Walking Through The Mud

I’ve been having a hard time finding the motivation to write lately. The thoughts in my head and the words on the page all seem the same as they have been for the past few months. The past few years.

My son isn’t better. He’s still seizing. He’s still limited. He’s still heavily medicated. We’re still dealing with his school and trying to get him an education.

Everything is harder than it should be.

It feels like I’m walking through mud. Every step takes extra effort. Every step requires my full attention. I need to push my hands through the mud to search for my leg that is trapped in the muck. When I find it, I have to wrap my hands around it and pull it towards the surface. The mud resists, not wanting to let go. Even as my leg reaches the surface, the weight of the mud clinging to my legs and shoes threaten to pull it back down. It leaves me unbalanced. Even though it is only inches in front of where I started, I’m forced to push my foot back through the mud to the ground underneath. Even though I know it means that I will have to struggle for my next step, it’s the only way to find temporary stability. Otherwise, I risk falling over and being fully consumed.

The struggle reveals itself everywhere.

Parenting is harder.

There are fewer right answers. There is more uncertainty. There is more acceptance of things that no parent of a 9-year old should have to accept.

Marriage is harder.

We’re in the same stressful, relentless situation watching our son struggle and seizure, but we have different perspectives and have different needs. We’re both trying to be there for our son but we go at different paces and we aren’t always within reach of one another.

Work is harder.

It’s hard to go to work after endless sleepless nights. It’s hard to concentrate on the work when the mind wants to worry about an upcoming surgery or the handful of seizures he had that morning.

Friendship is harder because we’re so focused on the things we can’t afford to ignore that we ignore the relationships we need. Finances are harder because of the mounting costs of medical care, nanny care and tutoring. Diet and exercise are harder because we’re always so tired and pressed for time and it’s just easier to order something from the couch.

But like many families in our situation, we continue to move forward. We keep taking labored steps towards a destination that we can’t see. Because where we are isn’t where we want to be. Because we hope we are heading in the right direction. Because there is no other choice.

The mud is unforgiving, but in those moments of brief stability in between each step, I sometimes catch a glimpse of something wonderful. The struggle has given us gifts. I am a better parent to my son because I can’t take a moment for granted. I am a better partner and friend to my wife because we know what it is like to truly need and love another. And I have brought my whole self in to work and been surrounded by people who accept and care about me. We found understanding friends. And we have learned the value of trying to live the best life we can with what we have.

It’s not always easy to see these gifts when I’m stuck in the mud. It’s difficult to be motivated when everything feels harder than it should be. But I’m doing my best to keep moving. I’m doing my best to learn and to grow and to be a good father, and husband, and friend. Because, really, there is no other choice.

“The lotus flower blooms most beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud.” ~Buddhist Proverb

The Internet Is Not A Doctor

My son’s epilepsy diagnosis came with words that I didn’t know. Status epilepticusRefractory. Subclinical. I had a lot of questions about these words and what they meant for my son, so I turned to the same place I always turn when I have complicated medical questions.

The Internet.

Sure, our doctor would also have been a good source since, usually, she is the one using the foreign words. But being in the doctor’s office after a long exam and a long day is overwhelming, and being a web-savvy-engineer-type, the Internet is my happy place. Besides, nothing bad every happens on the Internet.

Turns out, that’s not true.

I’m one of those people who search for symptoms on WebMD, the place where a stuffy noise quickly escalates from common cold to incurable cancer.

epilepsy dad webmd research

Searching for the words surrounding my son’s diagnosis quickly leads, after a few clicks, to truly terrible conditions, none of which could my son possible have. But the seed of despair gets planted and, after a few more clicks, somehow his epilepsy also gave me an incurable disease. I don’t (as far as I know) have a disease, but I do have cyberchondria (one of my new, favorite words).

Hello, Internet, my old friend. I’ve come to search WebMD again.
~ Simon and Garfunkel (98% sure)

Once I was able to tear myself away from WebMD, I pulled up Google. I had more questions that weren’t related to solving the riddle about why my son had epilepsy but, instead, were about what his life would be like with epilepsy. Since he was a baby, he wanted to be a hockey player. I searched for “hockey players with epilepsy”.

google hockey epilepsy

The results that came back were not promising. Wait, I thought, can he even play hockey with epilepsy? Another Google search.

google hockey epilepsy

More unsatisfying answers just led to more questions. Soon I found myself sucked down another rabbit hole, this one less about clarifying a diagnosis and more about what type of possible future my son would have, even before we knew enough to even guess at what his future would be like. Looking at my browser history, it revealed a pattern of creating limitations in my head about what my son could ever hope to accomplish. Worse, I was arming myself with information that I could use to project those same limitations on to him, which is the opposite of what my search was meant to achieve.

The Internet is an amazing tool. It has the power to connect people, to share information, and maybe one day to help find a cure for epilepsy. It can inform patients and parents afflicted with a condition and provide a common vocabulary for the exchange of ideas. But it can just as easily overwhelm and do more harm than good, particularly with a new diagnosis and especially when the cause of the condition is still unknown.

My excursion to the dark side of the Internet left me with these two thoughts that I try to remember when I find myself lost on the information superhighway.

The Internet is not a doctor.

In the future, everything is possible.