January 23, 2009

Epilepsy and A View of the Self...

I know that when I think of myself, I usually try to leave out epilepsy. I know it is a part of me, but I prefer to think of myself in more expansive ways that leave out the invisible marring epilepsy has left behind in me. 

To the right is a painting by Evelyn de Morgan. I love her work and like to include it because of the themes she enjoyed painting. This painting, "Luna" comes close to what I think of myself. Ethereal, healthy, protected, redheaded. No trace of E. visible!

Still, one has to account for the damage E. has done to one's psyche and so another painting below and to the left is a kind of grim example of how I feel having E., at least at times. Not always, just sometimes.

Often, I feel as though I have burdened my family, my friends and I am fearful I will burden strangers with my condition, as well. It makes me feel estranged from humanity, even freakish, and so the second, contrasting illustration is a kind of visual description of those feelings.

Still, if I feel like this, how do others feel about me when they know I have E. It is a question that should be asked, not for self-pitying reasons, but in order to get a better handle on the ways people percieve epilepsy and those of us who are disordered by it.

I know that many folks have a sense that E. somehow makes those of us with it degraded in some way. As if we are less because of it. As if we have been polluted by some evil.

There are others who  use the presence of E. as a means of acting violently against the individual with it. Parents who beat their children to cure them of E. are not uncommon. 

And many of us know how it feels to be refused housing or employment once our condition has been revealed. 

Some of this is fear... Some of this is cruelty, to be sure. Some of this kind of behavior is learned cultural response. E. has been around as long as there have been humans, so there has been plenty of time for people to develop a cultural reaction to its presence. 

But no matter what one's experiences have been, one must learn to cultivate a different self image. I like the self image of "Luna" and I cultivate it, and as I grow stronger, I am more and more able to affect others toward 
creating a better self image to go along with a stronger interior life. Then, the face I present to the world becomes stronger and better able to live in our world, even though I know there are still many who feel negatively toward my condition. 

I will not allow them to express that toward me. It has to stop somewhere.

January 6, 2009

Life, Death and the Long Haul with E.

To the right is a painting by Evelyn de Morgan from 1916. It is her commentary of Death on the battlefield. Double-click the image to see it enlarged...

Experience with E. tells us that we should consider the recent death of Jett Travolta a tragedy… However, that same experience suggests that we have lost something more than a fellow sufferer.

There is little in the way of a “public face” for epilepsy. John and Kelly Travolta could do much for our community by simply admitting to epilepsy, rather than hiding from it. I confess, I am not a doctor, and I am not an epileptologist to be sure, but I do have decades of experience with this disorder.

We all know that several of our AEDs are used for multiple reasons beyond seizure control. We also know that seizures can come from other conditions, including heart problems. So, it would be unjust to simply act as if we know better about the Travolta death.

Still, the information is provocative and suggestive of an epilepsy disorder.  So, the only conclusion any of us should reach is that we are hearing the absolute truth from the news reports or that there is a greater reason for the family to resist saying the word out loud.

Bigotry still exists in a pronounced fashion when it comes to E. Discrimination and stigma are elements each of us live with, and these things produce in all of us a “selective” kind of revelation of our disorder to the outside world.

I am of the hope that at some time the Travolta’s will acquiesce and offer whatever support they can give to our community. Preferably, a public acknowledgement of E. in their family, because it would help all of us.

It would encourage donations, it would encourage research, it would encourage others to speak out about epilepsy. I could help end the stigma, the discrimination, and the bigotry we live with.

 Still, the family has to make their own decisions, come to their own resolve, and they should be afforded their own time to grieve without supposition or criticism.

Epilepsy kills. It can be a dangerous, deadly condition. Take your meds, see your doctors, and live the best way you can.  Like you, I am in this struggle for the long haul.