Brave Girls Can Cry

Epilepsy continues to be hard. It saddens me to think that this illness consumes so much of our lives. We became a family of 4, myself, my husband, our daughter, and Epilepsy. Our lives have changed and I know there are so many more changes to come. Some of those changes we already know about, such as starting her on the Modified Atkins Diet and possible brain surgery and/or an implant but most changes will be unknown.

I continue to write as a weird form of therapy and because I genuinely hope that this helps make the experience easier for someone else. Because… maybe this pain we feel might be more tolerable if we knew that we helped someone with our story?! So, I write. Sometimes I publish but most of the time I delete. I delete because there’s a part of me that feels like people don’t want to hear me “complain” or I think that maybe people will think that I have given up hope? I don’t know; but, these are the thoughts that pop up in my head.

A few months ago, I was getting certifications in both Cannabis Coaching and Life Coaching and I was creating plans to really broaden my horizons. Now. Now, I am crying when ever I think I can squeeze it in without anyone catching me or calling me on the phone, mostly in my car or the shower. I don’t think about my future, I think about each day as it comes, minute by minute, that’s all I can do. When I think about the future, I get overwhelmed.

I have aged. Wrinkles that weren’t there 6 months ago are there now. I look tired all the time. I have gained a ridiculous amount of weight because I eat my feelings (and I have a lot of feelings right now).

There are many things I wanted to do with my life and there were so many more things that I wanted to do with my daughter but, right now, that’s all on hold. It isn’t a “never” but it is most assuredly a “not right now.”

I wanted so much for my sweet girl. It hurts me to think that these seizures are her new normal and that her day is dictated by “avoiding triggers.”

I am grieving for so much and I am incredibly angry. However, what I am feeling is nothing compared to my daughter who has had her life altered so drastically with no explanation as to why!

My daughter doesn’t get to experience a “normal” teenage life and as someone who was already special needs- this makes her feel even more different. It breaks my heart because she doesn’t understand what is happening.

I try to hide my feelings from her. I don’t want her to see me upset and think that this is her fault because it is not. When she was in the hospital she kept blaming herself. She said “my brain is stupid” and “I wish I didn’t have this brain.” It took everything in me not to break down. I want to be brave for her but my soul aches.

She cries a lot and I no longer pat her back and say, “there, there” and tell her everything will be okay and to dry her eyes, like I would have before Epilepsy when her problems were less… well… soul crushing.

No… no, now I hold her and let her cry…

I tell her that I love her with my whole heart and soul. I tell her that I will always fight for her. I tell her that I will do everything I can to find answers and solutions to this problem. I tell her that I will raise awareness so she can feel safe in the world. I tell her that it will not be easy and I ask her to be my beautiful, brave girl.

And, I tell her that “brave girls can cry.”

Epilepsy is F*in’ Hard: Part 1

A few months back, I wrote an entry about my daughter having a seizure. Of course it was a scary event but I cannot tell you how naive we were. Our lives have been turned upside down since that day and

I actually started that above paragraph on December 7th, 2019, and had to stop writing because my daughter said to me that she wasn’t feeling well. I have learned to listen to her even if I think she is crying wolf. She was not. That was the start of 16 days in the hospital, 15 of which were in the Level IV Epilepsy Monitoring Unit here at Children’s Memorial Hermann.

When my daughter first had a seizure, her doctor was quick to dismiss it as a one-time thing. When my daughter had her second seizure 13 days later, she was hospitalized. We spent 3 days at a children’s hospital in Houston and were put on Keppra and told to follow up. We had a 3 month honeymoon period and then our daughter’s seizures returned. We maxed out Keppra. They added in Onfi. Insurance refused to cover Onfi. She started clustering and Status Epilepticus became a real concern.

Sitting in my daughter’s hospital room, I became angry because other than “she has Epilepsy” we didn’t know fuck-all about this situation we found ourselves in.

I joined a Facebook group for parents who have epileptic children and I quickly realized that the odds were not stacked in our favor. If I was going to walk this path with my girl, it was obvious that I would have to first clear the path for her. *Rolls up sleeves* Not a problem, I am her mother, this is what I must do for her. BUT if I am going to do this I am going to at least document it so that way when another parent has to walk this same path they can use this as a starting point. As always at UnSocially Acceptable- my goal is to help with my story. No one should feel alone in this world- especially when you are worried about your child’s life. One of the hardest parts to swallow about an Epilepsy diagnosis, once diagnosed with Epilepsy, that may be the only bit of information you get.

I posted in the Facebook group asking parents what they wish they had known about Epilepsy and as one parent pointed out, I fell into a Rabbit Hole. So this is going to be the first entry in a blog series, Epilepsy is F*in’ Hard. I don’t want this entry to be very long that people find it cumbersome. So I will work on other entries and try to group them by topic, for things such as medicine, CBD, Epilepsy-related products, Epilepsy-related resources, and other miscellaneous Rabbit Hole topics.

To start, the overwhelming response was that no child is the same as the next. You KNOW your child (which is true, I have accurately predicted my daughter’s seizures every time). Follow your intuition, your “momtuition” is almost never wrong and even if it is, this is the one time it is wonderful to be wrong.

Stemming off of that thought, it is okay to call your Neurologist or Epileptologist after hours, there is no need to justify your concerns about your child to anyone else- if you are worried about your child- your concerns are valid. End of story.

Ask questions, doctors are people too. People no matter the amount of education or years of practice in an area can make mistakes. That is why the term “practice” is used, medicine is still a developing field and things change daily. They are human, you are human, human error exists. ASK QUESTIONS.

Educate yourself on all things Epilepsy because you can’t ask questions if you don’t have a baseline on the topic. I started with this book and it really helped: Navigating Life with Epilepsy by David C. Spencer, MD, FAAN. This book will really help you understand terminology and the different types of seizures, medications, treatments, and so much more. This is my bible.

SUDEP is a fear we all have. There will be no shortage of companies tying to capitalize on your real fear of SUDEP, sorting out the bullshit from the needed is hard. I plan to write an entry of common products and companies to trust.

Medication: this is a touchy subject. These medications are literally changing the chemistry of your child’s brain. There are side effects and some of them are major. You have the right to question the medication. You have the right to ask your child’s doctor if this medication is the best available option. You are your child’s advocate.

Not to sound bleak but there is a real possibility that a medication will fail your child. This is frustrating. I am sorry. Keppra failed my daughter. BTW, I choose to say it that the medication failed my daughter rather than my daughter failed the medication because I don’t ever want my daughter to think that Epilepsy is her fault.

Cannabidiol or CBD is helpful for a lot of a families. My family uses Green Compass Global and it was approved by her Neuro team and her Epileptologist. We use a full spectrum CBD in concert with her Antiepileptics. This is the company that I own a franchise with and the only company I trust (read previous blogs where I talk about this company). There are no shortage of opinions of CBD in the Epilepsy world and there are some great products but again, I trust my company. The only FDA approved prescription for CBD is Epidiolex. Many families have seen great changes and help with just over the counter CBD but that is a discussion for you and your doctors.

I will likely do another blog entry on CBD and epilepsy as those who read this blog know how strongly I believe in cannabis.

Genetic testing and updating genetic testing is important, it can really help narrow the field and help your child’s doctors decided on a treatment plan. Some insurance will cover it and some insurance won’t but I, personally, think genetic testing is worth it. Keep in mind, getting the results takes a long time. It is not like television labs that can return the results to the detective before the next commercial break.

There will be a lot of waiting. Waiting on the genetic testing. Waiting for appointments. Waiting for insurance to cover or approve something. Waiting on the new medication to pass or fail your child. Waiting to titrate up to the next dosage and wondering how “protected” your child is. Waiting on the next seizure…

Parents, PTSD is real.

I tried to explain this to my friends and family and they just don’t get it (but they will). Epilepsy is hard. I was so ignorant to the struggles one goes through when Epilepsy enters their lives. For something so common, HOW DOES THE WORLD NOT KNOW ABOUT EPILEPSY?

I can tell you that I am not okay... and that is okay. Each time I hear my child say my name, it no longer sparks joy in my heart because, more often than not, my name is the last thing she says before she has a Tonic-Clonic Seizure. I am the person she calls out to for help. I have 4 seconds to get to her from the time she says my name to the time the seizure changes from focal to generalized. Now… the sound of my own name sparks fear and worry- my heart drops every time she says my name. The guilt I feel and the emotions I go through every day breaks me. I am not the person I was 5 months ago… I am not the person I was 2 months ago. I feel angry. I feel like Epilepsy robbed me of the joy of being a mother. I struggle to find balance between taking care of my child/managing her safety and actually being a parent to her. I cry a lot. I am distracted. I feel broken.

But NONE OF THIS is my daughter’s fault and what I feel is a drop in the bucket to what is going on with my sweet girl who doesn’t understand what is happening to her. She is so lonely and depressed and it breaks my heart. Her life has changed so much and so fast. Like many children who have Epilepsy, my daughter is cognitively delayed. Which, sparks more anger in me, because I find myself wondering “why her?” a lot. And, when you start down that path of thought- you will find a lot of emotions.

I will never have a good night’s rest for the remainder of my life. My child will never be cured of Epilepsy- she will only ever be “Seizure Free” and that timeline starts over every time she has a seizure. She once went 3 months…

Parents this is very tough road and not many people will understand what you are going through. Your friends and family will not understand that your child NEEDS their medication at the same time every day or that you have to randomly cancel plans because you have this feeling in your gut that won’t go away… It is important to remember that like myself, the world just doesn’t know because it hasn’t happened to them but if you find it in your heart to be vulnerable about this- people may listen and more people may see that this is something we need to discuss and know more about. At the very minimum, Seizure First Aid is something that must be taught.

I am documenting my daughter’s struggle with Epilepsy not to capitalize on it but because I immediately realized that the world is just not prepared for Epilepsy. My daughter has to live in a world that is not meant for her- a world that is not safe for her. I am going to do everything in my power to let the world know she exists and that there are many others like her that exist too.

God willing, there may be a day when she calls out my name and someone else is closer to her than I am… maybe they will be brave enough to help her.