An Epiphany at 30 Thousand Feet

As I was on my flight back to Ottawa yesterday I had somewhat of an epiphany. I realized that I had started to count ‘seizure free days’ in the same way that recovering alcoholics count their days of sobriety. Now I only realized this because I was reading a fabulous book, Ninety Days by Bill Clegg which is all about his personal recovery from a crack and alcohol addiction. I would highly recommend it; it’s extremely engaging, and shows life through the lens of someone who has struggled with addictions. It’s also a fast read, which makes it easy to get through.

Anyways, I digress. I realized that this method of counting seizure free days was contrary to my other methods of getting both mentally and physically healthy. Although this method may work for recovering alcoholics, I can tell you that it does not work for someone like myself who is coping with epilepsy. These are two different issues here, and one remedy is not meant to solve both.

This is how I see it: When I have an episode and I suddenly have zero ‘seizure free days’ under my belt, I feel like it erases all the hard work I have done in managing my stress, hours of sleep, exercise and nutrition. It’s this ongoing spiral that makes me feel like the victim, which makes me feel even more powerless and nervous about the brain activity in my head. It also makes me angry for being stressed, which does absolutely nothing to help the situation.

With this type of thinking I become ruled by the episodes that I have had, and the fear of (potentially) more to come. It also makes my life succumb to a structure that is completely filled with epilepsy, and makes little room for life. Augusten Burroughs, author of This is How, an anti-self help book, writes a chapter on how to live with chronic medical conditions and terminal illnesses. His suggestion in dealing with chronic medical conditions is to let your life make room for the illness, instead of the other way around. So if I apply this theory to my life, this is how it would look: The majority of my life would be focused on school, hobbies, my relationships and other things that I am passionate about. In contrast, a little slice of my brain would be aware of my epilepsy, but it wouldn’t dominate every corner, nook and cranny of my life. It would just be part of it.

As a young child I had about maybe two seizures a year, and always in my sleep. Epilepsy was just a label but I didn’t feel its effects. Because my seizures have changed so much, I find myself almost grieving the life that I used to have. I’m not complaining about the life I have now. I am grateful for all of my friends, family and opportunities that have been given to me. I carry around extra worry and anxiety about the danger that I could find myself in. To shed this weight would be better than anything else in the world.

Essentially, I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I just needed to get this out in order to rid myself of the weight it holds. I’d like to sum this post up with a quote from Dodinksky:

“Our struggles can either build chains to enslave us, or provide lessons to assemble a character with purpose” – Dodinsky

Thank you so much for reading! Love to you all! xox

To read more information about Bill Clegg and his book Ninety Days, feel free to check out this link:

To read more information about Augusten Burroughs and his book This is How, feel free to check out this link:

Check out this facebook page for more quotes from Dodinsky and other inspiring individuals


I’m Just a Stress Mess: Learning to Cope With Transitions

One night a woman had a dream. She dreamt that all of the stress in her life had melted away like ice cream, and it was just dripping off her hand into a puddle on the floor. She dreamt that she had nothing to worry about, and even if she did she was strong enough to handle it. She dreamt that she looked at life with a relaxed, yet determined attitude. She wasn’t anxious because she was living in ‘the now’, and all the problems she worried about were only in her head. She just went the flow, because that’s what she knew. She didn’t try to constantly fix things or speculate about situations that were far in the future. She just let them be. She was being the best person she could be, in the present. She was fully engaged with everyone in the moment.

Ugh, okay so I may or may not be thinking about changes and the upcoming stress that I’m going to face in the next couple of weeks. In a week I am flying back to school, moving into a new apartment, and starting my student placement (it’s like co—op or an intern but for no pay. I do, however get credits towards my degree). Anyways, having just typed that out all the things I have to do seem fairly small. Fly back. Move into a new apartment. Start School. You’re probably thinking, “Come on Sita Gaia, why are you stressing?? Everyone goes through the same changes!” And case in point, this is true. I don’t have the right to sit on a little pedestal and whine about how stressed I am. But in all honesty, it feels very cathartic to get everything off my chest.

For as long as I can remember, I have been terrible with ‘transitions’. So whether its the end of summer transitioning into school, or travelling from one province to another, I always take a couple of days to adjust. It’s like I’m PMSing all the time. I feel edgy, tired and grumpy. My eyes feel sore and I get headaches and I stay up all night, staring into blackness, just wishing I could sleep. I have learned that drinking coffee is the worst thing I could do if I’m feeling in one of these moods. It just seems to exacerbate every situation it and I feel so grumpy about stuff that’s easily solvable. My poor family. At least I have shut myself in my room for the majority of the day so they don’t have to deal with me. (Well, they are also busy doing their own thing, so that makes minimum contact a lot easier).

I felt the exact same way at this time about four years ago. I was going to be moving out and starting university. Before I left I was driving with my family to Calgary to celebrate my Cousin passing her Bar Exam. (A Bar Exam is a test that lawyers have to take to officially certify themselves as a lawyer). It was funny, she was just starting her career and I was just starting my university education. The age gap has always made it so we were always embarking on crucial parts of our lives at very different times. Now that I am in university she is married. I don’t think I will catch up, I mean time is time.

Anywhoo that was completely besides the point. I was so stressed about this party because I knew that relatives would ask me about going to university and I would have to bring it up again and again. I was already stressed enough as it was. Why would I want to keep reminding myself of that impending change that was going to be exciting and simultaneously very stressful. Now don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t wait to move into residence and start classes, but jumping into the next chapter of my life kinda freaked me out. There were so many unknowns, and I had fears that I wouldn’t make any friends. What if no one liked me? What if I ended up all alone? These questions haunted my mind all summer, and even though I was excited about moving away, I couldn’t scare away those fears that I had. Thankfully, everything worked out, and all my stressing was for nothing. I settled in my residences, made friends, and although I struggled through courses as most students do, I didn’t fail or flunk out. And I was most certainly not alone.

However, it’s really important to keep in mind that with this much stress I need to be really cautious about seizures, because too much stress can easily trigger one. This doesn’t mean locking myself in my room for a week (okay I only stayed in my room today because I felt like sh*t), but just taking things one day at a time. I am a bit nervous about the seizures coming back again because I just really really want to continue on being able to do the things that I want to do. Also, I really want this fall semester to go smoothly because I have a lot to look forward to. But, when I look at the picture from a realistic point of view, things have been going well. The few seizures that I have been having have mostly been while I was in bed. I’ve been having them while I was asleep or on the verge of falling asleep. People always ask me how I know that I’ve had a seizure in my sleep, but it’s easy to tell because the jerky movements always wake me up. Thankfully I’ve mostly been experiencing seizures in just my feet, which is a step up from having involuntary movements in my legs and arms. I just need to keep my chin up and be strong. I know I will be stressed out, and I just need to give myself the space to relax and do what’s best for me. I don’t need to be worried about spending time alone or just being at home, if that’s what I need. Additionally, I need to remember that even though I’m going through another transition, I have already made the major changes. I also need to remember that life isn’t just stressful-it’s often wonderfully exciting! I have so many great plans for this coming fall, so I just need to keep my eyes on the prize. After all, it’s all in my head.

Thanks so much for reading! Love you all! xox

Is it Insane That I Love My Body?

My Feetsies

Over the years I have had many conversations with people (namely women) about body shapes and how people feel about their bodies. These conversations never come up in a formal way. Often they are the result of shopping for new clothes, going out to eat, and partaking in exercise classes.

I remember a year ago my friend and I were changing into our dance clothes because we were taking a dance class at a nearby studio. As we were changing in the locker room, my friend exclaimed “Oh look, a scale!” I remember seeing it before and made sure not to say anything, just so I wouldn’t have to weigh myself. My friend stepped on and was instantly disappointed that she weighed 10 pounds less than she thought she did. When it was my turn, I weighed 10 pounds more than I thought I did. It was interesting how we were both equally disappointed. My friend was happy with the weight she was at and was disappointed that she had been unable to maintain it. I had been exercising regularly and eating healthily, so gaining ten pounds didn’t make sense! In that dance studio change room we exchanged our own little form of body dissatisfaction. Neither of us were totally satisfied with our weight, because in part, we have been trained to always look for imperfections. I forgot about it during our dance class but lamented to my aunt the next day over the phone. She calmly reminded me that I had been running on a regular basis (I was training for my first 5k) and how muscle weighs more than fat. So I just had strong thighs and calves! Thank goodness.

Can you believe this?!

It’s interesting though. Even though all of these conversations about bodily dissatisfaction are seen as embarrassing or shameful, everyone in our culture does it! I have never talked to a single person who didn’t express some dissatisfaction with regards to how they look. I would even go so far as to argue that it is ‘in’ to complain about your appearance. No one wants to be the strong tall one (figuratively speaking) in a group that has nothing to contribute to the lamenting of extra fat around the mid-section, jiggly thighs, and thin arms. From my perspective, it seems as though disengaging from ‘fat talk’ sends the incorrect message that a person is too good to have flaws. I don’t agree with this, I think it would be great if more people disengaged from this type of behavior. But let’s think about it: we all want to fit in, and if we fit in by sharing the same type of dissatisfaction with others is a way to do it, it’s an easy route to take.

But here’s a revolutionary idea: What if we actually loved our bodies and had no problem with it? What if we just said, “yeah I’m hot!” And what if it wasn’t a lie you were making to yourself? What if you were actually in love with your curves, or how narrow your hips and legs are? What if you thought it was awesome how tiny your boobs are? What if, what if!

A couple of years ago I met a girl who was so obsessed with food and her appearance that every single conversation somehow gravitated towards the size of her stomach, food she wouldn’t allow herself to eat, and how she needed new pants because hers were too big. We weighed about the same (I only know this because she told me) yet she was much taller. I couldn’t help but turn over every stone of our conversation in my mind. Is it weird that I like the way I look, even though I like to eat pizza and ice cream on occasion and even though my stomach isn’t flat? Life is bizarre. She looked more like the ideal form of female beauty than I did, yet she seemed to be more unhappy with her appearance than I was. I found these conversations to be very triggering. I began to wonder if it was bad that I was content with my body, despite some extra weight around the mid-section and curvy hips. Was it okay to be happy with the way I was? Did I need to monitor my eating in order to be happy with myself?

Apparently not, because it was obvious how unhappy this girl was with her appearance. And no kidding! I would be unhappy too if I saw all my friends enjoying food that I love, but wouldn’t allow myself to have.

This girl has her own story, and it’s not my job to tell it for her. In a way though, I am glad we had the conversations that we did, because it makes me more aware of what’s triggering for me. Also, I try to shut down those “You’re-not-good-enough” thoughts as quickly as they come, because I’ve learned that they waste hours, days, weeks and sometimes years of amazing life that could be lived to its maximum potential. Also, let’s face it: we all have days where we feel crummy about ourselves and that’s okay. It’s hard to feel fantastic 100% of the time. But in the meantime, I’m going to continue to work at loving me for who I am, and not be ashamed or embarrassed about it.

Yup, I’m awesome.

Thank you so much for reading! Please feel free to share any of your thoughts! I would love to read them! xox

Inspiring People Who Have Made an Impact: Allie’s Story

Friends. They make our lives complete. There is something about a good friend that makes you feel more appreciated, and like you have a place and purpose in the world. You never really know when you’re going to make a friend out of someone. I mean, sure you can meet someone and have a good feeling about it, but it’s hard to say right off the bat.

This describes one of my best friends Allie. We met in second year of university, but our interactions were always through schoolwork and completing an assignment for one of our classes. She was nice, but I never really got the chance to know her. We were simply peers, nothing else.

Soo true

All right, fast forward about two years to the year 2011. I was just going through the usual humdrums of life: going to school, completing assignments, doing readings, and working out. My friend Allie made a facebook post asking if anyone was interested in going to see Fefe Dobson with her at one of the local colleges. I figured why not. It would be fun to go to the show and maybe I could get to know her better by doing something fun outside of school. We had a great time at the concert and I got to see a side of her that I had never seen before. I remember how she cried when she tried to get one of the security guards to give Fefe a little message. She explained to me and her other friend that Fefe’s songs are what helped her get through high school. I was a little surprised about how emotional she was about the whole situation, but I figured that there was probably a lot more about her that I didn’t know.

Over the next couple of months I went through a couple of changes. I had a break up, got my heart stomped on, and had too much time alone to wonder about the complexities of the world. My summer job wasn’t starting until July, and I hadn’t yet figured out what I was going to do with myself until then. One evening I randomly received a text from Allie, telling me I should come out with her and her friends to karaoke. At first I was hesitant, because I had gotten to the point where I spent so much time alone that it was almost more work to go out and socialize. But then I decided to go out with her and her friends. Why not! It’s not like I had anything more exciting going on. As I ventured out in to the world of karaoke, one thing became quite apparent to me: my friend Allie had a booming voice and a ton of self-confidence to back it up. The way she interacted with everyone (including strangers at the bar) amazed me. She just seemed to talk to people with ease and confidence, and was able to strike up a conversation about anything without seeming weird or awkward.

I think Allie will appreciate this picture 😉

Overtime we became closer, and even though neither of us can really remember exactly what brought us closer together, I learned so much about who she is and what her story was. I aspire to be like her, as she has such a strong sense of who she is as a person, and she is not afraid to express it. She is one of the most loyal people that I have ever encountered, and will do anything for her friends. There is something about her that brings out the free-spirit in me, and I know I can tell her anything and she won’t judge me, regardless of how silly or shallow it may sound. She is the type of person who will drop everything if you need her, and on more than one occasion she was there for me when I needed help. Off the top of my mind I can think of the time where she just listened as I whined, complained and cried about issues I was having with someone, to another time where she rushed over as quickly as she could to my apartment because I had just had a seizure and no one else was around to help me out.

Now, not to make this a sob story, but I have struggled with making and keeping friends all through my elementary to high school years. When I was grade twelve I began to wonder if there was something wrong with me, because so many of my ‘close’ friends ended up bullying me or betraying me in someway or another. I found it hard to trust that people were my friends because they liked me for who I was, instead of for some alterior motive. Allie has re instilled the confidence in me to believe that there are people out there who want to be my friend because they like me for who I am. Never once has she made me feel like I owe her for anything or that she resents what she has done to help me. I think we both appreciate that we both need each other, and it never feels like a stretch to ask her how her day is going and call her up and talk about things and get updated with her life. Even though Allie has been going through some tough times, she is always there for me and always tries to maintain a positive attitude about her life. On the flip side though, she is real about the situations and never tries to sugar coat things. This honesty and openness is something that I appreciate, and it really helps me to build a strong friendship with her.

I feel like this blog post had been a jumble of thoughts, but basically what I am trying to say is that Allie is such an inspiring person because she isn’t afraid to be herself. When I tell her about parts of myself that I am not always open to discussing with others, she listens carefully and gently encourages me to take a better look at them too. She has shown me that it is okay to follow your own path, regardless of what it may be. I respect the hell out of that, because it takes guts to do what you really want, instead of just going along with what everyone wants you to do.

So even though I never knew that Allie and I would become good friends, I see how rich our friendship is, and how much richer my life is because of it. To me, that is invaluable.

Here’s a little quote that I know Allie will appreciate. Love ya girl!


Epilepsy and Identity: Where to Draw the Line

This past semester I was taking a course on working with people with disabilities, and one topic that was hotly debated was the idea of disability and identity. It is interesting, because when seizures are well controlled, epilepsy is a very invisible disability and it is up to the individual whether they want to disclose or not. Needless to say, it is easy to cover up. Up until this year, I didn’t often disclose to people, because my seizures were well-controlled and I didn’t feel the need to talk about it.

One thing that I have learned during my years at university, is that disability encompasses more than the stereotypical image of a person in a wheelchair. People have mental health issues, learning disabilities, epilepsy, chronic pain, and the list goes on and on. Until I expanded my understanding of what a disability is, I never actually considered myself as a person with a disability, minus the fact that I have a learning disability. (That’s a whole other story, so maybe I will get to it in another post).

Anyways, during this class, there were a variety of people with disabilities, including a girl with a physical disability. (This is what would be called a visible disability, because it is visible to the eye). I was arguing that, despite having an invisible disability, I would not want to be viewed as solely for my disability, and I didn’t see it as a core aspect of who I was. The girl with the physical disability had a very interesting reaction, in that she loved her physical disability and she wouldn’t change herself for anything. I was dumbfounded by this response. I don’t hate epilepsy, per se, but I have never claimed that I was proud of having it. And I most definitely do not love it. What’s interesting to me is that, here are two people with disabilities, and the one person who cannot hide her disability is open about loving it, and the other person (me)has the option to hide it but does not like it at all.

Since my seizures are unpredictable and I have little to no warning before one is going to happen, it has become mandatory for me to give people a quick heads up. As a result, I have found myself thinking and talking about my epilepsy with other people on a more regular basis. I have been struggling with this though. How much can I talk about my epilepsy without having people box me in as simply that: a person with epilepsy? Also, how much is too much? I don’t want to be the friend who talks about her seizures all the time, but I’ll be the first to admit that I need a lot of support, and I see my friends and family as my little group that helps to keep me sane.

But what is the line between a chronic medical condition and identity? As described above, my peer saw her disability as central to who she was as a person. Even though her disability posed many challenges in her day-to-day life, she wouldn’t want to trade it for anything. When thinking about it, I know this much is true: my epilepsy has made me a very strong person. I mean, we all have to play the cards we are dealt, but I have learned to persist and pursue my dreams, even if it’s through a different path. I also thank my epilepsy because I believe it has made me a very positive and optimistic person. I mean, there’s no other way even though I’ve been having seizure after seizure and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I just have faith that everything works out in the end. I’m not sure how, but I know it does.


Anyways, these days I see my epilepsy as closer to my identity than I did before, because it is a condition that takes control over my body at unexpected, and sometimes dangerous moments. The body that has seizures is the same body that dances, hugs, and moves from point a to point b.

Even though I would love to erase it from my life, I have found that it has become a way for me to relate to people. Sometimes when I tell people who I have epilepsy it starts a dialogue about what it is and how it affects me. It also stimulates conversations about other people’s disabilities and mental health issues. I think it helps people to see an aspect of myself that is ‘real’. It is a testament to my own struggles, and that I can empathize with their difficulties as well.

I’m still struggling with figuring out a happy medium of how much to talk about my epilepsy and seizures. I know my friends are concerned about my health, but talking about it too much can be depressing, especially when you feel like your health was getting ‘back on track’. I also fear that they think that I am making the conversations all about myself. I just try to be honest, and be upfront about my health when they ask. Friends extend themselves to support me when I need it, and although I am good at asking for help, I am still learning how to seek support when I need it.

Thank you to all of my friends who are helping me through this period. No kind gesture goes unnoticed and I am grateful for every single one of you.

Thanks for reading and I would love to read any comments or questions that you have xox.

Inspiring People Who Have Made an Impact: Rachel’s Story

There is something that has been lingering in my mind the past few days. I’m not sure why, but I keep coming back to one of my best friends, and how much of an inspiration she is to me.

This blog post is part of a new series entitled Inspiring People Who Have Made an Impact. Through these blog posts I will talk about various people who have made an impact in my life and how they truly inspire me to be a better person. I hope they inspire you too!

My friend Rachel (as described in Turning up the Volume on Body Image and Self-Esteem) is one of the most amazing people that I have ever met. We have been friends for about 5 years now, and it was amazing that we even became friends at all because she was in “advanced academics” while I was in the ‘regular curriculum’. None of our classes were together, and from an outside perspective you might not think that we would have any common interests or personality traits that would help keep a friendship going.

Maybe it has something to do with how well our personalities combine, or how talented, intelligent and humble she is. But without a doubt, she has always stayed by me, regardless of the situation.
My final year in high school could be described as a Fantastically Depressing Success. I was going through a lot of personal stuff, and while some friends suggested that I was needy and that I needed to see the school counsellor, my friend Rachel just stayed out of the drama and continued to be my friend. I felt alone, and like everyone had their place but me. Everyone else had their group of friends that they hung out with at lunch, while I just kinda flitted back and forth from group to group, doing my thing. Despite all of that, I graduated from high school with graduated honours with distinction, and received the Writing 12 Award along with the Spanish 12 award. It amazes me how I was able to excel, despite the fact that my mental and emotional states were in the toilet.

Anyways, back to Rachel: even though Rachel and I are unable to get together on a regular basis, we still hold the closeness of a tightly knit friendship. You know those friends that you only see a couple times a year but it’s like there was no time apart? It’s like that. She is so open, and I know I can tell her anything. She also has interesting things to say, such as how her work is going, how a new craft project is progressing, and how things are going with the guy that she is seeing.

One thing that I always admired about Rachel is how willing she is to try new things and have new experiences. As she has been living in Toronto for four months this summer, she has had to completely open up to new experiences and meet new people. As mentioned above, this is not a problem for her. Even though through our Skype conversations I could tell that she didn’t feel entirely grounded in her new job, she was making the best of it by going out to Swing Dancing Clubs and reaching out to the other people around her. She is an amazing person because what you see is what you get. I never feel like she is hiding anything from me, and I know that she feels free to be herself when we are together. Also, if you become her friend, she will be loyal to you and be there for you as much as possible. I think people can sense this about her, because she attracts amazing people into her life, and (from where I stand) it seems that people don’t just drop her as a friend. When telling a friend about her before I introduce them, I can’t help but say that she is one of the most amazing person that I have ever met, and it will take meeting her to understand.

I have been steadily placed in the same location for the last four to five years due to schooling, but when that next big change comes up, I am going to rip a page out of Rachel’s book and treat it with excitement and awe. I am going to see what the new situation has to offer, (whether it be a new job, or living in a new city) and soak up all the excitement with a fresh pair of eyes just like my friend Rachel has done so well. Even though I don’t get to see her that often, I still feel that pang of excitement when we get together after a long period of being apart. She knows not only me, but my heart, which is truly priceless when it comes to friendship.

Who inspires you in your life! I would love to hear in the comment section and stay tuned for our next inspiring person!! xox