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Living A Healthier Lifestyle Changed My Epilepsy For The Better

Wellness

The beauty of life is that anything can happen at any moment, and you can count on the journey to help you gain perspective and strength to deal with it. When I was 21 years old, I was officially diagnosed with generalized epilepsy. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes abnormal activity in the brain, seizures, and loss of consciousness.


The seizures would start off slow. First, I'd feel very tired — both mentally and physically. Then, it would become hard for me to stay focused. I would be in and out, as if I was falling asleep and waking up. After those signs, I would have the seizure and lose consciousness. I also experienced memory loss and I can only remember the events before I had the seizure.

Sound intense? It is.

When I was diagnosed, I felt upset and even betrayed. I couldn't understand why this was happening to me or where these seizures were even coming from. I had no idea what epilepsy was at the time, all I knew was I was having seizure after seizure and it was stressful.

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My first seizure happened in my bedroom. I was talking with a friend and getting ready to head out. I noticed I felt drained and completely out of it, I felt zombie-like as I was getting ready. Next thing I knew, I was laying on the floor with my mom and friend hovering over me and blood scattered around me. I didn't know what happened or where the blood came from, but I was too exhausted to figure it out.

After being sent to the ER and hearing my friend tell the story, I realized what happened. I realized that on my way to the bathroom, I began shaking (convulsing), then fell and hit my head on the end of the bed. I busted the top of my nose in between my eyes and needed six stitches due to the impact.

After a while, it became more intense and the seizures were happening way too frequently. I would have seizures on the train, at work, and at home. At that point, I knew I needed to seek out some serious medical attention.

I spent a year and a half trying to figure it out and go back to "normal." I went to different hospitals and tried an array of medications. Nothing worked. I wanted to give up. It seemed like the doctors didn't know how to help me. I was losing hope in the medical system and had a hard time adjusting to what my new life would entail. I felt hopeless and remembered that my mentor at the time used to suffer from seizures. When I reached out to her, she recommended I make an appointment at NYU's neurology center and I did. I'm so grateful for her to this day because that's when I finally received the proper treatment and tests.

I was officially diagnosed at NYU, but I also had to face the hard reality that this was never going away.

My doctor informed me that the chance of epilepsy going away as an adult was unlikely, but it can be maintained. She also informed me that the type of epilepsy I have can be triggered by hormonal changes, stress, and alcohol. So, if I wanted to start a family, I would need some medical assistance to make sure I can carry seizure-free. I was literally shook! Just when I started to get a little hope, it was taken away. As for alcohol, I cut back, but not completely at first. I had some wine and a beer here and there and stuck to things with low alcohol.

Fast-forward to life after my diagnosis, I was doing fine, I hadn't had a seizure but I was taking medication every day. The medication was bittersweet. While I didn't have any seizures, I wasn't eating either. I could hardly finish a meal and I lost a significant amount of weight. I would only eat one meal a day or drink nutriments. Although eating became a struggle, anything was better than the seizures, so I continued taking my meds and smoked some weed to gain an appetite. Unfortunately, my seizures didn't stop and I stopped taking my meds and looked into holistic treatments (which I don't encourage you to do without consulting with your doctor). I realized I had to make these lifestyle changes to live seizure-free:

Avoid Anything That Can Cause Hormonal Changes

I stay away from all birth control methods, emergency contraceptives, and anything that can affect my menstrual cycle. I also take folic acid daily as a preventative measure to lower the effects of any issues I may have during pregnancy.

I Had To Accept Epilepsy

I never really accepted epilepsy in my life. For a long time, I disassociated myself with it so much, especially in the beginning. I didn't identify with being "disabled," not that there's anything wrong with that, I just didn't feel that way. I didn't want to face it, I didn't want to understand it, and I certainly didn't want to live it. I was also younger and less mature at the time, which made it even harder. I noticed when I accepted it, I paid more attention to triggers and effects, I was able to do more research and became open to exploring ways of living with it.

Keep Stress Low

Like anxiety, too much stress can be a trigger. To keep my stress low, I try my hardest to:

  • Meditate every day
  • Practice time-management
  • Exercise or do yoga
  • Attend therapy when I can

Very Low Caffeine Intake

Anxiety is also another trigger and too much caffeine makes me very anxious. I avoid anything that may cause any additional anxiety to keep it safe. I don't drink soda and stick to decaf coffee.

Eating Healthier


I struggled big time with eating and because of that, my body wasn't getting the proper nutrients it needed. I make sure I'm having the necessary amount of carbs, protein, and vegetables to maintain a healthy diet and weight.

Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol was the biggest trigger and probably the hardest one to let go of. I didn't drink much but it was still something I enjoyed. I also felt very peer-pressured to drink. Every time people would invite me to hang out, the first line would be "let's grab a drink" and it became harder to deal with.

I also felt uncomfortable sharing that I don't drink, each response was either "how you don't drink?" "you don't drink at all?" or "why you don't drink?" I don't blame the people around me for their curiosity, but it was hard to deal with on top of everything else. I was very uncomfortable with having epilepsy, especially when it came to talking about it.

Eventually, I just removed myself from certain settings like bars and when people asked why I didn't drink, I just let them know it's not for me.

Since making these lifestyle changes, I've been seizure-free for a year *insert twerk*. If you have epilepsy, please consult your neurologist before making any lifestyle changes.

Featured image by Getty Images.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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