When I was young I always imagined being an astronaut, or a naval pilot, or a professional soccer player. I had big dreams and planned on pursuing them all. Life was going great and all of my dreams seemed promising. I was offered soccer scholarships for college, I had straight A’s, I lettered in three different varsity sports my freshman and sophomore year of high school, and then it all turned.
It was the regional wrestling match and I was taken down and my head missed the mat and hit the basketball court. I do not remember much from that day, but I have been told that I had my first seizure. At first I only had them about once a week, but they were extremely aggressive grand mal seizures that would last anywhere from 15-25 minutes.
It took about a month before I was diagnosed with epilepsy. Within a few months I began to have seizures regularly with various intensities and lasting between 1-30 minutes.
I was advised by my neurologist to stop playing soccer and wrestle because of the contact and the fear of having a seizure if I got hit in the head, which was the trigger to my second seizure. With sports being my life I did not know what to do, at least I could still run cross country in the fall.
I was able to make it through the summer with somewhat of little stress, but when school started again my seizures became more frequent and severe. I was allowed to run cross country on the days I was able to stay in school until I had a seizure 3 miles out in the woods and my coach and teammates had to clear a trail for the Gator to get back there and drive me out. Needless to say, I was politely asked to be the manager.
I felt completely alone and angry at everything. All I could think of was “why me? Why this disease of all of them?” Every time I was alone I would get really depressed. I was able to hide it decently when I was around others, but I never talked about how I felt and never found a way to cope with my emotions.
I began to get involved in various other clubs such as quiz bowl and drama club. I did not particularly like either one, but I was decent at them and it allowed me to interact with others. All I wanted to do was play soccer.
My soccer scholarships were still offered to me, but my parents made me go to the University down the road because we could not keep my seizures under control. I was averaging 7-10 seizures a week that were still severe and lasting 10-25 minutes.
By the time I graduated I did not care where I went just as long as I could get away. I thought that I could run from this and start new, but unfortunately it followed me to college as well. I tried getting involved with different organizations on campus but it was hard since I was commuting and my parents were still driving me to and from class because I still was not able to get my license. My first two years of college were nothing less than embarrassing. I would come up with stupid excuses as to why I could not drive or have never sat behind the wheel of a car my whole life just so others would not look at me differently.
When I finally got my license I ended up losing it within 6 months because of a seizure. I loved the freedom that my license gave me, the fact that I could come and go as I pleased and did not have to wait on someone to pick me up. I could join any club I wanted because I could make all of the meetings, but that all ended when I lost my license. That was the first time I felt normal since before I was diagnosed.
I swore I would never lose that feeling. My parents lived 13.1 miles away from school and I began to run to class everyday. I hated every step at first, but the feeling that I was free to do what ever I wanted when I wanted made every step worth it. I decided to buy a bicycle to make it go faster, and boy did it ever!
I loved biking, I began to bike to work, to the store, and class everyday. Slowly but surely, I relied on my parents less and less. I barely ever asked them for rides anymore. It was not long until I began to actually enjoy run and biking everywhere. No more excuses for why I do not have a license, everybody just assumed I would rather bike or run, and it ended up being true.
I eventually got the novel idea of doing a triathlon, since I was already running and biking so much, I might as well put all of that exercise to good use. I did my first triathlon shortly after my 20 birthday. I immediately got addicted to it. I have done 4 sprint triathlons, 6 Olympic triathlons, 2 Ironman, 2 marathons and countless half marathons and 5ks.
I have tried almost every anti-seizure medication on the market and various anti-depressant medications, but none of them work as well as exercising. I am currently 18 months seizure free and have been able to move out on my own and travel all over the country for both my job and races regularly. I never thought that I would be able to be happy or normal with epilepsy, but I could not be happier any other way.