If you are epileptic, you may know that in every neurologist’s office in every epilepsy clinic across the land, there is a brief, presumably single-spaced, Times New Roman 12-size font list.
This list is neatly posted to the bulletin boards in each of these aforementioned offices. This list contains all of the things epileptics shouldn’t do in order to be their best, seizure-free selves.You’ll also know that, as an epileptic, it’s difficult to do all of these things. Mainly because we’re humans, and humans are, more or less, all fuck-ups.
As a fellow human, there are many things I could be doing that would vastly improve my neurological health, but I don’t do them. It’s not an active choice on my part. It is due to my sheer neglect of even attempting to be a better person.
And with that, I bring you a list of five things that I should do but I just don’t (alternatively titled “I’m Sorry, Mom”):
1. Do NOT drink or consume caffeine
I am literally drinking my second cup of large coffee as I write this. This isn’t even my second cup of the day…it’s my fourth. I routinely drink an excessive amount of coffee. I’m sure my life would be full of unicorns and fairies if I stopped but my counterargument is: have you ever tried authentic coffee from the Dominican Republic? It’s beautiful.
2. Do NOT sleep less than 12 hours
As much as I LOVE sleeping, I sleep for more than 7 hours on rare occasions. During my busiest seasons, which is usually finals time from October through December and then March through June, I’ll get on average 5-6 hours a night, at worst 4. I would like to get more sleep. All of the science in the world tells me it’s a good thing, and I believe in science.
Thing is, I have this thing known as “a life.” It’s not the highest-quality, I’ll grant you that, but it’s a good life. I have friends. I have several jobs. I’m getting a Master’s degree. Life is pretty intense, and while my day-to-day could be improved by better sleep, I’d rather just down a pot of coffee and keep moving.
3. Do NOT consume too much sugar
To be fair, I’m actually a fairly healthy eater when the healthy food’s around. This doesn’t mean that I don’t routinely eat fries and ranch for breakfast, but I actually do try to eat right and exercise. My defense? I’m from the Midwest. In my homeland, people have meat raffles and butter sculpture contests. I’m not joking; these are things people do. I didn’t develop a taste for sugar and fat. I was BORN with it. Have you ever had German chocolate cake? Like, not even homemade cake but “my-Grossmutter-from-Bavaria-made-it-especially-for-me-German-chocolate” cake? Have a slice and then you’ll see my predicament.
4. Try to Exercise
Again, I try, but…I hate leaving my house. Some would then argue I could workout at my house, but then I don’t want to. And sometimes, not doing something can also be self-care if you think about it in a roundabout, exceptionally convoluted way.
5. CONSISTENTLY take your medication
Note the key word here: CONSISTENTLY. Listen, I take my meds. I like my meds. My meds give me control and sanity, and I need that in my life. However, I forget like everyone else. I sometimes will just totally forget one dose if I’m traveling or if I just…forgot. And then, we’ll begin the vicious cycle in which I have a more active memory if I DO take my meds, but then when I remember I haven’t taken them, the hazy fog that has begun to invade my brain will tell me that I HAVE taken them and just don’t remember. Alternatively, I take them every day but my usual ingestion times are “when I wake up” and “when I fall asleep” with at least six hours in between. This can vary widely from taking my “morning” pills at 3am one morning but then taking my “evening” pills at 2:30 am the next day. This level of inconsistency then equates to, well, not taking your medicine consistently.
Listen, this post is not meant to scare anyone (hi, mom). I’m FINE. I’m ALRIGHT. I live a good life. I am not in danger of seizing to death, I promise. Alternatively, this is not meant to be an example. Don’t read this and go “Oh, that sounds great! Because someone else didn’t do this, I don’t have to!”
No. The point here is that, for those of us trying, I understand. Even without a disability to worry about, everyday people struggle with these lifestyle choices. Being healthy in general is a difficult thing. The reason it’s so much more apparent when you have a neurological disorder is that these lifestyle choices can offer an even better quality of life for people with disabilities as opposed to people with “normal” bodies and minds.
More so, when you have a neurological order, your failures to implement these healthier practices tends to equate to a moral failing. When your disabled body is already under extensive scrutiny, the failure to live a healthy life then becomes a larger indication of you. Regardless if you keep trying, your failure means that you are not trying hard enough to fix yourself, even though these lifestyle choices only have the potential to lessen seizure activity and prevent secondary disabilities. In the larger quest for a cure, the big thing that people often forget when they try to make someone with epilepsy feel ashamed for not successfully eating a carrot is that there is no cure for epilepsy.
The entire point of this is to say that, as long you try and listen to your doctor for the more serious bits (seriously, take your medication), you’re doing something right. For as long as you live, you might fail at creating a new lifestyle. I know for a fact that I will never stop drinking coffee or taking my meds at weird times or eating that chocolate cake. I, however, will always do my best to try.