Reality Always Wins

It’s easy to let denial take the lead. If we make it a day or a week without any seizures, it’s easy to let what is happening to my son fall to the back of my mind. There are moments when I let myself believe that we made it through it, that we figured it out and that the seizures are gone. Even if it’s just for a moment or an hour or a morning, I welcome the ignorant bliss that denial carries with it and pretend that this is not happening to my son.

The problem with denial, though, is that it doesn’t last forever.

epilepsy dad reality medicine prescription

Even without seizures, there are daily reminders that destroy the illusion. There are the pills that fill his tiny hands each morning and night that try to keep the seizures at bay. There is the diet that wreaks havoc on his body and takes away his freedom to enjoy the terribly delicious food that other kids take for granted. There are the behavior and attention issues that come with his condition and the side effects of his medication. There are the days when his balance is off, and when he falls a lot…a glance at his constantly bruised shins serve as his battle scars.

epilepsy dad bruised knees reality

It’s hard to be in denial when you’re confronted with the effects of epilepsy and seizures every day. Ignoring these effects or simply wishing that things were different isn’t enough to keep reality from bleeding in to the fantasy. No matter how hard I try to keep it afloat, this denial bubble always bursts and sends me crashing back to earth. My shins are bruised, too, from bending over to pick him up off the ground. My heart is bruised from watching this happen to my sweet, innocent, and special boy.

The problem with denial is that it doesn’t last forever.

Reality always wins.

Epilepsy, The Future, And The Battle Between The Heart And The Mind

If you ask my son what he wants to be when he grows up, he always leads with “a hockey player”. Sometimes he’ll add another sport, or perhaps a doctor, but everything starts with and revolves around first being a hockey player.

epilepsy dad future heart mind dreams

According to his plan, he is going to play in the NHL and whichever team he plays for, that’s where I will live, and I will follow him around as he jumps between all of his favorite teams. “That’s a great plan,” I tell him.

Inside, my heart and my brain drop the gloves.

My heart wants him to follow his dream. It wants him to watch a hockey game or to play hockey in the basement and know that hockey is what he will do with his life, and to live and reinforce that ambition every day. My heart wants him to hold on to that goal and have it drive him to be a better skater, a solid teammate, a focused student, and to know what it feels like to overcome an enormous challenge to achieve a dream.

My brain remembers what he was like last year when his ataxia and lack of balance made most physical things, including hockey, impossible. It contemplates the odds of playing a physical sport with seizures and epilepsy that is still not fully under control. My brain wants to err on the side of caution and to focus his attention on something more realistic.

Like many hockey fights, there is no winner…the two sides just tussle for a few minutes and then have a seat in the penalty box. Neither side wins in my fight, either. The skirmish only brings on more questions. Should I encourage him to continue to pursue his dream and risk devastation when I have to tell him he can’t join a team because of his epilepsy? Should I have him set more realistic goals now to avoid that heartache? How do you tear away the dream of a six-year-old boy?

I’ve decided that you don’t.

The future is too uncertain to predict the course of his life or the part that epilepsy will play in it. Yes, he might be burdened with seizures for the rest of his life. Maybe they will get worse. But he might also outgrow them. Someone may develop a better medicine, or they may find a cure, or a new device to control or eliminate his seizures.

The only thing that I can do is focus on today. Today, and every day until it is proven otherwise, I’m going to do everything I can to support his aspiration to play hockey. We have a skating coach, and work with pucks off the ice. We talk about teamwork, and strategy, and going on the road with him and the team. We watch hockey games and talk about what it will be like when he is playing as if it is an inevitability because the most assured way of him not reaching that goal is to discourage him from trying.