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Relationships and Epilepsy: Rachel on life with a chronic illness

Happy February, lovely readers! I hope you had a great January and are finding your stride this year.

Relationships

I wanted focus on romantic relationships this month because I believe people with seizure disorders struggle with many different facets of this world. There are many reasons why people are either fearful or nervous to try romantic relationships with a chronic illness. I thought the best way to explain this would be to share some tips that I have found along the way.

If you haven’t followed me before, my name is Rachel Ehrhardt. Hi, I’m so glad you are here. I am thirty-two years old and live in Houston, Texas. I have suffered with a seizure disorder for most of my life, as have two other family members.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about having relationships while also having a chronic illness:

Be comfortable with yourself

You must be okay with yourself first and foremost. This means do not rush into relationships until you are comfortable with who you are, the things you enjoy doing, the foods you enjoy, the values that you stand for, and most importantly make sure that you are okay with your diagnosis on your own without bringing someone else into the mix.

Communication is key

This is something I have struggled with in the past. You must make sure that when you enter into any type of relationship that you are open with that person about expectations, what you are looking for, what your long term goals are, how quickly you want to move in the relationship

Have a life on your own

This is the one that I see affecting people the most early on in relationships. So many times we enter relationships head on and we forget that we had a life before the person came into our lives. You must remember the things you enjoy, the people you enjoy being around, and the alone time that we all so desperately need throughout the day. This can actually be the most detrimental to relationships because people that are struggling with communication in their relationship in the beginning tend to hide the fact that they are leaving portions of their lives behind.

Epilepsy is something you have. It’s not who you are.

When you enter into a relationship you need to be open and honest about your diagnosis. I personally have found that when you are not open in the beginning with your illness it leads to the opportunity for it to be harder as the relationship progresses. Epilepsy is something that we have. It is not who we are. You have to be okay with the fact that not all people are as comfortable with this diagnoses as we are (we probably have had a lot more time to get used to its facets than they have). Answer the questions they have, help them with understanding how it affects your life, but know that if they do not receptively accept this part of your life that there is someone out there is worthy of you.

Compromise makes a difference

Going into any adult relationship whether it is friendship or romantic you must realize that sometimes you may not always get the outcome that you are wanting. Sometimes you have to go into a situation and realize that the topic is very important to the other person or vice versa and that this is something that is not worth it to fight over in the grand scheme of life.

Make time for mental and physical health

I think this is one of the most important tips I can provide. As a person with epilepsy there are times in my life where I can pinpoint that I was not focusing on my physical or mental health and it slowly caused me issues with my ability to control my seizures. You must listen to your body. If you feel like you need sleep; get sleep. If you feel like you are not feeling right emotionally; go speak to a professional immediately. If you feel like your diet is struggling; make your diet a priority.

The man in my life

Now finally, I want to talk to you about the man in my life. Casey and I met rather unconventionally.  We met online. We both had gotten out of tough relationships and were ready to start dating again. I had learned in the relationship before Casey that I had to be open and honest with my diagnosis and my faith. I decided after our second date that I needed to tell him about my diagnosis and how members of my family had the diagnosis as well. I was expecting him to run for the hills quite honestly, but ironically he acted the complete opposite. He wanted to know more and how he could help and support me. This slowly led to us having more and more conversations about parts of our lives, our goals, the things that we both enjoyed doing, and what we wanted out of a relationship.

We began travelling, fishing, and attending church together on weekends that we were home. I think it hit me about two months in that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. He is the person that I call on my best and worst days. He is the most supportive person in my life even when sometimes I do not even believe in myself. He is my best friend. I will be upfront and honest that not every day in every relationship is perfect, but it is realizing at the end of the day that we can talk out any and every difficulty that we have together even when we do not get the outcome that we want. I have never been happier personally than I have in this relationship and I’m grateful for him in my life.

So with this being said, WE ARE ENGAGED! We traveled to Puerta Vallarta, Mexico last month to celebrate my birthday. While we were there he surprised me with a proposal on a semi-private beach. We are beyond thrilled and excited to start this next phase of our lives!

Check out the other relationship stories here. Or submit your own story here.

Follow Rachel Ehrhardt:
My name is Rachel Ehrhardt. I reside in Houston, Texas and am thirty years old. I come from a family of four. Three of us each have a different form of Epilepsy. I started my advocacy life at sixteen being the first group of high school students asked by the Epilepsy Foundation to participate in Kids Speak Up in Washington D.C. to educate congress and legislators on Epilepsy about the issues that we with the horrible disorder encounter. I started the first support group for teens in Houston as well. My passion in life is to educate on Epilepsy and to mentor girls on how we with this disorder can be productive in society and are not alone. I have been a contributor to the Living Well with Epilepsy blog during the past year and am looking forward to the next chapter of my blog with this community.

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