The neurologist had endless patience in answering my many questions. He explained that I had been having seizures all along. They varied from very simple and small muscle twitches, to a focused region of my brain seizing, to a full brain seizure and then of course those damned pre-seizure hallucinations. Turns out also, for added fun, that I have catamenial epilepsy, meaning that any hormonal fluctuation decreases the threshold for seizure activity, which is why each pregnancy, postpartum and nursing caused such terror in my brain. He insisted on a MRI after the EEG had turned up normal. So I became subject a very long and loud MRI in hopes of finding a cause. While I lay there with my head braced inside a cage, I began thinking of what the results would reveal and my heart began to pound. Did I really want to know? What if he tells me that this is genetic? Nobody else in my family had ever been diagnosed as far we knew, but what if somehow I had passed it onto our children? My emotions caught in my throat and the fear of finding out what was really wrong was painful to bare.
In that moment I made a deal with God. It has been the one and only deal I have ever made with him. I knew that this was my lot in life, I didn’t like it, but it was my new reality. I also knew that I couldn’t contain the weight of sorrow that I would carry if my children ended up with it as well. I told God that I would gladly live with epilepsy for the rest of my life if it meant that my children didn’t have to. It was my only bargaining chip and I played it like my life depended on it.
The brain scan was clear. There were no signs of the textbook fuzzed lines that would indicate genetic contributions. Neither were there any lesions that would suggest a great brain trauma. Most likely the epilepsy is a direct result of my own traumatic birth and momentary lack of oxygen; which was long enough to cause damage that henceforth disabled my brain’s ability to function normally.
I played my chip and God responded. He heard the cry of my heart and knew that I wouldn’t be able to stand under the guilt if my children were victim to the same disorder as me.
Or possibly God doesn’t work like that. Perhaps he isn’t tit for tat. In fact, in some ways I suspect that he isn’t. I don’t think that because I crossed my fingers God suddenly decided that my children didn’t have to be plagued by seizures. I doubt that he waited for my bargaining chip before he made a decision about the health of my children’s brains. I think that his plan for them, and for me, was written well before I laid on that MRI table concocting up a deal for him. I don’t pretend to know why some children have to live with such difficult medical conditions, but I know for sure that his love for them is the same no matter what kind of health the are in. Regardless, though, of how exactly God chooses to operate, I know that I made him a deal and I most certainly intend to keep my end. So I will gladly live with epilepsy. Day in and day out. Medications and appointments. Fears and successes. I try my hardest to gladly live in the world I have been given.
The kids know of my condition and ask questions about it, especially when the medication fails and relapses occur. They are curious, sometimes confused and occasionally worried about me. But I gladly live here, in this place, keeping up my end of the bargain. I don’t always succeed in this; I succumb to my own fears and disappointments. But I know that his love outweighs my failures. So I keep living. Gladly living.
Ironically, I sometimes wonder if the deal was God’s idea, knowing that if I made this bargain I would force myself to forge ahead through trial and accomplishment. Maybe the deal wasn’t really about the kids after all; maybe it was about his love looking out for me in my weaknesses. His brilliance in knowledge that if I made this deal, I would have to keep my head up and my heart high. Now that I think of it, perhaps his protection of my children is more about them witnessing their mother’s courage and bravery in order that they would have an example for the trials that they will one day face, just as all of us do in someway. It is those trials that make us who we are. It is the adversities that challenge us to change and blaze through.
If I could give up epilepsy but had to trade back all of the lessons that I have learned along the way, I wouldn’t do it. The pain was worth the result. The anguish of receiving a life-long diagnosis is worth the character and empathy that I have been afforded in the wake. In all actuality, this diagnosis isn’t so bad in my very specific case. I am fortunate that medical technology has done me well and that years of chemistry and science have created a medication that puts a stop to my seizures for the most part. Even so, it is in part that this diagnosis makes me who I am.
I am so glad that my bargaining chip was well played. Yet I know that God’s plan for me and my children is greater than a last minute deal created in a hospital gown. He uses all things, including epilepsy, in a great orchestra of meaning and purpose. I trust his symphony and I live in such gratitude that my children are free from this disorder. I live, gratefully and gladly, keeping up my end of the bargain.