not tell you it did not feel degrading at times or like you are losing your independence, but you will gain it right back. You just need some tender love and care and some time to focus on you. And that is okay.

Never compare your journey. Some people may have seizures more frequently than others and some may not. Some seizures come in different forms but they are still all part of epilepsy. Everyone has their own battles and each battle makes you stronger. Do not forget that epilepsy is more than just seizures. Epilepsy is the side effects from medication, constant doctor appointments, EEGs, missed arrangements, everyday stigma and so on. We are all in this together. Never feel like because you do not have it “as bad”, that you do not truly experience epilepsy. You do, just in your own way, in your own form, and you are brave for that.

It is okay to not feel okay. We go through emotions. We deal with setbacks. Sometimes our medication goes up and it feels like we are moving backwards. We have a seizure for the first time in years and it feels like you are back at square one. It is okay to feel that way. There are people here for you that will help you get through that. Your medication went up? That means you are a step closer to having your seizures more controlled. You went a year without a seizure, then had one? That means something is working and maybe you can identify a new trigger from it. Try to look at your positives, but take the time to feel upset. This is part of your journey and no matter what you will keep moving forward.

Advocate. Whether it is for yourself towards a doctor or treatment plan, starting a blog/vlog, going to events; do not be afraid to speak up and never be afraid to advocate yourself. Remember: you are your own best advocate. Everybody has a story, an experience, and every one deserves to be heard. This may help someone who is new or someone who is in the same situation as you. This could mean the difference of getting proper or improper care. This could mean helping in research and education This can be scary and this can take time to get into, but this is something to think about. Nobody will ever know epilepsy and seizure disorders better than you. Be heard; you deserve to.


Always remember:

 You are not your illness; you are not epilepsy. You are you. Epilepsy is just a small part of who you are and what makes you, you.


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