I don't know how many of you guys have had near-death experiences, but I think we can all agree that it's not very fun to go through one. I've had 17 of them in the past 7 years - all due to late-onset epilepsy. Like a lot of things in my life, I don't know why I've had to go through this type of experience, but I can tell you that it has played an enormous role in making me who I am today - both the good and the bad.
Epilepsy is not a very "glamorous" condition, and it's a very uncomfortable topic for a lot of people (myself included). It's not nice to see someone convulse and foam at the mouth - but it's reality; it's my reality. I take anti-seizure medication twice daily. My most recent episode was in February of this year, after 2 years of being seizure-free. I've been through the process so many times, it's almost routine: another ambulance drive, another emergency room visit, another MRI, another sad call I have to make to my worried parents.
What does it feel like to have a seizure? In short, it feels like your brain is short-circuiting (because that's what's basically happening). You just lose control; your body is no longer yours. Your mind and body are warring each other. What I normally try to do during my tonic-clonic seizures is remember to breathe - if I haven't blacked out already.
I can't quite articulate what it's like to live with this condition, but "constant fear" is a great way to put it. The possibility of another episode is always on the back of my mind. If I'm just a little tired/dizzy/lightheaded, I start thinking that another one is coming. Just the thought of me having another seizure has been enough to trigger panic attacks. I keep this fear hidden though, because not many people understand what it's like. I don't know when my "last" seizure is coming - the one that might kill me. Some people's greatest fear is heights or spiders, mine happens to be death.
So why am I writing this? Today is the National Walk for Epilepsy in DC, and because I'm a college student who likes coffee and homework, I'm sitting at a coffee shop instead of marching with the rest of them. But I wanted to show my support and to raise awareness in honor of the occasion. It's easy to peg an epileptic as a "freak" or something like that - but it's a much more common condition than many may think, and its effects on people and society are often not fully understood.
My Common App essay talked about my condition, and it's probably my favorite piece of personal writing because it was so candid and truthful. It felt really good to write it at the time, and it feels even better to look back and read it years later.
I live with this chronic condition, but I'm not governed or defined by it. It has been a huge part of my human experience, but I am not my fear.