I've been having seizures for as long as I can remember. My earliest memory is around age 3 when I had a seizure at a friend's house. Nobody was around when it took place and as scary as it was, I assumed it happened to everyone. It wasn't until age 5 that I was diagnosed with epilepsy.
To me, the most difficult part of growing up with epilepsy was the fear and anxiety I felt when discussing the topic with others. I had felt embarrassed as if there was something wrong with me, that I would be treated differently and picked on. But most of all, I was worried that people would see me as a liability. I worried about not making the basketball team because I might have a seizure. I worried about not getting a job when I get older because I thought no one would hire someone with epilepsy. I worried that another human would never love me because I have epilepsy. There were many nights I would sit in my room and cry and would think to myself, "this isn't fair", "why did this happen to me?", "what did I do to deserve this?".
A few years later I went through an experience that changed my life forever. I was around the age 10 and I had a seizure in a barber shop. I was with a friend while he was getting a hair cut, along with his mother. The first symptom that presented itself at that point was losing my vision. I was sitting on a chair and I remember preying to myself, "Please don't happen, please don't happen, please don't happen. Not here, not now." I had various different types of seizures at that point in my life and this ended up being a Grand Mal.
Once it was over and my vision came back, I remember sitting on the ground crying. I was well aware that I was safe and had company, but I was so embarrassed and angry that it happened in public. Everyone in the barber shop was frightened, most people have never seen someone have a seizure in person. But then I looked up and a woman bent over to speak with me. With a large smile on her face, she touched my shoulders and said, "Don't worry, I have seizures and I'm doing just fine!" At that moment, I had this feeling of a warm blanket being draped over my shoulders with a sense of comfort. The woman gave me a hug with some words of encouragement and left upon the arrival of my mother.
As much as I appreciate all the support I received from doctors, my friends and my family, that one act of love and kindness from a stranger changed me. To see and adult with epilepsy living a normal life meant the world to me. Still to this day I remember the face of that woman, every wrinkle, every freckle, her eye color, everything. It changed my life. I thank god every day for her and I wish so much that I could find her and let her know how drastically she changed my life.
Now at age 27, my seizures are well controlled and I'm living a great life. I've traveled the world, I've met the love of my life and have a fantastic job. Although growing up with epilepsy helps shape the kind of person you become with what I believe to be a larger degree of appreciation for life, I've never let epilepsy define who I am. When looking back at my childhood, I wish more than anything I had someone like my current self to talk to regularly. It wasn't until recently that I realized that I might not be able to change the world, but maybe I can change the lives of kids all over the world.