Eight years….eight amazing years completely free of seizures! Four years….four years of my mind not being slowed and my body not being burdened by medication. Prior to these years, for fifteen years, my life consisted of making sure I was properly medicated and being concerned when the next seizure would attack my brain. Now, please, do not misunderstand me. Epilepsy never hampered me from living a full life. Epilepsy did, however, leave me always wondering when the next seizure would come, and what adverse side effects it would create causing confusion within my body. So trust me, for the past eight years I have held onto the independence, happiness and freedom that came with living a life free of medical conditions! Since my epilepsy surgery in 2003, not one day has been taken for granted. I have remembered how lucky I am living a healthy life.
This past week I battled an unexpected but always feared storm. While lying in a hospital bed, I held tight to lessons that I have learned regarding the strength of a willow tree. Like the tree, I found a way to bend. I held on tight. Seizures again battered my brain and my body. Unexpectedly, I went from enjoying a beautiful spring day outside with my children to feeling a tingling sensation in my left fingers and toes. The next conscious thought I have was being rolled on a stretcher from the ambulance into the emergency room. I remain grateful for the strong roots I have cultivated in family and friends. For six days, I rested in a hospital bed connected to a video EEG hoping to catch some record of the electrical storm that has again taken hold of my mind. I was able to bend with this storm and still arrive on the other side with barely a bruise left on me.
So what are these lessons I recalled from a willow tree? A willow tree appears to hardly have a trunk. It is very small and narrow compared to its long, weepy branches. If you look at its unimposing trunk, it appears to be weak and even fragile. Yet, it is not a fragile living plant. It is one of the toughest. As the wind blows, as storms rage on in the world, the willow tree will bend and will remain strong. Rarely, can the fierce storm cause it to break. You see, there is a secret that the willow tree has learned over the centuries. The secret lies in its roots. As bendable as the willow tree may appear to be, deep beneath Earth the roots of the tree are strong, solid and secure. The tree can bend, but it will not break because of the invisible strength holding onto what we mistake as a frail trunk. Other trees that grow strong and solid contain a massive trunk. They look mighty, but in the storms they will snap. The roots will pull from the ground.
Even the sad-looking branches of a willow tree contain hope and purpose. The long, lazy branches allow room for the centered trunk to bend and space for the tree to stretch and move. We can all learn from this tree. The lessons of a simple trunk and strong roots to keep us grounded can show us all direction during the storm. My seizures have returned. My body will again need medication. I have a strong center though. The roots of my family and friends will hold me tight. My optimism will ensure I have space to keep hope and purpose. My optimism will allow me to overcome tremendous obstacles. The returning seizures will not hamper my life. Like the willow tree, I will continue to weather the storm.