Spectres

Last November, I had a seizure. I didn’t think much of it. I’m epileptic, and have had seizures on and off since early childhood. It had been a year and a half since the last episode. The only thing different about this one was that my medication was consistent at the time; I couldn’t blame it on missed doses or a switch to generics. But my blood levels were very low, so even though my neurologist didn’t mention this possibility, I guessed that the weight I’ve gained means that higher doses of my medication are necessary. The seizure was a pain, both physically – I dislocated my shoulder – and logistically, as I couldn’t drive, but psychologically, it didn’t affect me much. I’ve dealt with injury and breaks in driving before. We raised the dosage. I got a new medical ID bracelet and a bus pass, and moved on.

About three months later, about the time I was pretty certain that things were back on track, I had a second seizure, and a second dislocation. I had been taking my medication regularly, but my med levels were still low. Suddenly, instead of being easily controlled and relatively predictable, seizures were something that could happen anytime, regardless of what I did. Adding injury to insult, I didn’t come out of these episodes unscathed. I’m still in physical therapy trying to get my shoulder back up to full mobility and strength. It will almost certainly dislocate again if (when?) I have another seizure. My brain isn’t the same, either. I lose more memory, and more focus, for longer, each time.

Epilepsy became an enemy, and living with epilepsy became like living with a malicious spectre. It’s always there, but you never know when it will appear, or whether it will appear at all. You take preventative measures – raise the dosage again, be more careful about consistent lifestyle patterns – without knowing if they’ll keep it at bay. You change the way you schedule, the way you travel, the kinds of activities you do. If you’re me, you try to stop doing so many things alone. You start telling people your plans and keeping to well-populated areas, just in case. It’s like brandishing a stick at a shadow.

It’s been five months now. Worry isn’t usually in my nature, but I still wonder every day when the next one will be. I worry every time I feel the slightest bit dizzy, or nauseated, or off-balance – which is frequent, since the effects of the combined seizures and medication involve dizziness and reduced balance. And I worry, secondarily, about my shoulder popping out again. I’m afraid to use my body in the ways I used to. Anxiety and fear are foreign emotions. In case you’re wondering, I hate them. I wonder when this will be gone. I wonder if it will ever be gone.

Coincidentally or perhaps not, during the same period of time, I was encountering my first real conflict within my current congregation. Yes, I realize that seven years without major conflict is a miracle on par with the feeding of the 5,000. It had to come eventually, right? But the thing that marked this particular conflict was that it was never open conflict. Issues would flare, briefly and unexpectedly, and then seem to be resolved, but they never really went away. They lurked. There were hints here and there, but I was never sure of the extent or source of the conflict. I attempted damage control, but was always left to wonder, what is the actual problem? Is there still a problem, or has it been solved? When will this come up again? Will this come up again at all?

My feelings toward my vocation turned to fear and anxiety, and the more familiar but no more pleasant anger. I alternately chased and hid from the spectre of this amorphous, undefined conflict. I swatted at its shadow with my stick, when I could drag myself out of paralysis to fight.

Honestly, I still don’t know for sure that it’s gone. I wonder if it will ever be gone.

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