It Looks Like Rain

When my son was at his worst, with relentless seizures and medicine flooding his body, he wasn’t our boy. He was uncontrollable and so, so angry. He would have fits for hours where he would try to hurt us and say terrible things. We’d spend those hours holding him, telling him that we love him, and waiting for the storm to pass.

There were long stretches of weeks where we would only see glimmers of the boy that he was, like a break in the clouds. But, inevitably, the clouds would expand, find each other, and hide the light behind them.

After too many months, the enormous storm that ravaged our lives started to break up. The seizures were more under control and we were able to reduce his medications to only a handful. We sought counseling for dealing with his condition and with each other. With a lot of hard work, we had more breaks in the clouds, more times where we saw the light from our boy shining on our lives.

We spent a lot of time basking in that light. We were starved for it after so much time without it. There were still rumbles in the distance, a seizure or an outburst, that made the hair on our necks stand up. Occasionally, a storm would pop up, but it was usually brief and not as violent. Still, we remained on guard.

Lately, the sound of thunder is getting louder.The hairs on my neck are standing up again. We’re seeing the tell-tale signs of a storm. There are times when he can’t control his body or regulate his emotions. There are days when he’s not there and when he’s not processing and not aware. There are more times when he gets angry and pushes everyone away. We’re adjusting his medicine again and these signs act as our barometer that tells us when the dose is too high.

I know we have to adjust his medicine to keep the seizures in check, but I also know what that brings with it. I can see the clouds forming. It looks like rain.

Keeping The Door Open

If you believed the headlines, you might have thought that CBD was a miracle cure for epilepsy. After so many drugs failed to control my son’s seizures or burdened him with terrible side effects, I felt like we needed that miracle. But, in the end, CBD, like many other medicines, did not help to control his seizures.

This post isn’t about CBD. It isn’t about Keppra. It isn’t about dilantin, or topamax, or vimpat, or triliptol, or tegratol. It isn’t about any of them in particular but, in a way, it is about all of them. It’s about feeling like a door closes a bit more every time we stop another medication. There is still light on the other side because I can see it splashing through the opening onto the floor. But the beam is getting narrower. And no matter how I angle my head, I can’t actually see the source of the light. I have to trust that it is there.

I’m frustrated that another thing that has worked for others didn’t work for us. I hoped it would live up to the hype and that we would be one of the success stories. I want desperately for something to work for my son. As hopeful as I am that he will wake up one day seizure-free, I’m not greedy. I’d settle for a magic pill that would allow us to stop his other medication and free him from their side effects. A pill that would let him stop the ketogenic diet so that he could have a slice of pizza or a piece of candy.

The side effects. The ataxia. The attention. The unbalance. The learning difficulties. The feeling of being different. The loss of control of his mind and body. The lack of freedom. An uncertain future. I want that magic pill to take away these things, too.

But there is no magic pill. As every parent of a child with epilepsy knows, some things work for some people but not for others. We happen to be in the unlucky camp of people for whom most things don’t work at all.

The door hasn’t closed, though. I won’t let it. I jammed my foot between the door and the frame so that it can’t close. I’ve got one hand gripped on to the handle and the other with a firm grasp on the door, and I’m pulling as hard as I can.

I won’t let that door close.

There is too much at stake. When there is light, there is hope, and there is so much to be hopeful for.

I won’t let that door close.

If I have to, I’ll rip it right off its hinges.

Leading With Love

Sometimes I look at my son and I see a tall blade of grass, swaying in the breeze. His legs appears rooted on the ground, but his body moves and bends as if it is being pushed by an invisible force. Or a corn stalk that is too thin to support the ear that is is carrying, bobbing in no particular direction but down. It seems an exhausting tasks to constantly keep from falling over.

When he moves, I see a puppet whose strings sometimes get twisted. The extension of his limbs or the gate of his stride are not quite right, and he sometimes tumbles to the ground. We do our best to pull him up and untangle his knotted strings, but each time he falls, my heart aches.

I wonder if, when he does fall, when he’s lying on the ground, if that’s when he feels the most stable. Like in my younger days after I had too much to drink. When I wanted to lay on the bed and prayed for the world to stop spinning around me. My prayers were rarely answered, but at least I felt like there was nowhere further to fall. I could close my eyes and feel the world spread out below me and holding me so that my body could release all its tension. Only, he shouldn’t be old enough to know what that feels like.

When he falls to the ground, I get angy and frustrated and sad. I look at him as that blade of grass, or stalk of corn, or sailor, or puppet. I can’t help myself but wonder if he wants to stay down for an extra second to let his body not worry about balance. But when I do, when he looks at me, I worry that he will see those expressions on my face directed at him. That he’ll think that I am angry and frustrated at him, or that he’ll see me sad and think that it is because of him. It’s a heavy burden to think that you are the cause of such powerful emotions in another person. Of course, he’s not. My anger, my frustration, and my sadness are not because of him, but because of what is happening to him. But what else could he think when I look at him the way I do? He shouldn’t be old enough to know what that feels like, either.

The cruelest thing that epilepsy continues to do is to try to make my son feel less than he is. Less than an amazing boy. Less than the best son. Less than a gift. Less than a miracle. It feels as if it is using me to do its dirty work, to project those feelings on my son through my worry and frustration. I catch myself doing it, but usually after the message has been delivered. It’s a terrible feeling to worry about what your child thinks you think when you look at him. Because regardless of what is visible on the surface, hidden underneath is always love.

I wish my instict was to lead with love. I want so much for that to be what he sees when I’m looking at him instead of the temporary emotions caused by a symptom of his condition. I don’t want him to have to remember that I also love him, I want that to be where he goes first. Because the pain and sadness at what his condition is doing to him is amplified by that love. Because loving him is where I am, first and always.