At the high school where I teach, students wear shirts that say, “You are stronger than you think.” Besides having epilepsy, I have dyslexia fueled by paranoia, so that the first few times I read the shirt, I thought it said,
You are STRANGER than you think.
As a person who has lived with epilepsy the last 30 years, I am probably a little stranger than I think I am. I do not always play by the same rules as everyone else, because I am unable to do so. The rules were not designed for people like me, so I have been forced to go my own way. In my effort to fit in, I have become strange. I am stranger than I think… but here is the joke. Everyone is a stranger. Everyone is different. It is as if we are, to paraphrase a Jack Johnson song “Stranger Together.”
When I had my first seizure 30 years ago, I was a high school student. I was traumatized. Five years ago, I wrote about the struggle on the 25 year anniversary when I began to accept living with epilepsy. I was also aware that I was beginning to experience a transition. I was beginning to feel grateful.
I have also become stronger. Besides the scars on my knuckles from fighting an invisible foe, I have become stronger from living daily with epilepsy medication. When I was sixteen, I took barbiturates two times a day. I have taken medication two times a day every day for 30 years. Those of us with epilepsy often discuss how we become stronger because we get up after we fall. I became stronger because I got up when I was medicated. I built stamina. How bout you?
I have become a lucky old son these first 30 years of having epilepsy. I do not know what more I could have wanted. Tonight I spent the evening with my kids. Today I was listening to music and I realized that I have photographed many of the performers that I was hearing on my radio. Because I have experienced trauma, people trust me with secrets that they would not share with their therapists. I have some of the best friendships… people who have been with me for more than 30 years, people I trust with my secrets.
I wanted to say more, but I am tired. I want to go to sleep so that I can start “my next 30 years.”
I owe much to so many. Thank you to all my friends for keeping me alive and well.