February 6th, 2018: My husband had an unexpected seizure.
We were at home, just the two of us, when he stopped talking mid-sentence, froze up, and flew back onto our bed and seized.
His skin turned blue, he couldn’t catch his breath, blood poured from his lips*.
I thought he was dying.
I called 999 and 45 minutes later, an ambulance came. He was taken to the hospital where he spent 8 days being treated for meningitis, then encephalitis, before the conclusion was drawn that he had an unidentified virus. The virus had led to a high temperature which had provoked the seizure.
We were sent away from the hospital on the 14th of February with so many questions, no answers, confusion, a strange cocktail of unsettled gratitude. Particularly me. I was so terrified of this happening again.
For the next 6 months, Ali wasn’t allowed to drive. This kept the two of us kind of cooped up, spending a lot more time together than we were used to. We’re two very independent people that love our time together, and also love our time apart. The dynamic of our entire relationship shifted. I became overly worried, hardly able to sleep, triggered by any noise or face Ali made that resembled the seizure (even blank stares); Ali became extremely dependent on me to be the sole provider, driver, and caretaker in the home.
I knew that one day, someday down the line, we would need to practice in sickness and health, for better or worse. I just didn’t think it would be a year and a half into marriage. I was only 22; Ali was 25.
As the months went on, we tried to settle into this new routine. People moved on. They forgot about the seizure. They assumed we were okay again.
But I wasn’t.
When Ali got permission to drive again, things improved. I waited to heal.
But healing never came.
I was still anxious. Worried. Scared.
All the time.
I talked about it to those I trusted, those I thought could help.
But as time went on, I wasn’t feeling any better. I didn’t want to be this worried wife. I wanted to be the fun, chilled, independent, caring, laughable wife that I had been before the 6th of February.
So around September 2018, I decided to go to therapy. My friend had recommended a place called Dove. It is Christian counseling. However, they had a waiting list of 7 months so it wasn’t until April 2019 (14 months post-seizure) that I finally got to go.
But honestly, it was worth the wait.
Although the anxiety increased more as time went on, I believe that I was brought to the best person I could find that would help me process and move past the seizure.
On our first session, I said to her, “I know that the seizure is a part of me, but I need to know how to cope with it.”
She shot back, “It doesn’t need to be a part of you.”
This was news to me. Everyone I’d ever said that to had acknowledged: yes, it is a part of you.
But to have someone shake me up and say no… it was refreshing.
I experienced miraculous healing at Dove. This was down to a few things:
- Prayer. Not just any prayer but deep, powerful, desperate prayer. Together, my counselor and I prayed for healing from the seizure, the strength to move past it, the willingness to almost forget the images and emotions associated with it. This might sound airy-fairy to some of you reading this, but I can honestly say that this is what I’ve experienced. Of course, if I dig deep enough, I’m sure I could relive the whole seizure, but the memories feel faded, hard to grasp now. That is healing to me because they were haunting my every day. I don’t have to relive them now. I don’t have to worry about them coming back in the middle of a conversation or as I’m trying to get to sleep.
- Forgiveness. It might sound odd to say that I forgave, but I did forgive God, Ali, the doctors & myself for all the negative associations around the seizure. I was having this odd association when I looked at my husband: I was reminded of the pain. Ultimate fear. That sense of losing him. It wasn’t a good thing in our marriage for me to look at him and see the seizure, when before I would see our wedding, our travels, our late-night trips for coffee, our drives through the Highlands, all the good. So I had to forgive and let go of that association to do with Ali.
- Acknowledgment of the truth: I was suffering minor PTSD. I had been through a traumatic event. Although it was only a short time that I really thought my husband was dying, it was such an intense fear that clung to me for so long. I can honestly say that I hadn’t experienced fear before that moment, or since. Fear is something so much more frightening than I would have imagined. I can’t even describe it. But from the seizure, I was reliving that traumatic experience again and again, even 14 months later. Knowing what I was going through, and that I wasn’t just being overdramatic, helped begin my healing process.
- Cognitive behavior therapy. This is basically going to the root of your behaviour: your thoughts. I had to work on changing my thoughts, which were rooted in the fear or the 45 minutes of both Ali’s seizure and being alone afterward. I was stuck in that place of “He’s dying” and thinking everything I’d known was coming to an end. While that is understandable fear, I was confusing it with the truth which was: Ali is okay now. It’s unlikely that it’ll happen again.
- Facing my past. Lastly, the major thing that helped me get through this was going to the roots of my fears which are engrained in my past, particularly my childhood. When I was 3 and 7, I lost two sisters: Abby & Sarah. Although I was so young at the time, and don’t remember all the details, my counselor acknowledged that from a young age, I developed a strong reality and fear of death because it was prominent in my life at such a young age. Subconsciously, that’s where my mind went when Ali had a seizure and again, afterward. Just acknowledging this fact and accepting this was why I responded in this way was extremely helpful.
I loved going to counseling & I loved my counselor. Besides Ali’s seizure, we also dealt with unresolved issues from previous relationships and my nerves around my future and where my life is heading. Two topics that I might bring into another blog post when I’m ready to talk about them.
Just because I went to counseling doesn’t mean I’m “fixed“. It doesn’t mean I’m not struggling anymore. Clearly, I just mentioned things I’m not ready to talk about. But I do feel healed from the seizure: the very reason I went to Dove in the first place.
Sure, these things might arise again, and if (God forbid) Ali does have another seizure (the chances are low but more likely now that he’s already had one), I’m sure I will feel like I’m back to square one. But through Dove, I’ve reaffirmed in my own faith that God is good and I will be provided for no matter what happens. Plus, I have learned the tools and resources to process such a traumatic event.
However, Dove have said that if I ever need to go back, I can return without the 7 month waiting time again.
All that being said, counseling is amazing. Therapy is wonderful. It doesn’t need to be a plan B, a last resort, something you go to when nothing else seems to work. Therapy & counseling, I truly believe, should be something that everyone visits every now and again. It’s a health checkup – except for your mind. Which is just as important as a checkup for the body.
So if you’ve been thinking about therapy, from my experience, I say go 🙂
*he was bleeding because he bit his tongue, we later found out – but at the time, of course, I didn’t know that.