Strength has a tendency to come and go. One minute, you’re seeing things optimistically, and the next, you’re feeling so hopeless, you can’t even begin to think about how to recover from what you’re going through. Throughout this entire past year, I put a pressure on myself to move on from my diagnosis. I told myself it wasn’t a big deal and that other people had it worse. I needed to get over it, I needed to focus on what was really important, like school.
When I focused on what I thought was really important, I found that it did wonders for making me feel better. I would plan out my week so that I had barely any free time, and when I had free time, I would surround myself with other people to distract myself from what was really going on. I forced myself to sit in my room and work on homework that wasn’t due for three weeks so I didn’t have to think about my next doctor’s appointment or the depression that my anti-seizure medication was causing. Sure, in that moment, I felt better, because I was distracted. But then, when I would get a few hours to myself, I would go into full panic mode. Because of the extremes I was experiencing, I never took the time to really process what was happening to me, simply because I wasn’t allowing myself to. I got my first 4.0, which made me feel like I was doing something right. My day to day was okay. I was “okay” more often than I wasn’t. That’s what made it feel like the right thing.
People would ask me all the time how I was doing and how I was feeling. To most people, I responded with my usual “good!” And, honestly, I thought I was doing well. I truly believed that I was coping in a healthy way. From the outside, everything looked good. I got to where I needed to be when I needed to be there, I had great grades, and people saw me around campus smiling. So, why wouldn’t I be fine?
Now that I’m home for summer vacation, my days are a lot quieter. I began my internship and my days consist of working seven hours a day, going to physical therapy, attending doctors appointments, and seeing friends a few times a week. There is no homework to be done and no roommate in the next room to talk to. The lack of distractions is what pushed me to see that I had to start seeing my reality as what it was.
Once I sat down and took the time to see how much my life has changed, I started to realize that I had to focus on my mental health. I’ve started to accept that my life will be different from now on, and I will always be at risk. Now, when I sit down and think about it, I don’t feel panicked. I am calm and I am okay.
If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that mental strength is the most important thing a person can work on. I’ve decided that I’m going to prioritize that above all else. This past year, there were so many days when I looked perfectly fine, but my mental health was suffering so much, I couldn’t even get out of bed.
People always say that the mind is more powerful than the body, but I’m not sure they realize how true that is. A shift in attitude has completely changed my life. Granted, it took work to get to where I am now, and it will continue to, but I went from completely avoiding my problems to facing them head on with strength that I never knew I had.
We walk around and see people who look perfectly fine but have no idea what’s going on in their lives. I know that now more than ever. Epilepsy can be an invisible disease. In epilepsy patients, there is a war going on in their brain: literally and figuratively. Not only do the person’s brain cells behave abnormally, but they are probably also fighting a battle against major anxiety, depression, and acceptance of what is happening to them.
After sharing that I was diagnosed, I had a few people reach out to me that I had known for years and share with me that they had epilepsy. I would have never known otherwise. This is the same with other diseases that the public may not know much about. Obviously, I’m no exception. I wish I could say I had more knowledge of diseases that people are going through, but I really only have experience with mine.
It’s important to remember that people are fighting battles that you know nothing about. And I’m sure you are battling one, too. Remember that you need to prioritize your mental health right now. Of course, your relationships, grades, job, and home life are important. But there is validity in taking time to work on yourself. Your relationship with yourself is more important than anything. Acknowledge that fighting your battle will take time. Give yourself that time. Let yourself take a mental health day if you need it. Remember that your mind is capable of anything you set it to. Don’t underestimate the strength that is inside of you. The journey may hurt, but it will be worth it. You will be stronger if you let yourself feel what you’re going through.