A doctor diagnosed me with epilepsy sixteen years ago. At fifteen, I really didn't understand what was happening. I knew that I occasionally blacked out and woke up with aching muscles. My head would pound like a bass drum and my body felt drained like I'd run a marathon which I couldn't remember. Most times I awoke to my family and friends huddled around me, tears clouding their eyes. Other times strangers riddled me with questions as they slid me through ambulance doors.
"Do you know what day it is?"
"What is your name?"
"How old are you?"
These were simple inquiries which any normal person should know, but I struggled to answer them, sometimes laughing out loud at how ridiculous this made me feel. How could I not know what day it is? I know my name... don't I?
In time, the cloud in my mind would slowly lift. I would remember my name, who I was, and where I lived. Relief would wash over me, but I still felt in the dark. My missing time felt stolen from me, as if something ripped me from my body, and then nonchalantly tossed me back in. It didn't seem fair being so out of control... but what could I do? I felt powerless to stop it.
One seizure was not enough to start treatment, so after my first grand-mal I returned home to wait and see. I had my second at a friend's house, collapsing on the floor with his boom-box bouncing off my head. My third happened on the back of a trailer. I was trying to earn some extra money that summer bailing hay. In retrospect, it probably wasn't the safest idea, but at that point I didn't know what my limits were. Young people don't usually think about those types of things anyway.
The weather was unusually hot that day and we worked our tails off, tossing bails on the trailer and then loading them up into the barn's loft for the winter months. The last thing I remember was riding on the back of the trailer. The wind felt like a reward across my sweaty skin. I was joking with my sister's boyfriend and then I saw his face change.
"Are you okay, man?" he said... and then the blackness.
This third event and even the ambulance ride afterwards were a complete loss to me; more stolen time. I woke up in the hospital with my mother sitting beside me. I remember feeling very confused. EEG wires and IV hoses restricted my movement. I wanted to rip them out and run away from this. Why couldn't I just be normal?
"They're going to keep you here, this time," she said, "to run some tests. They think it's epilepsy."
They were right and now I am writing about it sixteen years later. It's affected my life in unexpected ways. I'm here to tell my story, and this is the just the beginning.