“Learning to live with what I have”, that’s how I’d title my life. Epilepsy appeared just when my future plans were at their peak. I finished my college studies and I was going to prepare for the exams to be a local police officer, my dream since I was little.
I was in hospital many times before I received the final diagnosis. Every day I would wake up disoriented and with horrible headaches. The doctors told me it was anxiety, although I knew deep inside that something was wrong and that what was happening to me was much more serious, nobody listened to me.
I remember at times even turning up with my lip burst because of biting it, which the seizures made me do, but they linked it to nightmares … in short, all the diagnoses ended in cases of anxiety.
On January 17, 2012, I remember lying down to take a nap and waking up in intensive care in the hospital, surrounded by doctors and my mother holding my hand. I remember looking her in the eye with a lot of fear and begging her that I didn’t want to die. With this ordeal, my suspicions were confirmed and those anxiety cases were not the correct diagnosis. I have generalized epilepsy and my seizures happen when I’m sleeping so we’d never realized until by chance, that day my mother saw me convulsing. At last, we had the diagnosis and could get adequate treatment.
“My seizures happen when I’m sleeping so we’d never realized”
Accepting the disease was difficult and more so when you are only 18 years old, with future plans totally incompatible with this disease. I managed to move on by myself, without sharing my emotions with others so that they wouldn’t feel sad or pity for me.
The hardest thing was when the doctor told me “Sheila, you can’t be a police officer today nor in 5 years, whether you have it under control or not.” I wasn’t willing to accept what I’d just been told, I didn’t want it to be true … Then you think, look back and see how your life in a split second takes a 360-degree turn and you have no choice but to accept it, you have to learn to live with what you have. At least I was calm because I knew I wasn’t alone.
When I got to accept these new conditions that life had imposed on me, I looked for other professions that I might like, but it was exhausting … Nothing convinced me or perhaps my own frustration made me not like anything.
It was a tough year but with my parents’ support, it was sabbatical one to think calmly and consider options, to fight for other goals, as the one I’d had in mind was not possible. So here I am, at 23 I’m a specialist in imaging for diagnosis and nuclear medicine. I guess the fact is that I’d been in the hospital so many times, so in the end, I ended up liking it, ha ha ha!
Currently I’m preparing for exams and of course I don’t rule out continuing to study. I’d like to do nursing, but little by little, as I have a younger sister who also must study.
With my story what I want people to see is that if we learn to live with it, deal with it every day, etc. we can be happier than we think. Epilepsy has taught me to differentiate between the important, the urgent and real problems. It’s taught me to live and take advantage of every minute of fresh air. It’s taught me to strive for other goals, to fight from the moment I get up I until I go to bed, but the most important thing is that it’s taught me to appreciate family, friends, siblings, smiles, hugs … Material things will always be secondary.
I can proudly say that I have epilepsy, I’m not ashamed, and thanks to it I’ve learned to live for real. I used to waste time thinking about the clothes I was going to wear to go out with my friends, now I spend it with the ones I love the most.