Sunday, August 1, 2010

Life&Story: The power of good friends

"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."
Christopher Robin to Pooh

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I never understood the true meaning of a best girl friend, the one you could call at any hour of the night or sob uncontrollably in front of and still know that she will love you even more the next day, until I needed one to help save my life. I kind of figured that kind of friendship only existed in the movies and in novels.  When I started having seizures 4 years ago at the age of 24, I realized what true friendship means.  I recognized it in my husband, in my dear friend Tracy and her husband Jesse, and my adorable puppy Charlie I finally understood that a true friend is the one who accepts you for who you are, flaws and all, and tries with every piece of his/her soul to make sure you know how special you are.

When my seizures started I remember feeling very scared and alone and afraid that something was incredibly wrong with me. I believed I was crazy. In a month and a half I went from never having a seizure in my life to having over 70 seizures. Talk about some serious exercise, fear, and anxiety.
The depression that followed the seizures was all encompassing.  Life didn’t seem worth living, colors seemed dull, and experiences seemed pointless.  If it wasn’t for Tracy, Jesse, and Paul dragging me out of the house day after day after day and standing up for me at places of business that although Charlie may be small (15 lb min pin) he is most definitely a service dog, I don’t know if I could have made it out of that dark and sad hole. We still kept on living even though I might have a seizure at a public place.  They helped me find an organization,At Your Service Dogzz, that helps people with disabilities train their dog to be a service dog. They helped me out when I did have seizures in public places and helped me to feel safe and not embarrassed. Charlie even became a certified seizure-alert dog and now gives me a 5-10 minute warning before a seizure. Amazing.

The first time I had a seizure was in the middle of the night. Paul, my husband, and I were sleeping and I guess I just started seizing. It was a terrifying experience for Paul.  He said that Charlie was running circles around me like crazy and wouldn’t leave my side.  When I became aware of what had happened I remember crying and thinking something was wrong with me. After that I saw a lot of doctors and had a lot of tests done. MRI, CT, blood work, you name it.

After lots of testing the doctors could not pin point that I had epilepsy. Still to this day I don't know if I do. I like to believe that I do not, but maybe I will never know. Apparently it is very hard to diagnose seizures unless one is having a seizure while hooked up to an EEG machine. My doctor believes that my seizures may have been simple partial seizures, which come from a localized part in the brain, or maybe they are of the non-epileptic strand such as being caused by blood sugar issues like hypoglycemia or an imbalance of electrolytes.  I didn’t respond well to the meds, Topomax, other than the fact that I was a zombie and lost about 20 lbs and looked like Skeletor.

This is what I do know
  • I tend to have seizures if I have gone a long time without eating and then I eat a meal with highly complex carbohydrates.
  • I have problems if I haven't had enough water and exercise in extremely hot weather.
  • My heart races about a million beats right before I seize.
  • Certain smells trigger the seizures.

If I could offer up any advice for those watching a loved one go through depression or a severe health trauma I would recommend:
  • Don’t ask them how they are feeling every day, it is exhausting and not fun to rehash the feelings of fear, inadequacies, etc.  Keep conversations light-hearted and fun. Laughter is the best medicine.
  • Make dates and keep them. It is so good for the person who is sick to have something fun to look forward to. Make sure you go and pick them up or else they wont leave the house and meet you.
  • Help them find something new and exciting to do. Paul and I joined a painting class. It was incredibly therapeutic and something I looked forward to every week.
  • Make sure they have someone to talk to such as a therapist. That is crucial in my opinion.
  • Just listen and don’t give advice unless asked for.
It has taken me a long time to get to where I am now. I don't feel defined by my seizures; it is just a small little part of me. I owe my friends so much. Thank you for making me laugh a lot and forcing me to see my beauty and my potential and my blessings. I love you.

Cheers to good friends

Please share with Charlie and me a story of how a good friend changed your life.


mcmullins said...

Leah and Charlie, we think the world of you two... these posts make us want to cry, because it is so awful how uninformed people can make you feel. We have witnessed some great moments in public and some awful ones too and wish that we could wrap up the bad ones and never let them happen again. With this blog I hope you educate people to treat everyone with respect and remember their boundries. You are both so amazing, thanks for letting us be there for you - that also took a lot of courage.

christine said...

I can't believe what you went through with paramedics questioning you if you were faking seizures...not like this enough of a tramatic event to suddenly start happening in your life. I can say that because I started having them at age 18 and it was quite traumatic and sad to see my parents worry (remembering my Mom cry out when I had them in the beginning was heart breaking for me). It's wonderful to read such a touching story as I recall many moments of my own personal journey. Thank you for winning the bicycle...your story was a bright spot in my day. Thank you...Christy

Tonya said...

just saw your story and you won the bike on Facebook, how awesome for you and Charlie