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My Story: Renee White Talks about Epilepsy

My Story is a series where people with physical differences share their personal story or experiences to validate and inspire others. Today’s story is by Renee White who has bravely shared her story about epilepsy…

 

All I remember is driving up to a green traffic light and then, all of a sudden, the next thing I know, I don’t come back to conscious awareness until I’m standing on the sidewalk of a somewhat busier small-town street watching my bashed-in Ford Pinto being hooked up to a tow-truck. I was surrounded by an ambulance and the police, who told me that I’d just caused this car collision.

Later, at the courthouse, paying the traffic ticket and trying to explain what had happened; they told me I’d better schedule an appointment with a doctor to determine what may have caused all of this.

After the driver of the tow-truck dropped me off at the corner of my apartment complex, the only thing I wanted to do was cry as I ran home and tried to make sense of everything that had just happened.

I was maybe 20 years old when I experienced a seizure through this first car accident. Unfortunately, others were to come.

I didn’t even know what epilepsy was, but learned that it’s a neurological disorder characterized by seizures. The type of epilepsy I was diagnosed with is called complex-partial, not the more commonly known gran-mal (also known as tonic-clonic seizures) that are visibly noticeable through physical convulsions. A more subtle ‘day-dreaming’ type of seizure is known as a petit-mal seizure.

Depending on my stress level I’ve been known to experience all of these levels. My seizures have lasted anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 or 15 minutes. I could be walking and talking and have no idea what I’d be saying or doing. I’d have no memory of what happened during those times.

My disorder, doctors believe, began as a delayed reaction from surviving spinal-meningitus at the age of six months.

At the age of 40, I had brain surgery, after an EEG finally discovered all of the scar tissue on the left side in the nervous system due to the meningitis of infancy. When this surgery (a left temporal craniotomy; selective removal of the amygdala and hippocampus) was recommended, my instincts caused me to think: “this must be right and what to do; it’s what the doctor diagnosed.”

My family was concerned and shared their concerns with my spouse. And with me, later. Doctors warned me that because of the area of the brain they would be operating on, I might have to learn how to talk again. But I didn’t focus on that. Instead, I thought of pursuing my career. It made me think to myself; ‘I have something to talk about’.

I feel very fortunate that the surgery was a success and that I got my life back. Before, I was not driving and had not been for about a decade. My life felt fairly limited simply because for one, I had to depend on public transportation, and on my spouse. Also, the seizure disorder took a toll on me physically, particularly because of the frequency and intensity of the seizures. They could happen at anytime and for me, this was the key benefit of the surgery. If seizures do get stimulated they now have only started in my sleep and then I know to stay home and recuperate.

It also allowed me to get my driver’s license back only one year later. After not having my license for almost ten years I feel blessed to be able to have one. Especially after knowing what it was like to have one and have it suddenly taken away by something beyond my control.

This is where I could totally acknowledge the spiritual interpretation of epileptics having a feeling of living in fear, with my own insecurities and lack of self-esteem and feeling quite self-conscious of myself at times.

I didn’t learn of the disorder until I was an adult. As a child I often felt a little dumber, and was told I did a little too much daydreaming in school. I was anemic always a little tired, but I was called lazy. My family, not knowing I had epilepsy, labeled me as the ‘little witch’.

Sometimes, I think the seizures may have been a form of “flight” from my own fears. I was actually glad to be over with high school when I’d finally graduated, because I felt so incompetent during that time.

During my life, I sought out ways to improve my physical and emotional health through holistic healing like massage, acupressure (Jin shin jyutsu), a spiritual coach, herbal therapy, and a loving and supportive spouse.

In her book, You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay describes the symbolic causes of ‘dis-ease’. For epilepsy it can symbolize a sense of persecution, rejection of life, a feeling of great struggle or self-violence. For this, she encourages positive self-thoughts of peace, joy and love.

For me, Boldly Me provides that opportunity to challenge myself and give me courage, to be bold enough to want to share my own story with others and provide that feeling of peace and joy that I now have for myself.

renee white headshotRenee White was born an ‘air-force brat’ at Travis AFB in Fairfield, CA and traveled as a child the “military” way. Thanks to brain surgery, she is more active with volunteering, public involvement, and building her own business while working at Primerica Financial Services. She hopes to publish a book about her own healing journey based on her life’s journal entries. She lives in Fremont, CA with her husband. She can be reached at renee_e_white (at) hotmail (dot) com.

 

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