People With Epilepsy Can Be Business Owners

It’s an all too familiar scene for those of us with epilepsy; you begin to feel off, something doesn’t seem quite right, you lose consciousness and before you know it you are coming too with several people around you and a shooting headache with no memory of what just happened.

That is how KK Gardening owner and home-schooling mother of two Kirsty explained the experience of her first seizure to me. Kirsty’s first seizure occurred in 2015. Since then, she began homeschooling her 10 and 8 year old daughters, attended college to become a horticulturist and opened her own gardening business.

Kirsty acknowledges that the road has not been an easy one. Six weeks into her first attempt at college classes she suffered her second seizure and received her formal Epilepsy diagnosis, forcing her to have her license taken away and to put her coursework on hold while she tried out medications that made her feel suicidal, and she grappled with low energy and memory loss. To top it all off, she experienced the loss of her family dog. A veritable “When it rains it pours” type of situation. Many people might throw in the towel in this situation but not Kirsty, she remained positive and moving forward.

“I suffer from quite a few symptoms but have learned to try and keep my chin up even at the most toughest of times.”

 

 

After her second seizure in 2015, Kirsty and Jason, her husband of 12 years made the decision to home educate her daughters. With only one driver’s license between them they were no longer able to provide reliable transportation to and from school and homeschooling was meant to be a temporary solution until the transportation situation was resolved. However, the girls took to homeschooling. Their performance and possibility increased during this trial period. It was then that Kirsty officially became a home-school mom.

Kirsty dedicated 2016 to her children, to building back her self-esteem and to adjusting her life to work with the reduced energy levels and memory problems epilepsy caused her. Near the end of the year, with renewed self-esteem and encouragement from her family Kirsty returned to college part time. She took things slowly, acknowledging her body and mind’s needs, and passed her courses with flying colors.

Today, in addition to educating her daughters, Kirsty owns and operates KK Gardening. When she is not homeschooling, she is outside helping people beautify their homes and gardens. She still struggles with short term memory loss, low energy levels, and self-esteem issues as so many of us do but she has learned to work with it all and is happy. She pushes herself each day to maintain a rich, fulfilling life and is an inspiration to so many others. Kirsty is an example of why we should never give up. As hard as life gets when you battle with Epilepsy, if you set your mind to something, keep your chin up, and make adjustments based on your body and mind’s needs like Kirsty did you too can achieve your dreams.

People With Epilepsy Can Stand Up For Their Rights

If you’re reading this and suffer or have suffered from seizures, or you are the family, friend of caregiver of someone with epilepsy; chances are you know that in late 2017 Jeff Sessions repealed Obama-era sanctions and declared marijuana a schedule one drug, on par with LSD and heroin at the Federal level. You probably also know that 12-year-old Alexis Bortell, who uses cannabis oil to control her seizures, and co-wrote a book about it (thus surpassing this bloggers goals, and making someone who is one third my age my idol) is part of a group that is currently suing Sessions.

What you may not know however, is that due to Sessions actions Alexis, who like so many of us with epilepsy simply wants to live some semblance of a normal life, now cannot visit national parks, fulfill every child’s dream of going to Disney World, or even visit her own grandparents in Texas. The restrictions set in place by Sessions’ move prevent her from visiting Federal property, and put her and her parents both at risk simply by traveling out of state. She is more-or-less confined to Colorado, the state her family moved to about three years ago so she could potentially avoid brain surgery by trying cannabis treatment for her epilepsy.

Alexis in 2014, prior to CBD treatment.      Source: Facebook

As is the case for so many of us with epilepsy (this blogger included), Alexis’s seizures could not be controlled by traditional medicine. The CBD oil, which Alexis takes twice daily, and carries on her in a spray form for use in emergency situations has kept her seizure free for nearly three years.

The treatment works for her, the only trouble is, when traveling across state lines her necessary medication may be viewed as an illegal substance, and her parents could lose custody of her as a result. All she wants is a relatively normal childhood. Battling epilepsy scary enough without fear of losing her parents on top of it.

This is just one of the reasons why Alexis, along with 6-year-old Jagger Cote, former NFL lineman Marvin Washington, and army veteran Jose Bellen filed suit against Sessions in 2017. To the best of my knowledge, results of the suit have yet to be announced. However, on Thursday January 4th, the Department of Justice issued a memo re-enforcing Sessions’ initial decision to criminalize marijuana at the Federal level.

The ending of this story (as it currently exists) may sound a bit dispiriting. That is not what this blog is about though. It is about optimism and action. Right now, we can take action by being like Alexis, and acting as advocates. We can educate ourselves on the medical benefits of cannabis, and share the stories of people like Alexis, and so many others who rely on this natural substance for a varitey of medicinal purposes. If, with research, you find you are not in favor of medical marijuana, be an advocate for epilepsy in general. We need to stand together, educate others, stand up for our rights, and the rights of so many others who fight this epilepsy battle each and every day.

If you want to take immediate action in regards to the Federal stance on medical marijuana, you can contact the Department of Justice. Simply go here, and send a digital form, physical letter, or make a call. The more the department knows about how this bill is affecting the public, the better the chances of them knowing the negative affects it has on the American people.

Stay strong warriors,
The Epileptic Explorer

*Editor’s note: The intention of Epileptic Explorer as a blog was never to become political. As someone with epilepsy uncontrolled by traditional medication, who lives in a place with limited access to medical cannabis, and is facing the surgery decision herself, this issue in particular speaks directly to me. My hope is for people to have access to all of the medical options available to them, so they can make their own, informed decisions on how to best treat their conditions in order to live their best lives.

People With Epilepsy Can Visit New Places And Teach Yoga

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When the words “Epilepsy diagnosis” are first heard it is easy to feel like your life, or the life of the loved one you care for who has been recently diagnosed is over. I am here to tell you, from experience that it is not.

The year I was diagnosed with epilepsy I thought my life was over, quite literally. Prior to suffering my first Grand Mal seizure I had just graduated with a degree in Dance & Performance Studies, and had plans to go on auditions in hopes of joining a touring company that would allow me to see the world while doing what I loved. Unfortunately specialists and neurologists urged me not to continue on this path. The fear was that by performing in group pieces I could potentially be endangering myself and others. It felt like the rug was pulled out from underneath me. This was my plan. Movement was my life. I was lost and sinking into a deep bout of depression. Post graduation, pre epilepsy I had begun taking regular yoga classes primarily to keep my body fit and flexible for anticipated auditions. When the epilepsy started, yoga became so much more to me than just a form of exercise. It became my escape, my way of keeping grounded. The yoga studio was the place where I felt a connection to my former, dancer self and I would leave each class feeling calm, warm and centered. I realized I wanted to help others feel the same way and that yoga could become my new path to pursuing a movement-centered career. I began saving my paychecks and researching yoga certification programs. It was then that I found Marianne Wells Yoga School and decided to enroll in her program, which would lead me to Costa Rica to receive my 200 hour RYT certification.

The day came and it was time for me to head off on my first post-epilepsy diagnosis solo journey. Here I was with a recent diagnosis of a condition I knew so little about, and I was about to board a plane, alone, headed to a completely foreign country. What was I thinking!? Looking back on it the answer to that question is quite easy. I was thinking, “Live.”

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The plane ride went off without a hitch and before I knew it we were landing in warm, sunny Costa Rica. It was March at the time and March in New England is notoriously grey and gloomy, so the green trees and blue sky were a warm and welcoming sight. For the first time since my diagnosis I was not thinking about my epilepsy. I was in a new place, where no one knew of my condition. I was able to go from being Liz the epilepsy patient to just Liz again. It was an incredibly freeing feeling.

Myself and several other women from the yoga certification program were picked up at the airport and brought to Samasati Nature Retreat where we would begin our training. The grounds were beautiful, with lush greenery everywhere, quaint cabanas for us to sleep in each night with our roommates, walking trails to waterfalls and a wonderland-esque level of natural beauty. It was like being in a dream, or like waking up from the epilepsy nightmare I had been living in the past year.

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While at the training I was woken up at dawn by mischievous, spirited, howling monkeys, I went on a solo walking meditation each morning, I learned the ins and outs of Iyengar style yoga instruction and I felt welcomed and safe.

epilepsy_yoga_1I was able to open up to the women in my program about my epilepsy and am glad that I did. I learned so much from each of them. MaryAnne herself took me aside one day and taught me about how important focusing on the root chakra is for individuals with neurological conditions like mine. Another woman who was a nurse taught me about the healing powers that different sound waves harness, and my roommates supported me through two auras that happened while on the trip. Up until then I had been ashamed of my epilepsy, hiding it from others because I was afraid of judgment and did not want to burden anyone with worries about me or my health. These women gave me the confidence to embrace my condition and acknowledge that it is simply a part of me, a part that makes me unique and strong.

Epilepsy can easily make you feel like your life is over, that you cannot accomplish your dreams. But don’t let it do that to you. Epilepsy is not the end of the road but merelyepilepsy_yoga_smile a detour. If you think you have hit a road block, get creative, maybe there is a new way for you to get around it in order to live the life you’ve envisioned. Feeling stuck or lost and want to talk to someone who has been through it? Email me. I know how much the support and insight from my fellow yogis meant to me when I was in such a dark place with my diagnosis. I am more than happy to provide help to any of you who feel you need it.

In the meantime, stay strong, stay positive, stay grounded and keep smiling!