A few months ago, I woke up on what I thought would be a typical Tuesday morning to an email that one of my classmates had passed. Even though I didn’t know her very well, I knew that she was a very sweet girl. I had a class with her and we had spoken a few times. Her death was so sudden, so shocking, and a huge loss for our university’s community.
I attended the memorial service and I listened to how highly everyone spoke about her. I was heartbroken. I kept it together because I knew that there were people all around me that knew her better than I had. It wasn’t nearly as personal for me.
Later that night, I sat with one of my best friends and I cried. I shared my anger and confusion with her. I told her that I didn’t understand why such horrible things happened. Why did this twenty year old girl have to pass away? Why was I diagnosed with a life-changing disease? What was the point of it? What did I do to deserve it? What did anyone?
She sat down with me calmly and we grieved the loss of our classmate. We talked about how unfair it was, and how horrible it was that she had to lose her life. She told me that she used to feel the same way, and of course, she still does from time to time. Everyone has those moments. But at the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, everything happens to serve a purpose in our lives. She told me that one day, all of this would make sense. She said that right then, it didn’t feel like it, but it would. Something good would come from this.
I believed her, but I still didn’t understand. I knew in my gut that she was right. I had seen horrible things happen and amazing things come from them. There’s a reason for the cliche “one door closes and another door opens”. But, still, I didn’t see the purpose of being suddenly diagnosed with a disease that turned my world upside down. What good could come from that? How could it possibly?
Last July, I was laying in the same spot that I’m sitting right now, blasting old Taylor Swift music and sobbing about a breakup that I thought had destroyed me. I was so trapped in my own guilt and hatred for myself, I was convinced that I wouldn’t get past it.
At that point, I had succumbed to my anxiety. I was giving up completely. I thought that I had a lot to deal with. In reality, I was essentially afraid of being alone. As if that was going to kill me.
I did not believe that I was strong enough to handle a breakup, so I let it take me over.
Little did I know, my future held a lot more serious anxieties. For months after my first seizure, I had trouble sleeping in my room alone in fear of having another and not being helped. For a while, going to swim practice was terrifying because I was so afraid of drowning. Some days, I was too paranoid to leave my room unless absolutely necessary because I was afraid that if I seized in public, I would be forced to go to the hospital again. I would make it all the way to the mall parking lot and refuse to get out of the car. That was anxiety. Reasonable and warranted anxiety.
Looking back, exactly two months after having that conversation, I can honestly say that I see the good that this challenge has brought to my life. It forced me to see the difference between trivial things and serious things. It gave me the inspiration to reach and try to help others. But mostly, it forced me to develop strength that I didn’t believe I was capable of.
I didn’t believe that I was strong enough to overcome what I was faced with. I never made any conscious effort to be more resilient, simply because I didn’t think I was capable of being better than I already was. Either the sting of the breakups eventually went away or I had moved on to someone else. One day, I’d be okay again.
When I was first diagnosed, I had the same attitude. I thought I would be miserable forever. But suddenly it became very clear to me that epilepsy wasn’t something that would just pass. It was an incurable disease. I would be dealing with it for the rest of my life. That’s what pushed me to realize that I was going to have to fight this time. I was going to have to pick myself up and be strong enough to get through this. I still didn’t really believe that I was strong enough, but I figured that I may as well try. I decided that I was going to fight, even if it took years to come to terms with it.
I’m sitting here, writing to you from the same spot, an entirely different person than I was a year ago, eight months ago, even two months ago. I now see the reason why I had to go through this. It was so that I would be able to see my own strength.
I have a new understanding of who I am and what I am capable of. II am confident. I feel more equipped to deal with the rest of my life. I am more motivated and less afraid of what comes before me. I am able to embrace the uncertainty. That was the purpose of the darkness.
I’m still not sure why that beautiful young girl had to die. But I really believe that someday, we will know. Something good will come from that tragic, horrible thing that happened. I have to believe that there is an underlying purpose to the horrible things that happen. Maybe for you, that belief lies in your faith or religion. Regardless, I hope that you find your reason for experiencing what you have suffered through. Believe that what ails you now is preparing you for something that is to come.