My disability, which I’ve worn daily since I was 13 years old, is epilepsy. I was diagnosed with epilepsy in 7th grade after having a grand mal seizure at school during a lunch period. The seizure lasted 11 minutes and due to the length, it triggered two other types of seizures that I now manage on a daily basis. My seizures have been managed through medication and other measures over the years, but they have never been considered a “controlled” seizure disorder. When I was 20 years old, I had a vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) implant placed in my chest with wires that go into my brain. This device regulates my brain waves that cause seizures by sending an electric pulse to my brain every three minutes.
During my teen years and early 20s, I was continually told that I would not be able to hold a steady job, and definitely not a highly demanding and stressful professional role. I was also told I would not be able to have children without causing harm to myself. Of course, at that time I took it as a challenge and proved doctors wrong on both of those fronts. I share this as a reminder to others who have had limitations or assumptions placed on them by society or medicine. We have to be mindful of our limitations, but it’s also so important to get to know your own body, mind, and abilities. As you move through life you grow mentally, emotionally, physically and learn your triggers and how to manage yourself.
For several decades, I was embarrassed and always concerned about how others would perceive and judge me if they found out I was epileptic. We all can be judged at times based on our past experiences or conditions and how those manifest in our daily lives. I used to get embarrassed when I would have a seizure in public and the aftermath it would cause. Thankfully, over time I have grown to understand my strengths and what I bring to my life, my family, and my professional career, and I’m no longer embarrassed by the things I cannot control. I use this as an opportunity to educate and support others with seizure disorders or disabilities. I am not ashamed to share stories of my past struggles and barriers that I overcame. Many of us have disabilities we cope with and no one should compare their experience to the next person.
I do not see myself as an Epileptic or feel that I am at a disadvantage compared to the next person. I am Lisa: a woman, mother, wife, friend, co-worker, advocate, and CPO who happens to have an additional challenge to overcome daily in order to be that person. That challenge only makes me stronger and more compassionate. Remember that we never know other people’s struggles, we do not know what they have overcome, or what disability they may have that we can’t see. Do not discount or judge someone because none of us have walked in others' shoes, even if we share a disability. Be mindful of each person's contributions to our lives and never place limitations on yourself or others. Your mind is so powerful and needs to be fed with what you can do, not what you can’t do.
Chief People Officer
Tag(s): Team Member Stories
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