I gave up setting goals many years ago, decades even, long before my epilepsy diagnosis, and more since my PNES was confirmed. It seemed pointless. I mean, why would I work towards something that could, would, potentially fail? Yes, that is a defeatist attitude, negative in so many ways, but is also a defense mechanism to avoid the pain and disappointment that comes with not achieving what you’d set out to accomplish. I chose the safest way to avoid my thoughts of inadequacy, the inability to work hard enough to gain the results I so wanted, to show I could improve, grow, become better. I opted to keep the status quo, to remain as I was in that moment, ignoring the potential I had to cross the finish line and win the prize.
You see, so often my attempts resulted in disappointment, failure, and the old ‘ two steps forward, ten steps back’ scenario. I’d become quite familiar with being ‘kicked to the curb’ so much so, it became comfortable, almost soothing to be there. I couldn’t go any lower, could I. Or, well, I guess I could, and did. I sank into depression, spent many years not recognizing it or acknowledging it. The sadness and hopeless mind set became normal, happiness was just a word, not a feeling. It existed for others, not for me.
But. I’ve slowly come to realize, grudgingly, that goals, just little ones, were a good thing, beneficial to my mental state. To work towards something, anything, is a show of strength, determination and hope, the failure, providing me an opportunity to learn, to recognize I have flaws, I’m not perfect, I can’t have everything, and life can be unfair. The topic of goals was brought up in my last session with my psychologist, Dr. Jessie last month. After telling her I don’t set goals, I left that appointment, thinking. I thought about the last year and how I couldn’t surpass two months without a seizure. So many times, I reached less than a week even a day prior and, bam, a seizure. It was devasting, so disappointing, frustrating, and depressing. Although I knew I wasn’t causing them, I began to feel I was doing something wrong. I should of done this, or shouldn’t have done that when , in fact, it wouldn’t have made any difference at all. My point here, was despite my assertion I don’t set goals, I had done so, am doing. Subconsciously, it became so important to reach that two month, to prove I could, to show the techniques I’ve learned through therapy, UPLIFT sessions, and relaxation methods were working, were improving my life, and reducing my seizures.
And, without me realizing it, I eventually succeeded. Even surpassed it! On July 28th, I’d gone 94 days without a seizure. Three months and four days without a 911 call, with no ambulance rides, or trips to the ER. Even though it was upsetting, no one ever wants to have a seizure, but in some perverse way, I felt somewhat positive.
You see, the majority of my seizures the last three years have been non-epileptic with the odd epileptic one. This last one, was caused by epilepsy, not PNES and I was okay with that. I know, you must think me mad! Given the choice of a seizure caused by an incurable disease or one triggered by emotional trauma which is treatable and can go away, why on God’s green earth would I be okay with the former? Had I completely lost it? No, not quite.
What this seizure told me, what it represented, was all my hard work, all the cognitive behaviour therapy, mindfulness techniques, had paid off. I didn’t have a non-epileptic seizure. It didn’t stem from my suppressed emotions, the post apocalyptic trauma of the last 7, years and beyond. It was the misfiring neurons, the thunderstorm inside my head.
I know. I know what you’re thinking. I should be devastated. Disappointed. After 3 surgeries, and despite the medications, my epilepsy remains!
Yes, it is upsetting, but to this ‘answer girl’ I can accept what can be seen over what cannot.
Let me explain where I’m coming from. Thoughts, emotions, feelings, are intermittent, constantly changing. You can’t really see them there isn’t a surgical procedure to remove something that isn’t physical. Okay, yes, there’s areas of the brain responsible for thought, sensory connections allowing us to see, feel, hear, touch, and taste, but to ‘disconnect’ those the surgeons scalpel must ‘sever’ something. Stabbing at air only produces a slight breeze.
I’m no doctor, surgeon, or shrink. I’m a person with epilepsy.
I’m a person with psychogenic non-epileptic seizures.
I’m a person with a whole different outlook on goals. On SMART ones.
Specific. Goal= No Seizures.
Measurable. Goal= No Seizures over a 2 month or 3 month period.
Achievable. Yes= No Seizures for up to 3 months achieved before.
Realistic. Yes= No Seizures are possible with the right tools in my toolbox. CBT and Mindfulness practices.
Timely. Yes= No Seizures for 2 to 3 months with the right mind set, eating well, exercising, and getting ~ 7 hours sleep a night, is a reasonable expectation that can be built upon, i.e., working towards 4 or 5 months and slowly building from there.
Failure doesn’t mean you’re incompetent. You just haven’t found a template that suits ‘you’ and your abilities in the moment. If we gave up every time we fell on our asses, we wouldn’t have learned to walk.
Keep trying. Keep moving on, moving forward and upward. Some days will be better than others, some days we’ll go farther and sometimes, we’ll falter. But if we don’t move, we don’t go nowhere.
Keep on movin’ on.