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.
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.
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.
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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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Russell and Nina Westbrook are one of those low-key, unproblematic couples we don’t talk about enough. They met in college and got married in 2015. They also have a beautiful family with three kids. While Russell is an NBA star, Nina is a licensed family and marriage therapist and a mental health advocate.
She recently launched the podcast The Relationship Chronicles with Nina Westbrook, and in the latest episode, she had none other than her husband on as a guest. The college sweethearts dived into important topics from marriage to children and how they navigate it all.
One of the topics they touched on was dealing with resentment in your relationship. The former MVP highlighted the sacrifices his wife has had to make in order for him to pursue a career in the NBA, and that’s why it’s also important for him to support his wife whenever he can.
“For me is respecting and understanding what your partner do and the time it takes,” Russell said. “Not kind of downplaying what they do, understanding the time and energy and effort they're doing to make sure whether it’s their job or making sure home is taken care of, and understanding that, I think that is the challenge of not being resentful.”
Nina agreed and also shared her thoughts on resentment. According to her, one of the best things couples should do is have their own identity and passions outside of the relationship in an effort to be fulfilled.
“I also think that when you’re in a relationship, that’s why it’s so important that each individual kinda pursue their own passions and follow their own dreams as I feel like it only becomes or leads to resentment when one person is not feeling fulfilled in what they're doing in their lives,” she explained.
“And so, they will start to look at the other partner who’s happy or excelling or promoting or moving along in their journey, then they’re left feeling stuck like they sacrificed themselves, their happiness, their career, their future and have not pursued it in the name of the relationship or their partner. So, it’s so much easier to avoid those feelings of resentment when you’re each equally pursuing your passions.”
The couple has many passions that they work on together and separately. Outside of basketball and his family, Russell has become known for his eclectic style and started the fashion brand Honor The Gift. Nina has her podcast, and she also started the mental health website Bene. Together, they run the Why Not? Foundation, which works with kids in underserved communities.
“I’m a firm believer that one person can’t be everything to you, so you have to sort of seek out those different friendships or groups or hobbies or activities that help to fulfill you,” Nina concluded.
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Feature image by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Religion of Sports