If someone had told me this day last year the massive life changes that lay ahead over the next 12 months, I probably wouldn’t have gotten out of bed. I sort of journaled this post as part of my daily gratitude practice and then decided to share it because maybe one of you is in the shit right now and can’t see the light for the trees. If this year has taught me anything it’s that when everything else fails, gratitude will pull you back up.
At 9:09am on Friday 11th March last year I was driving to my acupuncture appointment in Belfast. I’d been feeling ‘off’ for a while and couldn’t pinpoint why - waking up with really heavy and sore limbs, smelling cigarette smoke when I was sitting alone in my house - I thought I was losing the plot a bit. I’d just come off the motorway (at 70mph) when I had a full blown tonic clonic seizure and wrapped my car around a lamppost on the Short Strand. Miraculously I wasn’t too badly injured. I came around in hospital and my first question was ‘did I hurt anyone?’. I am grateful every single day that the answer was ‘no’. A series of investigations followed and it turns out that those sore limbs were the result of having seizures all through the night in my sleep. The cigarette smoke? A sensory seizure (I must admit this was a small relief for I had started thinking I was being haunted by the ghost of a chain smoker!).
No driving until you are completely seizure free for 12 months, they said. I WILL NOT SURVIVE, I said. No, seriously! I have three kids, I run a business in Belfast, I NEVER STOP RUNNING! And my neurologist said ‘maybe that’s part of the problem’. So, I began to live a car-free life. It was an adjustment but we had no choice. The next 6 months I slowly went up in medication as I was still having petit mal and sensory seizures. Stress is my biggest enemy - if I am stressed the smoke smell comes back immediately and I know I’ve got to calm my brain down.
Just when we thought the epilepsy was manageable, I had another tonic clonic seizure. This time I was in the shower. I should have been alone in the house as Andy was away to work and the boys were at school but thankfully my parents were visiting from America. They heard the almighty racket upstairs and assumed I was going to war with a spider (not unusual). However, mum sensed there was more to it and came up to find me face down in the water, mid-seizure. She managed to get me out and the ambulance was called again and I was put on the highest dose of meds. However, the petit mal seizures came thick and fast, up to 10 per day. I could barely think straight as my brain went from one seizure to the next. I was a mess. I would forget a question I’d been asked halfway through answering it. I would ask Andy and Lindsay the same things over and over and over and they would kindly pretend it was the first time I had asked. I was so afraid of the next tonic clonic coming that I could barely sleep at night. I knew I had to do something to try and help myself.
And here begins the tale of my lifesaver - the ketogenic diet. It was suggested at one of my reviews and I researched it within an inch of it’s life. Within 10 days of starting the diet all seizure activity in my brain had stopped. No more smoke! It felt like a fog had lifted. I could think straight, hold conversations without drifting off and sleep like a top! Over time, the clarity I had was amazing, it feels like I have a brand new brain! My energy has soared. Sometimes I have so much energy I don’t know what to do with it so I go out and run or walk it off. Keto is a diet that eliminates sugar. If you want to know more about this leave a comment and I’ll maybe do another blog about how it works. You train your body to run on fat instead of carbohydrate. For me, this did away with blood sugar ups and downs and keeps my epilepsy in check. Going from 10 seizures a day to zero is nothing short of a miracle so I am in this for life. It also helps that I effortlessly lost the 2 stone that has been hanging on since my early 30’s - that fell off in 8 weeks.
So today, almost a full year later, I am completely transformed, brain, body, entire life. Here’s a few of the things I am grateful for, that have been part of my year of recovery:
- Losing my licence. What a blessing in disguise. It has forced me to slow right down in every aspect of my life. I can’t do a million things in a day because I am now so limited. I have to walk to the train - this is the best thing ever. I listen to podcasts and learn new things every day. I listen to ridiculous music. I knit, write or even sleep with the sound of the ocean in my earlugs (aren’t apps great?!). As a result of the commute my outfit choices are also limited because they have to be practical. This has been a total life-changer! I’m a jeans, trainers and t-shirt girl, I have no choice! And my hair - who cares? It’ll be every shape anyway by the time I get to work through today’s rain or snowstorm! How freeing is it to have all these choices taken from you? I can tell you it is very freeing.
- Keto. I finally discovered the way my body prefers to be fuelled. If you have struggled for years with weight issues and energy issues or pesky skin or autoimmune conditions then I cannot tell you how freeing this is, to find the definitive answer for your body.
- Journalling and meditation. I do both these things every morning as part of my ‘calm brain’ practice. When you start listening to what your own body and mind have to say EVERYTHING changes. This is powerful stuff!
- Gratitude. In our house we all now practice gratitude. It is the most powerful source of energy on the planet. Take a moment now and think of three things you are grateful for. Breathe in the thought of these people or things. Really picture them in your brain. Now open your eyes. Don’t you feel a little happier? Do this every morning. Do it anytime you feel overwhelmed. Even in a shitty situation find one thing in it to be grateful for. I promise, it will change your world.
So, if you are still with me, thanks for reading. It was long, I know. I’ll finish up with some photos of our climb last Sunday. For Charlie’s birthday we climbed Slieve Binnian. It was so amazing. That’s another thing I am grateful for - my relationship with exercise has changed. I used to be the typical calories in/calories out girl. Exercise to eat type. Now I exercise to celebrate my second chance. We go on adventures outside. I’m an outdoors girl - who knew?!
Miracles happen every day :)
Couldn't sign off without showing you my before and after keto shots! 20 weeks between these pictures and two very different Janines, in both brain and body!