When I think about the magnitude of the population on our planet, I often find it very difficult to get my head around. Each of us takes and gives something from and to the people we interact with no matter how brief a period of time it may be. This can also be said for people unknown to us personally. Their inspiration provides a connection which somehow enables us to create a bond with their entity. What enhances inspiration are people who have achieved great things whilst battling debilitating conditions. Those that are in the public eye have a great opportunity to raise awareness in such situations. They also show others who can relate to their battles that success is possible.
I write this just having learned of the death of one of Britain’s well-loved comedians Rik Mayall. Known for his acting, writing and producing, my own personal memory of him was watching ‘Bottom’ which was a love it or hate it type comedy, needless to say I loved it! Sleepovers were never the same without watching ‘Drop Dead Fred’, leaving most children pining for an adult imaginary friend like Mayall’s character who had a childish sense of humor whilst simultaneously expressing an endearing and unique form of affection.
As I reflect on his many accomplishments, it is to be noted that many weren’t without hardship. In 1998 he had a serious quad bike accident which saw him in a coma for five days; however, though alive there were repercussions. He had a number of seizures not long after the head trauma and was subsequently diagnosed with epilepsy. I looked through his filmography at the Interweb Movie Database which is incredibly lengthy both before and after his accident!
Although we all have our bad days which are important to acknowledge as well as to embrace, it is legends like Rik Mayall who are an inspiration in overcoming the challenges. He showed that despite having epilepsy life could still be lived and he displayed a ‘won’t be beaten’ attitude. He and many others in the limelight offer hope to people when they demonstrate that they’re defeating the condition without ‘it’ controlling them.
In that vein, another wonderful book I read in my late teens which changed my outlook on epilepsy was, ‘The Journey’ by Brandon Bays. Diagnosed with terminal cancer and a tumor the size of a basketball, she defied her doctors and her diagnosis through the use of alternative therapies and holistic healing to eliminate the tumor completely. It is documented experiences of this kind that reach out to thousands of people every day. It connects a nerve that runs through everyone in this situation, touching others through their own painful encounters providing them with strength to fight and continue with daily activities. I was an example of one of these people when I read this book. It was a reinforcement of the positivity and balance my mum had instilled within me. In times of despondency, I referred to this which improved my outlook. It wasn’t about trying to quash the feelings of being disheartened, it was simply acknowledging them and being able to relate to the route of another person’s path, recognizing that it would bring peace to my life if I could use it for the good.
For some this may be difficult, but for those in a position of confidence and ability we stand united to bring comfort to those in a less assured position and stand up on their behalf.
There are so many people who have suffered with epilepsy whilst attaining great success. Danny Glover had epilepsy from the ages of fifteen to thirty five. He developed a method to prevent his seizures on stage through concentration. George Gershwin suffered from simple partial seizures due to a tumor which was the origin of his death in 1937. Lindsey Buckingham from the band Fleetwood Mac developed epilepsy in adulthood and finds it successfully controlled with AED’s whereas Neil Young prefers to keep his epilepsy under control by stability in his lifestyle choices.
Knowing the negative attitude towards epilepsy many years ago, there were many who kept their ‘secret’ hidden. Edward Lear was a fine example and it was his seizure diary that was discovered after his death indicating that he had the condition. Ida McKinley the First Lady of the United States from 1897 to 1901 developed epilepsy in adulthood and found it to be very intrusive and at dinner parties if she displayed seizure symptoms her husband would cover her face with a napkin.
So whether epilepsy is out in the open or whether it is hidden (which is what we strive to change!), the most important point to establish is not to let it have control over your life but for you to have control over your condition.