Confessions of an Epileptic: My Body Image Sucks

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I have struggled with my body image for a long time, but have always found it a difficult subject to broach. “I feel like my hips are fat.” isn’t the most glamourous way to start a conversation. For the record, I am self conscious of my thighs, especially my hips. Also from a women’s studies perspective, it is worrisome that talking about negative body image as it may create more negative body image amongst my friends. I never really had a safe way of talking about it with my friends, as it is hard to know who may feel triggered by certain comments. Additionally, I never thought that body image and chronic seizures could have any form of correlation. Through having severe seizures and the feeling of complete loss over my own body has made me feel negatively towards my body in general. Also going from completely active with regards to working out at least 6 times a week to only going for moderate walks every day (if I could muster it) was a complete life style change that I was not sure I was willing to accept. These added on challenges to an already feeling of insecurity towards my body has been a difficult path in these past couple of years, especially because I want to feel at peace with my own body and how I relate to it. 

   Sometime in late 2012 I was put on Topamax, which is an anti seizure medication. Topamax completely suppressed my appetite, which is a common side effect, although it does not occur in everyone who takes it. Dinner became the most painful meal of the day, as I had to sit at the table with my parents and literally shovel food into my mouth. Eating was no longer enjoyable and started to feel more like a chore than an enjoyable way of socializing with my friends and family. I felt full all the time and no longer had any cravings or desire for some of my favourite foods. I still ate food, but the pounds fell off as they pleased. No one said much, except for the scale screaming my weight up to me past my toes. I began to notice that my face was slimmer and my jaw line seemed to be less cushy. It wasn’t until I went to a program coordinator for the Social Work Program at my university did I realize how evident my change in weight was. Although I wasn’t there to discuss my weight, she had no issue in telling me her thoughts on my appearance. “Wow Sita! You’re so slim! I can’t believe it! You’re just so tiny! You look so great!” I ignored her comments and looked helplessly at my friend who had come to the meeting with me. I pushed past her comments to further discuss the academic matters I was there to see her for.

      After the meeting I just felt so confused. Was it good that I was “so thin?” Did everyone secretly think I was fat beforehand and now was just a convenient time to tell me that I was too skinny, yet looking great?My current ‘skinny’ weight also happened to be my stupid self internalized “goal weight”, but I here I was getting a slap across the wrists saying I was “too skinny!!” Due to my insecurity of my body image I should have been elated at losing so much weight, but I started to worry that I would continue to lose more weight. I didn’t have much more to lose! Although I did not have an eating disorder, I felt uncomfortable having lost so much weight. My old weight was healthy! I had more muscle on me and I exercised at least 6 times a week. At this weight I was so sick I couldn’t even go to the gym and my friends and family were constantly watching my back, braced for my next seizure.

    Okay let’s fast forward to 2013. Thank gawd I was taken off of the Topamax (which was a relief because it slowed my brain processes in addition to making me lose weight). It was great to have my brain processing at a sharper speed again but I had lost so much muscle due to my sedentary lifestyle. I was also fearful of having a seizure while exercising at the gym, and ultimately that fear came true when I fell off of a stationary bike. After that incident, I felt like I did not belong in the gym anymore. For a period of months I started to feel more and more like a blob, while constantly reminiscing over the days when I could run 5 km in 30 minutes, and when I took Burlesque classes with my friends. (Yes, that’s right! Burlesque!) This feeling of being ‘too soft’ and ‘not muscular enough’ trickled into 2014 until the beginning of May when I did a fitness class with a friend. It was a Barre class which was high intensity yet still close enough to the ground in case anything happened. Also the fact that I had a friend there helped a lot. Today my thighs are killing me but it was so worth it! I also bought a 10 class dance pass from Groupon which was valued at over 100 dollars but I paid only 19 dollars for it! I can’t help but say that it’s a helluva deal! I can’t wait to do some more Zumba, Burlesque, hip hop, and the other styles of dance that are offered. Dancing isn’t super close to the ground like the Barre class was, but I am too excited to back out now! Since I will be working out more, I bought a pair of cross trainers for the dance classes and other aerobics classes in general. I love them! Aren’t they cute?! 

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SO SO much shoe love!

I guess I’ve kinda come full circle: supposedly too skinny, to feeling like a blob, and now back on the dance/exercise bandwagon again. It’s amazing how seizures have affected my body image and how I view my body. Even though I was insecure about my body image, it has intensified during my period of illness. It is slowly recuperating, but it just goes to show how illness can affect how we view our own bodies and or our loss of control over them. In this case, epilepsy is highly relevant as epileptics literally have no control over their bodies when they are seizing, which is absolutely terrifying. It is also amazing how the intensity of a person’s seizures can limit them from every day physical activities that people who are not affected with some sort of illness may not think twice about. Remember to count your blessings, and if being fit for you means taking a short walk every day then pat yourself on the frigging back! You deserve it! Yay for being fit again! I can’t wait! Love you all! xox

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It Really Is The Little Things That Count

it-is-not-happy-people-who-are-thankful-it-is-thankful-people-who-are-happy-136314This afternoon I had a thought. It was a thought that many people have probably had before, but maybe never really dug too deeply into. This thought arose as I left a Starbucks with my green tea latte in hand, and I remembered when I had gone to the Starbucks in the library at my university a few months back. I was tired and worn out, but still determined to keep working away at an essay about women’s studies or some social work issue. As I joined the line up of other students who were getting their caffeine fix, I stood in auto pilot, just waiting for the next available barista. I ordered my usual: hot chocolate with whip, and spelled out my name so no one else could accidentally take my drink. When I got my cup I saw my name, along with a little smiley face. My heart warmed like a summer day and I couldn’t help but feel happy that someone took the time to draw a little smiley face on my cup. I believe that it was the smiley face got me through that day of essay writing even more than the hot chocolate.

So what the hell was the point of this story? I think it really is the little things in life that make a difference. It is so easy to be blind to it, and just see the overall big picture. Even when things feel like shit is hitting the fan, I try to look at my life and try to see at least a few great things that happened that day. It could be as simple as I didn’t miss my bus even though I was running late. Everyone knows how much it sucks to miss the bus! You’re standing there cursing at the bus stop, shaking your fist at the bus and how dare it be on time when you were running late! It’s usually raining and you have to text your friend to say you’ll be running late. In that moment, it is so easy to see all the crap that’s going on, and forget about the tiny things that make life amazing.

It is also so common to seek out this idea of happiness. It seems as though happiness is a beacon of light, that one day we will find. Once we get our dream job, find the perfect partner, and finally pay off all our debts we will be happy. Happiness seems to be this concept that seems to be hard to pin down. It really isn’t that hard though! Just look at the little things in life and you will realize that you have so much more going for you than you think. In my case, I know I have a chronic condition and I will most likely be on medication for the rest of my life. That is most likely my reality. Yet, there are things to be thankful for, despite my situation. I have parents who are working so hard to help me become more healthy, as well as friends who are caring and concerned. They are also just awesome people in general! I feel so blessed to have those positive connections, as so many people in the world live in isolation with no friends or family to support them. In no way am I saying that it’s easy to be accepting of chronic conditions (or any medical condition, for that matter). Acceptance of a medical condition can be difficult, and if you dwell deep enough into it, you may feel angry or that you were robbed of a ‘normal’ life. Recently I have found that surrendering to the uncertainty of my condition has been deeply liberating. I don’t mean I’m throwing my hands in the air and giving up. I just mean that I am working on living day to day, and seeing the positive things that do happen on a daily basis. For the record, I have not fully accepted my condition; some days I feel angry because I have to wait to start my career that I have worked so hard for. I am still working hard though! I reminded of this by my boyfriend and parents, which is highly validating. There is nothing better than feeling like you are doing something that can improve your situation.

So ultimately, what’s my take away message? See the teeny tiny triumphs in your day. Recognize small things that make you happy, whether having the time to watch your favourite tv show, or that you were able to talk with your best friend who you haven’t seen in ages. The little things in life are there- you just have to look for them.

Love you all! XOX

I’ve Tapped into My Power- Have You?

awesome girl in carSeveral years ago, I saw a counsellor during the summer after my first year of university. We talked about my body insecurities, the stress of university, and the parts of me that I was still trying to figure out. As the summer came to an end and our sessions came to a close, we had our very last session. We reviewed what we had done, and I told him in pure truth that our sessions had been helpful. Then at the end of the session, my counsellor turned to me and said, “Sita, I wish you could just tap into your power”. I stared at him blankly, and ever since then I have wondered what he meant by “tapping into my power”. What a weird thing to say after a summer of counselling sessions.

Fast-forward to five years later: Today I went to the bank to open a savings account for when I graduate university this coming spring. Realistically speaking, I probably won’t find a job right away, so I want some money tucked away for my future. After the appointment at the bank I went to a coffee shop for a cheap latte and to re-read my favourite book for the umpteenth time. While flipping through the pages of my decrepit paperback, it dawned on me: I was making the steps for an independent future, and I was being the driver of my own life.I was connecting to my own power!!! I wasn’t letting anyone else take the wheel of my life, as I know exactly what I want and I have figured out a plan to get there. Since I have grown attached to the city and people where my university is, I don’t plan to move back home with my parents. If I wasn’t the driver of my own life, I would just move home without trying to devise a plan to stay. I know where I feel my richest and happiest, so I am letting my heart speak to me and tell me what it needs. Finally! This is what it means to tap into your own power. Acknowledging your strengths, as well as recognizing that you are a confident and competent individual.

I can’t believe it has taken almost five years, but I finally understand what that counsellor said, so many years ago. I recognize that my success is not something that comes to only other people. It can and will come to me too! I’ve also realized that the smallest words can have the biggest impact, and as a future Social Worker, this gives me hope that I can inspire and empower future clients for the better. If I could, I would tell this social worker that he forever changed how I view my own capacity in my life, and that I can achieve amazing things.

Now it’s your turn. What words have inspired and encouraged you? Who has encouraged you to find your strengths? I wanna hear! Lots of love! xox

10 Random Facts about Me

i-love-you-art-black-and-white-china-teacup-Favim.com-487593_largeI can’t believe that I haven’t posted this earlier. I mean, it’s a great way of learning new and weird things about the brains behind this blog. Anywho, here goes!

1. I Have Wanted to be a Social Worker since Age Ten
When I was a kid, my parents had a subscription to Time Magazine. I happened to get my hands on one of the issues, and the featured story was about a young boy who had Autism. The article absolutely fascinated me, as I had never considered that other people might see the world in a different way, and even have difficulty communicating with those in their life. I knew from that point on I wanted to hear about the stories in people’s lives, and have the skills to be able to help them with their issues. I never had any doubts about the direction I wanted to take in my life, so I volunteered in my community and worked with school aged children. I continued my dream by mentoring a young girl with a developmental disabilities, which taught me a lot about helping others. I am finally about to start my last semester of my undergraduate degree in the Bachelor of Social Work program, and I am so excited to actually get out into the field and start working!

2. I Love Plaid and Polka Dots
For some weird reason I am obsessed with plaid and polka dots. I have an amazing polka dot jacket that I am completely in love with. I also have two plaid shirts that look amazing with black jeans. One thing to note about my love for plaid and polka dots: I never, EVER wear them together. 😉
 
3. I Don’t Drink Coffee
Unless you have been following my blog for a while, you’d know that I’m not an avid coffee drinker. The only time that I drink coffee is when I go to Starbucks or some other overly-priced coffee joint and I order some sort of pompous drink like a gingerbread latte. Otherwise, I usually make myself tea, Earl Grey Tea being my fave along with Jasmine Green Tea. I am trying to drink less tea, but it is just so addictive!

4. I Have Wayyy Too Many Lululemon Pants
Okay I have a confession. I have a slight obsession with lululemon pants. If you don’t know what lululemon pants are, they are the most amazingly comfortable workout/yoga pants in the entire world. I would generally choose to wear lulus over a pair of jeans, and thankfully I’m still a student so I can get away with looking casual on a regular basis. YAY!

5. Hugs Are The Best
What else can I say? I have a quota of hugs to be filled every day. Minimum: 3. Maximum: There’s no maximum. DUH!

6. I Re-Watch Shows and Movies ALL the time
You know how some people watch a tv series and then just move on to the next one? That seems to be the ‘normal’ thing to do, but I love re-watching tv series and movies. I find that I usually see something different the second time round watching it. I have watched season 1 of Orange is The New Black twice, Happy Endings, and parts of United States of Tara twice. I’ve also re-watched each episode of Four Weddings Canada at least twice. What can I say? I have no problems appreciating good TV.

7. I Love Black and White Photos
For some reason I feel that black and white photos reveal more about a person than colour photos do. A black and white photo shows a persons character, while a colour photo shows the person plus their surroundings. I also just love that old fashioned feel of black and white.
 
8. I Love to Dance
When I was a kid, I used to be really shy and was too self-conscious to take a dance class. Now that I’m older, I’ve learned not to care what others think. It’s one of my favourite ways to work-out, and I love that I get to listen to some of my favourite music while working up an awesome sweat. If I could choose, I would have to say that Zumba is my favourite type of dance. I’m not the greatest at couples dancing, so Zumba is perfect as I don’t have to depend on a partner or worry about messing up the steps and stepping on someone else’s feet. I have also taken a Burlesque class which was amazing, and I’m hoping to take a Pole Dancing Class once my seizures are really well controlled.

9. I Love Bad Jokes and Terrible Puns
I am kinda known for my bad puns, and most people groan at how awful they are. I, on the other hand love bad puns and stupid jokes. It’s just fun to laugh and be a dork. Why would you not want to laugh?It just makes life more fun!

10. I Always Save Room For Dessert
I love going out for dinner. There’s someone making food for me, and I can just relax with my friends/boyfriend while I ask the waiter for more water and anticipate the arrival of my meal. I’m not going to lie though, while I’m deciding on my meal, I always scope out the dessert menu to see if there is an amazing chocolate cake or brownie sundae on it. Sometimes a girl’s just gotta save room for some sweets. 😉

There ya go! Hope you enjoyed the Random Facts about me! Your turn! What are ten random facts about you? Love you lots! xox

Don't go bacon my heart

2013: My Year of Discovery

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Hey Friends. So I sat back and thought about what I learned from 2013. I ended up coming up with a helluva lot.

2013 was my year of discovery. I continued to carve my path of self-acceptance and made some medical breakthroughs that have forever changed my life. This year I have learned to take each day one day at a time. Each day is precious, and loses its value when you begin to dwell on past mistakes or worry about the potential challenges of the future. It is easier said than done, but I have learned that never giving up on yourself can lead to magnificent things. Even though the road you carve might be bumpy and painful, you are still going faster than those who just sit there and never even try. Your path you carve will not be in the exact direction of your friends and family, but close friends and family members have taught me that it is okay to go in my own direction. Everyone has their own journey, but it is important to remember that every single person that you come into contact with has their own struggles. Nobody has the perfect life or situation, even though it may seem that way. Some struggles are obvious to the whole world, and some struggles are invisible to the outside world. Sometimes it feels like the bumpy road on your path seems like it will never end, and I have learned that I have control over how it affects me.

 

I have learned from wise souls that I can grieve the life circumstances, while still holding my head high and working towards my goals. I started to teach myself that I am still amazing, despite ongoing health problems. I have started to understand the fact that a person can be more than their diagnosis, and that I can make plans for the future, despite the uncertainty of my medical problems. I am living for me, and not for a diagnosis. Issues will arise, but I can’t let them take over my entire life. I will have bad days, but I remind myself that it is one day out of my entire life. At the beginning of 2013 I just knew it was going to be a good year. I don’t know how, but I felt it in my bones. I was right though. I knew that some changes were going to happen, and my mom’s sighting of a little owl at a bird sanctuary confirmed it. (If you don’t know this already, I am a superstitious and symbolic kind of person. I also love Owls).
I continued to look for the signs, and they kept coming. I was able to go back to school, and even though it was far from easy, I made it there. After these past few months, I have really began to understand what it means to be grateful, and I have a deep gratitude for my friends and family, who have never once complained about helping me or being a support. In addition to self-acceptance, gratitude is another value that I have really begun to understand. Even though this path has been a challenge, I am grateful because it has taught me what it means to have gratitude. This has taught me to enjoy life even more, even on the days where I was down and out.

So thank you, 2013. This past year has been amazing and I wouldn’t change a single thing. I was right about it being amazing, and I know 2014 will be even more fabulous. Love you all and I’m wishing each and every one of you a happy new year! xox

 

Long Overdue Update & Tips On Keeping Your Chin Up!

DSC_0247Update! Holy Crud. I have been away for so long! What happened to the time? Well, now that I think about it, I know what happened to it. This past November I spent a couple weeks in a Neurological Hospital doing extensive testing to find out where in my brain the seizures are coming from. I did so many advanced tests, some of which I had never done before. Although the stay was long, and at times boring, I kept myself occupied by watching shows on Netflix. My new personal faves, by the way are United States of Tara and Raising Hope. Thankfully the hospital had wifi, so I was able to watch them from the comfort of my hospital bed. But I digress. The stay wasn’t all fun. I was monitorized 24/7, and had many seizures. I was hooked up with EEG wires that were attached to my head, and then there was a wire that I connected with a plug in my bed so the EEG techs could see my brainwave activity at all times. Whenever I felt a seizure coming on, I pushed a button that activated a camera so the doctors could see what my seizures were actually like. The seizures weren’t fun, (obviously) but I was so glad that I had so many because it gave the doctors (as well as the rest of the medical team) a good picture of what my epilepsy was like.

Ultimately, the doctors were able to confirm that all of my seizures are epileptic (as there was prior thought that some of them might have been emotionally based), and they were also able to tell me where in my brain the seizures were coming from. This was a huge step for me! I finally felt like I was getting some answers. The doctors also told me that they wanted to do more extensive testing, which would maybe happen sometime next year. In addition to getting this news, I got a change in my medication regime, which so far has been helping! I was exhausted by the time I was finally discharged, but also so happy to be going home. My amazing boyfriend came to see me on my discharge date, and we travelled home together which was comforting, as I still had so much information to process. It was also just nice to have his support, as I had received really amazing news.

That being said, I missed 2 weeks of school, so I was super excited to be back at home and start up my regular University life. This past week has been crazy because I have working really hard to make up my placement hours. (In case you didn’t know, I’m studying Social Work and as part of our program we have to do a fulltime placement in a social work organization for one semester). I love it though, and I feel like I have been learning so much, which is awesome.

Anyways, today I was talking with a friend who’s also in the Social Work program, and we were sharing our experiences with living with a chronic medical condition. Although she doesn’t have epilepsy, we were still able to relate to the challenges of living with our different conditions. One thing that came up in our conversation was how  to maintain a positive attitude, despite feeling ill on a regular basis.
My friend said, “Sita you’re always so positive,  how do you do it?!”  I thought about it for a bit, and then realized that more people might want to know how I keep my chin up, even when shit hits the fan.

Here’s my list of how I keep my chin up:

Use positive self-talk. I have learned to stay positive by using a lot of self-talk. You know that little voice in your head that talks to you? That’s what I mean. Sometimes when days are rough, I try to tell myself that it’s only one day out of my entire life. That helps to put it in perspective because I know that the anxiety, sadness, anger and frustration won’t last forever. It’s my reality in the current moment, but life will change.

Talk to someone else. Whether it’s my mom, boyfriend, friend, or simply sharing my stories on here, it helps me to unload. My feelings are usually validated by the other person, and it feels so much better to have someone say, “It’s okay to be tired; it’s okay to be overwhelmed. Take it easy on yourself and go relax.” Sometimes that validation is all I need to calm down.

Listen to funny podcasts or watch Reality TV. They may not ‘fix’ my situation, but they help to improve my mood and take my mind off of what’s upsetting me.

Look at past Successes. Sometimes when I feel like my future is bleak, I think about how far I’ve come and how much I’ve been able to accomplish. I’ll think: Yay! I have great Social Work experience! I’m working so hard in university and I’m still going despite the challenges.  When I’m going through a stressful period, I’ll remind myself: You’ve done it before so you can do it again. Having my own little mantra helps, and it reminds me that I AM capable of whatever I set my mind to.

Treat Myself. I don’t do this on a super regular basis, but sometimes I’ll get myself a pompous coffee drink, or a little brownie, because they’re things that I enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with a little treat every now and then.

It could be worse. I know it sounds cliché, but in reality the situation could be worse than it is. For example: So, I had a seizure! But hey, at least I wasn’t alone. Or, I had a seizure in public, but at least some amazing kind-hearted people were nearby to help me out.

Talk to a Counsellor. I have talked with a couple counsellors, and by just having someone listen non-judgementally can really help. Counsellors can be great at giving you new ways to cope, and to help you look at the bigger picture.

So I’m obviously not perfect, and not all of these help ALL the time, but they’re worth a shot! I’d love to hear what YOU do to help yourself going in tough situations. Love you all! xox

Learning to Reduce My Stress Through Nature

Nature and CHildren

I love fall. The leaves are changing to brilliant colours of orange, green and red, and some of the trees look like they are on fire. I can’t help but be absorbed by the beauty of nature as I sit by the river to help de-stress myself from all my worries. There is something so amazing about the greens of nature, the grass, the trees, the fallen leaves, and the rushing water that just naturally lulls my mind into a natural state that my mind was supposed to be in. My mom told me that I am supposed to spend half an hour in nature every day. As a kid, that was easy, as I lived in an abundance of nature. I stepped out of my front door and I was surrounded by it every where I looked. I had less worries and gym class was outside. But now, as a university student, time is spent in front of this dreaded laptop, typing away, arguing away about some sort of thesis that I don’t actually give a crap about.

But since stress is so prevalent in everyone’s lives, and since stress actually has physically effects on my body, I need to find natural ways to calm my body down and figure out ways to tell my brain that everything is going to be alright. So, this past Tuesday after all my work I went and sat down on the grass and laid my jacket down like a make shift form of blanket. I set my backpack down that weighed like a small toddler, and then I finally sat down on my jacket and stared out at the water. The rushing sound of the water calmed every thought in my mind. Anything that was happening up there just completely shut up.

At one point I became completely immersed with how the waves were formed. It was fascinating. The colour of the water was beautiful too…I couldn’t help but notice it’s clarity. I looked around and notice that a bunch of my peers had the same idea as me. There was a guy close by to me laying on the grass, his head propped up on his backpack, just staring into the water. It was some form of meditation. I guess it was a way of clearing my head after all the garbage that came into my head throughout the day. After awhile I got chilly and so I had to put on my jacket and I decided to head home. Something about my nature experience my me feel refreshed. I felt almost relaxed and energized at the same time. I was more aware of my surroundings and wasn’t just walking around on autopilot, just bumping into people here and there. (Which, I might add, I am notorious for).

Maybe a way of coping with stress is going back to our roots-literally!! Be kind to yourself and give yourself time to unwind. If you are always out putting energy, how are you going to have time for yourself? That my friend, is what in part causes stress. I challenge you to notice the tiniest things in nature: a tiny leaf falling from a tree, a falling rain drop, a flying bird. This is a way of practising Mindfulness which will put you in the here and now, which will help reduce your stress. We can all benefit from a stress reduced life! 

beautiful river

A Blog about Living a Whole Life With Epilepsy