"It was very debilitating and set the tone for my low self-esteem."
People look at me and see a perfectly fine young woman. They see that I can talk and walk, just like everyone else. They expect me to act and perform equally to my peers or co-workers, just based on my physical appearance. However, they are unaware of the battles that I'm fighting. When I was a year and half, I had a massive stroke resulting in my diagnoses of Epilepsy. My mother describes it as one of the scariest moments of her life and whenever she tells this story she always states, "I thought you died." To a parent, that has the be the scariest moment to experience...watching your child seize and be unresponsive. For those who are unsure what Epilepsy is, Epilepsy is a neurological disease that affects cognitive abilities as a result of abnormal electrical brain activities. It can affect your comprehension retention, access of memory, or (serious cases) your ability to walk and talk.
One memory I was able to latch onto occurred before the stroke, I was a happy go-lucky little girl. I was that child in the grocery store who began a conversation with a random shopper. Who always danced and sang about everything or ran to my favorite butcher, who was a stud muffin, to wrap my arms around him. Unfortunately, after having the stroke everything changed. I became a melancholy, indifferent child with little ability to express how I felt. As a result of all this, my mood, energy and comprehension was tampered with. Being diagnosed with Epilepsy, I was always going to the neurologist for check-ups, medicine adjustments, and tests. The worst test of all was an EEG, which studies the brainwaves, because it entailed tiny wires that had to be crazy glued to my scalp. The process was tedious and smelly, crazy glue and crazy glue remover is not a bed of roses. Sometimes, the doctor wanted to study my everyday activity so I would have to go home with these wires attached to my head. It was embarrassing to walk out in public with wires coming out of every angle because people would point and stare.
Ever since the first incident, I was seen as an eccentric child who always thought creatively with a wild imagination. Now "different", back in the day, was not as accepted as it is in this modern world. And in some cases still "different" is seen as bad or not acceptable. Sure there are movies like "What A Girl Wants" that views different as cool and exciting. However, in the real world people are isolated for breaking free of the status quo. I was/am "weird" and "not like others" so, during middle and high school, I began to confirm to who people wanted me to be (bad idea, never do it). I was quiet, only spoke when I was spoken to, never sang out loud in public, rarely talked to people outside of my family group. It was one of the most depressing times I experience, I didn't know who I was and began to question my existence. Changing and Losing myself still wasn't enough, I was still made fun of and isolated from other children my entire educational career.
Since Epilepsy affects comprehension I developed a learning disability and was placed in special education, after some vigorous testing. In order to receive academic accommodations a neuropsychological evaluation is necessary to prove that there is in fact a comprehension issue. These neuropsych evals are a two day process with 8 hours a day of testing, it is extremely mentally draining. But before I was tested, I was placed in regular ed and expected to keep up with other students. And when I finished last, the teachers would force me to stand in front of the class while everyone called me stupid. It was very debilitating and set the tone for my low self-esteem.
For those who know me now, would never believe that my self-esteem was as low as it was. I have to provide a little credit to Celtic Thunder for providing me with a sense of worth. My junior year (2011) of high school, I became obsessed with this Irish Folk singing band named Celtic Thunder. I was lucky enough to schedule a meet and greet with two of the band members, never ever meeting any type of celebrity this was a huge deal for me. Being anxious before I met these members, I began to doubt my value and creating scenarios that would go sour...such as "What if they were mean?" "What if they ignored me or didn't like the way I looked?" I wanted to prepare myself for the worst case scenario so that I wouldn't be surprised if these band mates disappointed my expectations. After meeting these group members it became an eye opener because if these celebrity figures can accept me the way I am, then so can everybody else. Seeing that people want to hear me speak and enjoy my sense of humor and didn't judge me based off my disability was refreshing.
Soon enough, I was finding who I am, making my footprint and creating a happy life for myself. There were things to look forward to like High School Graduation, College, and Studying Abroad. Now I am not looking for pity or even sympathy because I'm a big girl now. I know who I am, and it took a while for me to figure that out; to truly show, to others, what I am worth and to understand my value. All I am trying to do is be the voice for those children who are currently struggling with epilepsy, who are seen as "different" and "weird". I fully understand that you want to be like others, you want to join in on activities and academic discussions just like everyone else. You want to blend in and walk in a line of friends, you want people to listen to your stories and laugh at your jokes. You want to have a friend group, somewhere to go on the weekends without feeling excluded. Look at all the celebrities (Lady Gaga, Steven Spielberg, Michael Phelps, Sandra Bullock) who have been bullied in their lifetime, who persevered, who fought through the harsh words and achieved their dreams. I'm here to tell you, stand out from the crowd, embrace your differences no matter what others say or do because there is no one out there like you. There are going to be people who try to make you feel worthless and want to change everything you are, you have to be strong enough to stay true to yourself.