Stress Controlled My Life

May 17, 2008
By Alyssa Garrison, Wellsboro, PA

I entered my freshmen year of high school excited to have finally got middle school behind me. Seventh grade had been particularly hard for me because all of a sudden, I wasn’t cool anymore. All that year I tried everything I could to fit in with the popular girls, but the harder I tried the worse I felt about myself. In eighth grade I became obsessed with my weight. I felt that the more weight I lost the better my social status would become. I was soon dangerously limiting my food intake, and becoming very thin. Towards the end of the year I began to eat more confidently with the help of a nutritionist, and I felt generally better about who I was and how I looked. Just as I was beginning to get better (and more popular), I had a seizure on the gym floor during P.E.
I went by ambulance to the hospital where they told me I had had a hyperventilation response, not a seizure. However, over the next month I had a few more episodes such as this, and was becoming very afraid. I was sent to a bigger hospital, where doctors did and EEG and informed me that I had epilepsy, but it was treatable. (This meant that the episodes were seizures.) I was scared, yet relieved. They prescribed medication for epilepsy and the seizures stopped. I had a great summer, and couldn’t wait to start high school, as I hadn’t had a seizure for three months. Over the summer I worked on my confidence, and felt good about being myself and allowing this to control my social standing. I felt that I was emotionally prepared for freshman year, but I was soon to find out that I was nowhere near.
High school started out great. I had great teachers, friends, grades, and loved cross country. I was disappointed however, because I went from the top cross country runner in eighth grade to one of the worst members of the team. My parents said that it was because the drugs slowed me down, and not to worry. After a race a little ways into the season, I began to feel funny. My worst nightmare was coming true when I realized that I was going to have a seizure. All of my seizures are grand mal which means I go unconscious and have uncontrollable convulsions throughout my whole body, so I really didn’t want to have another. My coach and dad helped me to find a place out of the way to have it, and I slowly slipped into a grand mal seizure that I thought I was on medication to prevent. Doctors put me on more medication, so much that I wasn’t myself anymore. The seizures kept happening, mostly in school, until they had increased to the point that I was having them every other day. I was so afraid that they would continue like that for the rest of my life. How could I ever marry of have children if I couldn’t even go two days with out having a seizure? I was taken out of school and home schooled, but the seizures continued. I felt like my soul was a small shell being thrashed around by a powerful ocean that was my body. I was living in hell.
I went to the National Institute of Health, where I stayed for two weeks. During that two weeks I stayed in a bed hooked to an EEG monitor, and could not even shower. My parents went with me, and my sister stayed with family. I continued to have seizures, but began to realize that my situation was way better then some children’s’. I was in the pediatric unit, and I saw some terribly sick little children. Most of them looked like there was no way they could ever get better, like death would be a blessing, when my biggest worry was that if I had to have brain surgery I would lose my hair. This was a life changing experience for me, and it makes me appreciate every moment of life. After about two weeks, my Epileptologist gave me the best news of my life. She told me that my seizures were not epileptic, that they were a reaction to stress, and that with therapy, they would go away. These doctors read my first EEG as normal, meaning the first hospital mis-diagnosed me. The seizures continued at first, but I had the best therapist who helped immensely. He helped me to figure out all the stress in my life, even stress I hadn’t realized I had. He worked with me on ways to minimize this stress, and I feel amazing now. Without the help from him I don’t know what my life would be like today.
I haven’t had a seizure for over six months now, and I’m medication free. I go back to public school, am on the varsity soccer team, have amazing friends, and the most remarkable boyfriend in the world. I only wish that my parents and I could’ve had a glimpse into the future to see how great our lives would be in just one short year. My parents and I have discovered that a lot of people have non-epileptic seizures and think that they are epileptic. The medicine doesn’t work for them and because they aren’t as lucky as me to go to an amazing health institute they just live with them. There are all kinds of stress related disorders that people have, and I would definitely recommend a therapist to them. Teenagers have such a stressful life style, and it’s always hard to talk to parents about the things matter, so my advice would be to not be ashamed to visit a therapist. This whole experience taught me to not conform for anyone, that people will like you if you like yourself. As Doctor Seuss said, “The people who matter don’t care, and the people that care don’t matter.”

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