Epilepsy & My Identity
A person's identity is so important. Oxford Learner's Dictionary defines "identity" in three ways.
- Who or what somebody/something is
- The characteristics, feelings, or beliefs that make people different from others
- The state or feeling of being very similar to and able to understand somebody/something
Until a couple of years ago, my identity was, "I am an epileptic person." Many amazing events have happened in my life. However, after I found out I had epilepsy at 16, I kept focusing on the parts that validated my basic identity statement, "I am an epileptic." My reflection has taught me a lot about my identity.
Ages 5–16: I am a forgetful girl.
As a kid, I knew how much I struggled with memory and remembering. It was a big part of how I saw myself. Instead, I could have seen myself as a traveler. Every year my family and I would drive from Minnesota to New Jersey. This was one of my favorite times of the year.
I could have also seen myself as a researcher. I can't remember why, but for years I would research everything I could about Leonardo DaVinci. I would check out so many books from the library and write as many papers about him as I was allowed. My mother told me that when I was around 7, I was sad that Leonardo DaVinci was dead because I wanted to marry him.
Lastly, I could have focused on how I was an athlete. I played softball very well. I also played volleyball (not as well).
Age 16: I am an epileptic.
At 16 I should have focused on how blessed I was with such an amazing friend – a friend who helped me figure out that I was having seizures. (Refer to my previous article for the full story on my diagnosis.)
Or I could have focused on the fact that I was a strong and smart person. Reflecting on my past should have made me feel empowered. My diagnosis proved why stress made remembering or even hearing information so difficult for me. I was not a defiant or a ditsy child. I had overcome challenges that made me strong!
Age 17: I am the sick girl from my epilepsy medication.
I should have seen my successes at 17 years old. When I was 17, I was accepted into the "People to People" program for high school students. I was nominated by my art teacher and was able to travel along the Mediterranean and visit different countries.
Additionally, I also finished high school early. I did still walk with my graduating class, but I completed all my credits early.
Age 18–30: I am the epileptic burden to others.
This concept took years to overcome. I have only recently understood that I am not a burden. I AM BLESSED. I do have some family and friends who truly care for me and want to help.
Moments of identity crisis with epilepsy
- Age 20 - 21: I have to schedule my life because I am epileptic and can't drive. What I should have seen is that I am brave. At 20 years old, I moved from Minnesota to Alaska without family or friends moving with me. I am an independent woman! I researched and created plans to give myself freedom. My independence also helped me overcome obstacles such as not being able to drive. I am successful! Being an extreme planner allowed me to work full-time, graduate my vocational school at the top of my class, and immediately have a job after I graduated.
- Age 21: I am a conquerer of epilepsy, I am seizure-free with medication! I am dedicated and I achieve my goals. Putting my health first allowed me to become seizure-free. This achievement led me to be able to purchase my first home. I am happy a happy woman.
- Age 24: I have epilepsy, and no one will want to marry an epileptic. What I should have known is that I am lovable for who I am as a person. I am also a brave adventurer as I move to Arizona.
Age 28 to present: I am grateful. I am more than an epileptic.
My reflection has helped me better understand myself. I do have epilepsy and I make sure to take my medication daily. I've worked on putting my health first. (Although, I can't pass up Chick-fil-A.) However, the "who or what" I am is more than an epileptic.
As you move forward, remember that you might have epilepsy, but you ARE more than your diagnosis. Always remember, you are not alone.
Have you utilized an epilepsy center?