As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.
This is D'Shonda Brown's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
"Oh, my God. What did he tell me to do?"
Those were my thoughts when I witnessed my boyfriend's seizures for the first time.
My mind was racing at 100 mph.
My palms were sweating.
There was an intense urge to not panic, although everything in my body was telling me to.
It happened out of nowhere—no warning signs, no memos, no bulletins. I had never had an epilpetic friend, family member, or coworker, so no amount of Grey's Anatomy binge-watching could have ever prepared me for this.
Do not panic, D'Shonda. Do not panic.
We were at my cousin's house the night before drinking, playing games, watching TV and just relaxing. It was our first month-aversary together. It got super late at night so rather than going back home to Jersey, we just crashed at my cousin's house in Jamaica [Queens]. I woke up with a headache because I had overdone it the previous night, and so did my boyfriend Gary. Gary had gotten out of bed to take a shower and the moment he was about to turn around towards the door, he started convulsing. I immediately screamed, and watched him collapse to the floor.
Everything was in slow motion.
Thankfully, my cousin's dog's bed was on the floor to break Gary's fall and prevent him from hitting his head. I screamed for my cousin and turned Gary onto his side. I remember him saying this on our first date:
“Turn me to my side to lower the risk of me biting my tongue or choking."
I was crying, hysterical. Trying to call his mom multiple times and struggling to remember everything he told me about seizure first-aid.
It was probably one of the scariest moments of my life.
On our first date, Gary confided in me about his epilepsy and it gaged my curiosity. I wanted to learn more and he basically gave me the rundown of what to do, if ever he were to have a seizure in front of me. I didn't know that he would actually have one nearly two months later.
We met through a chance encounter at a previous job that ironically, I had just quit, but he was just hired for. I saw this gorgeous man walk in in a blue suit and I could not keep my eyes off of him.
After officially leaving the company, I came back to the office to visit some old colleagues and invited him to join us. After much hesitation and resistance, he couldn't say no to me and I wasn't going to leave that office without him. And that's how we started dating.
I learned during this time what his triggers were:
- Not taking his meds in a timely fashion,
- Mixing up his medication,
- Missing his medication,
- And the lack of adequate sleep and high stress levels.
Gary's seizures began to flare up again, which made me believe that our relationship was what was causing him intense amounts of stress, which can also induce seizures. He takes 8 pills a day, three in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night. I don't mean to hover, but I can't help but always bring myself to ask him, "Did you take your pills?" because I've seen what happens if he forgets.
We're a pretty chill couple—both pretty active in our professional and personal lives. He works in finance and I work in communications, so between meetings, client calls, late nights on top of family and friends, we usually have stacked weeks. When we get together, we keep it simple - a bottle of wine or a case of beer, a good movie or binge-watching a TV show that I put him onto and ends up loving or taking naps together.
The funny thing about all of this is that if you would have caught me three years ago and told me that I would be in a long-term relationship and building a future with someone, I would have laughed in your face. My relationship has taught me the power of vulnerability and letting someone else in. I was afraid for such a long time to let someone into my life because I thought I had too much baggage for someone else to love me.
When in reality, we all have baggage.
Courtesy of D'Shonda Brown
Gary never questioned me, and I never questioned my love for him. Never, not once. His condition is genetic and neurological—it's something he can't control. Even if he could, who am I to judge someone for having seizures. What kind of person would I be if I did that?
And besides, the discomfort comes in places where you wouldn't expect. For example, oftentimes when you're in a relationship with someone that has a condition, you ultimately suffer from a mental illness yourself, and you tend to lose who you are with being so wrapped up in that other person's well-being. You forget to check on yourself. Dating someone with epilepsy revealed to me that I tend to worry about everyone else, but not take the time to assess my own feelings, or ask myself how I'm doing. Sometimes, I need to just take a day or two to just unwind, get my life together, recharge and then get back to it. That can mean a nap, or it can mean deactivating my social media for a week. Whatever I feel is appropriate.
Soon into our relationship, I took on a whole beast of learning the importance of self-care. My biggest lessons lived here.
No job, no partner, no amount of money and no relationships with friends or family are ever worth your sanity. My boyfriend is the physical manifestation of that for me and has often been a wake up call to the way that I treat myself. When you get stressed out, you probably get frustrated, cry a bit, go to sleep and veg out for a bit. However, when he gets stressed out, there's a chance that he may have a seizure.
So there's levels.
As for me, I'm just a Spelman grad working as a freelance writer, trying to uphold the task of being the best woman I can be in this journey of life.
And with all the obstacles I've had thrown my way, adding my boyfriend in the mix is nothing I can't handle.
I was built to love him through it all.
To keep up with D'Shonda's journey, follow her on Instagram @signedshonda.
If you have a story you'd like to share but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "As Told To" for your story to be featured.
Featured image courtesy of D'Shonda Brown