Warriors of Adversity
by: Alexandra Markovich
The year of 2020 was not just the year I struggled. It was the year I struggled, my neighbor, my co-worker, and my friend did not know whether or not they were going to find a job or be able to put food on the dinner table. Yet nothing has prepared me more for this past year then my childhood with Epilepsy.
I clearly remember the day I was first diagnosed. I was eight-years-old, and my mother took me to the pediatrician for a regular check-up. However as my mother started to describe symptoms I was having to the pediatrician, I began to understand something was wrong, and it wasn’t a regular check-up anymore. Soon after my diagnosis, I was referred to a neurologist who prescribed me an array of medications over the next couple of years. Each medication being a new attempt to control my seizures. But, constantly switching medications soon started to take a toll on me both physically and mentally.
I remember taking Depakote more vividly from all the other medications I took as I child and as an adolescent for two reasons—
First, it was the earliest medication that seemed to control my seizures.
Secondly, I had outrageous side effects.
I was put on Depakote in sixth grade, and one of my side effects was weight gain. In middle school, the average kid already feels out of place. Kids are confused by the changes in their body, boys and girls awkwardly interact with one another, and kids tremendously care about their peers’ opinions. Plus, I was bigger than most girls for my age, and I had Epilepsy. One could safely assume, I was not strutting around the halls like the future Miss America.
Anyways during this time, when I said “I have Epilepsy” to people, it was something I just said to people because my parents told me to. I didn’t really understand what it actually meant, therefore I couldn’t completely identify as an epileptic person. This ultimately left me feeling confused and insecure about myself most of the time. Sometimes, I even felt like people were constantly staring at me.
Then, high school came, and I lost all the weight. I finally felt like I had a sense of normalcy, or maybe I thought the starring had subsided. I couldn’t exactly tell you why I was so happy about the weight loss, but I know was ecstatic about it. Yet, soon after I lost the weight, my medications became ineffective. I was having seizures frequently, and I was struggling to keep my grades up. Due to the memory loss from my seizures, I had to reteach myself material that was already taught to me. This meant I was spending twice as much time studying just to get a B. It just seemed like every time I conquered a difficulty associated to living with Epilepsy another one managed to make an appearance, and I was getting discouraged. I didn’t want to have Epilepsy anymore. It felt like a chore only I had to deal with, and I began telling myself, “It wasn’t fair,” and asking myself, “Why me?”
I think every person reaches a point in their diagnosis where they start to wonder that big question—Why me? It’s a question that doesn’t seem to really have an answer, but it always seems to shake a person to the core.
Most psychologists might say by asking myself this question I was beginning my journey of acceptance. And, yes it was a journey.
I soon got depressed because I never woke up cured, and everywhere I looked I couldn’t find an answer to this question. The next two to three years were filled with well…a lot of impulsivity and many more mistakes.
At the end of college, I decided to change my outlook from “Why me?” to “Because of me.” Because I have Epilepsy, I am a better person. Because of my perseverance, because of my determination, because of me, I have gotten to where I am today.
I am twenty-three-years-old now, and I am just realizing I am just now fully accepting my diagnosis and identifying as an epileptic person. As the LGBTQ community might say, I am having my ‘coming out party.’ New challenges still arise every day. I wonder—When is the right time to tell someone you are dating that you have Epilepsy? Should I tell potential job prospects I have Epilepsy? Will the employer silently throw out my application because of it? As I do ask myself these questions, I do not get discouraged or let them fill me with fear or anxiety because I know I am capable of overcoming them.
At the end of the day, Epilepsy does make you a friend to adversity and struggle. However, I have learned it is a strength and not a weakness. People with epilepsy learn to rise when a difficult situation is handed to them, and it is something every epileptic person should be proud of. So even though the year of 2020 has been more difficult than usual, remember we can keep climbing through the challenges the pandemic will throw at us in the new year because we have persevered before, because we have epilepsy, and, most importantly, because we are warriors of adversity.