The Graceful Boon

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When you have an illness that affects your daily living, your life revolves around your health. There is no 90% health and 10% everything else. If you really want to live a healthy life, 100% of what you do has to be thought through carefully on how it will affect your health. Everything else is just the cherry on top. That wasn’t anything I understood before I was diagnosed with epilepsy. Heck, it wasn’t anything I understood before I started taking my health and my healing seriously, which was years after I was diagnosed with epilepsy.

To my sadness, too many people in my life passed away due to their illnesses. I’ve lost a friend to a heart disease; I’ve lost a friend to cancer; and I’ve lost a friend to epilepsy and depression. Losing all three was tough, especially considering the fact they all kept their illnesses private. For me, their deaths were so sudden. It was an especially an eye opening experience for me to lose my friend who passed away of epilepsy and depression. Unlike the other two girls, I knew she had epilepsy. She opened up to me about her diagnosis when I opened up about my struggles. At the time, she was seizure for 4 years, which was a very big deal. She was giving me all sorts of advice on how to build a healthy lifestyle while living with epilepsy. We could see each other and talk to each other like there’s no one else with us, or we talk for hours on the phone and forget we have other life priorities.

It all ended in November 2020, when she passed away. She was going through a very tough breakup at the time and relied on anti-depressants to go about her days. Even though she was seizure free for years, she still had to take anti-seizure medication as well. What you may not realize, though, is that mixing such strong medication can be dangerous, sometimes even deadly. That’s exactly what happened to my friend- she overdosed from mixing anti-depressants and anti-seizure medication. The worst part of it all, though, was that her mother discovered her lifeless body.

Her death hurt me a lot. I already knew that there could be a risk of death for people diagnosed with epilepsy. But to have had someone I knew closely pass away from a mix of epilepsy and depression – the two illnesses I’ve struggled with myself – was absolutely devastating. Her death also motivated me to really get my sh*t together and make my health a priority. The positive side of it all was that it happened during the pandemic. In the midst of all the chaos, I had all the time in the world to just sit and reflect on what I really needed to do. I realized that whatever I was doing wasn’t working. At that point, my seizures were less frequent, but they worsened despite me getting the right treatment overseas years prior. I was feeling like complete crap all the time, and all I wanted to do, and all I could do, was lay on the couch and sleep – day and night. Despite this, I managed to release my memoir, 12 YEARS A WOMAN: MY JOURNEY TO HAPPINESS, in November 2020. The book still had a happy ending. It was my version of a happy ending. In life, every ending to a story is just the beginning of another story; and that was mine.

I’ve struggled with depression for many years, and my mental state worsened as I struggled with epilepsy. Each time I took a step forward, it always felt I was taking three steps backwards. The hardships of living through the pandemic didn’t make my mental state deteriorate. The pandemic just didn’t make my demons any smaller – in sizes or amounts. Depression is something that’s hard to explain someone who’s never gone through it. It’s not just a bad mood. It’s a chemical imbalance. We physically can’t get out of bed. We can’t do our daily chores. We can’t do what we get paid to do. Sometimes, we can’t even take showers for days at a time. We can’t even talk to our friends and family, and it’s not because we don’t want. Sometimes it’s because we can’t physically open our mouths. Other times, it’s because we don’t want to be a burden to the people we love.

At one point when I was going through what I was going through, I lost all hope. But then, my friend died, and it made me realize that life is fragile. Here I was getting a second, third, fourth and even fifth chance at life. My friend who lost her life to the same thing I’d struggled with, all my three friends who lost their lives for that matter, lost any chances they ever had at life. All these three friends of mine were the most were the most positive, down to earth, wonderful people. No one would’ve ever suspected that they were going through such traumatic, life-threatening illnesses, and yet they did, and they all lost their lives due to to them. I still had a chance at living my life to the fullest, and yet here I was, being absolutely miserable and unable to get out of bed even though I had a whole life to live, whereas my friends couldn’t.

As I had this great epiphany, I made it my mission to better myself to the fullest that I could – mentally, emotionally and physically. I didn’t care what it took for me to get to where I wanted to go. It didn’t matter to me what and who I had to lose to get my health back on track. I just cared to make it my health a priority, because I understood that if I didn’t have my health, I had nothing at all. I looked around my social circle and realized it needed to be smaller. I stayed away from drama. I started going to bed before 12 AM. I started eating healthier. I stopped eating out. I started working out. I made sure my workdays started early and ended early. And I even began getting out of the house more to make sure I got my dose of Vitamin D, which my fellow introverts would agree with this, is a mission.

Epilepsy isn’t something that is ever going away. Even when you’re seizure free, you still have epilepsy, and you still think about seizures, or more like how to stay seizure free. The struggle is never-ending, but with hard and determination, isn’t impossible. It’s not impossible to live a normal, healthy happy life. It’s just a matter of how badly you want it all. It’s sad to me that it took me losing three friends for me to open my eyes and work on myself on my own terms rather than the outside world. It isn’t fair that my friends are no longer here. I don’t know what the future hold for me, nor do I want to know. All I know is that these three friends made a huge impact on me, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life no matter where my life takes me.

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