This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay™, which will run from June 1 to June 30, 2018. Follow along!
Shonet rediscovers her creative side
There is something about sitting out on the patio with music playing in the background and painting that picture of Elsa from Frozen (ok disclaimer: I do have a 4 year old ☺). That was me a year ago when I decided to play an active role in bringing some balance to my life and start reconnecting with some of the things that I loved.
Growing up I played the piano, I sang, I danced, I painted and I read (a lot!). Fast forward to the 21st century, I worked, worked, worked, and worked. Much like many of us, I was caught up building a better life for myself without realizing I had become part of the rat race within the corporate world. I was doing the daily grind like it was second nature to me and before I knew it, my career had become my life.
When career becomes your whole life
I first started to realize this when I was on maternity leave in 2014. I had just given birth to my daughter and had taken the year off. Besides the typical tasks of looking after a new baby and dealing with the emotional and physical challenges of motherhood, I started feeling really bored of being home and longed to go back to work. I am a person who loves to be busy and needed something to do.
But for the first time in years, I couldn’t think of anything other than things related to my work. I always had interests but didn’t really pursue them actively as I worked. My career and work had become such a huge part of my being that I didn’t know how to live a life without it, which was really sad. So I decided to start reading again and began to enjoy incorporating it back into my day. I went to the library regularly and rented out books I had wanted to read for a while. Before I knew it, it was time to go back to work and I slid right back into the daily routine of work and family life. I did keep up with my reading though, which was a step in the right direction.
Back to square one
In 2017, after 2 years of being seizure free, I had a seizure relapse which then set off a chain of seizures over the next few months. I was on the highest dosage of medication I could possibly be on and so my only option seemed to be taking some time off work to relax my mind, rest, and make a lifestyle change.
My initial seizure journey began about 6 years ago with a nocturnal seizure, which then lead to complex partial seizures that I had on a regular basis. After several years of trying different medications, I finally managed to get them under control for 2 years. But this breakout seizure had now changed the game again. Given how career driven I was, I had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life and take time off. However, in hindsight, that advice from my doctor was one of the best things I ever did for myself. I put my health first and focused on how to work around this chronic illness that seemed to be a big part of my life.
During the first few weeks, I noticed my seizures instantly reduced however I started to get bored again. I started re-organizing areas of my home (p.s. organization is one of my passions and problems sometimes☺). While I did take the time to rest, relax and read, I picked one area of my home each day and started decluttering, donating and selling things I didn’t need. Working towards a minimalist lifestyle, I started to feel less stressed and more relaxed as days went by.
I was naturally organized as a person, so it wasn’t too hard, but I still had a lot of stuff I just didn’t need or use. It’s amazing all the things we collect over time! As I was doing this, I came upon some old art pieces like stained glass, painted pots, calligraphy sketches, etc. that I had done growing up. This ignited a bit of a fire in me to get back into my creative side and explore those areas of my mind. I started thinking of other things I could do around the house that were creative. I decided to make candles from scraps of old candles….my own mishmash candles as I called them! I put together flower arrangements from the dried hydrangeas I had saved after the summer. I did cool DIY alterations on some of my clothes. I spent more quality time with my daughter by actively playing, colouring and painting with her. I enjoyed the activities even more than she did sometimes, so I did them even when she wasn’t around! Hence, colouring Elsa on the patio.
As time went by, I started enjoying all of these little things I did and my seizures were close to none at this point. I really made a conscious effort to be present in everything I did and focus on each task one on one. I slowed down my life, planned my activities around my illness and reduced my stress as a result. In an attempt to maintain a healthy diet, I also tried to experiment with new and innovative recipes or make things my Mom made when she was around. I started journaling for the first time ever to free my mind and open myself up emotionally. I joined the gym and started doing Zumba, Yoga and strength training classes. Dancing and sweating it out while exercising was a huge bonus! At first I experienced a lot of pain and discomfort, especially from the strength training, as my muscles had deteriorated over time due to the medications (it’s a common side effect of AED’s). But I worked around that by taking a rest day and it got better over time. Tapping into my creative side had somehow helped in calming down my mind and made me a happier person all around. I probably would not have done this if it wasn’t for my epilepsy diagnosis.
A new perspective
So fast forward to now, thanks to my change in lifestyle, I am on a much lower dosage and my seizures are under control. I have completely changed my perspective on life and see firsthand the value of living a more balanced lifestyle. I don’t see my professional work as the only thing about me but as just one part of it. I actively ensure that I pursue my creative interests/hobbies and be more present for my family. I play an active role in spreading awareness around Epilepsy in any way I can. While I would like to believe that I can overcome the limitations of my chronic illness, I now accept the reality that this will be my new normal and I plan my life around the symptoms and side effects of it. I feel like I have finally taken control of my life and chosen a better path of living a purposeful life. And that is MY FIGHT SONG!
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