Epilepsy Struggles: Just Keep Swimming

A clown fish swimming.

Note: This post was originally published June 13, 2018.

Over the weekend, my wife and I re-watched Finding Nemo and Finding Dory. I like both the films (though I had to be convinced to watch them!), but this time I was really struck by Dory. In the odd case that you don’t know, Dory is a blue tang who suffers from short-term memory loss. In most conversations, Dory will listen carefully, turn around, and forget what she’s heard, what she’s doing, and where she’s going. That reminds me of me.

Wife: “Matt, could you get me a glass of water?”

Matt: *walks 10 feet* “I was supposed to be getting you something, wasn’t I? Why did I get up?”

Sigh. It’s very disheartening. My memory has never been good, but between the epilepsy and the medications, it’s shot to hell by now. Like Dory, I listen carefully. I hear what you’re saying. It just drains out before I have a chance to do anything about it.

There are other little things my epilepsy makes me go through, too. Having to go to bed early. Slotting seventy-some-odd pills into my weekly pillbox every Saturday night. Don’t forget the blood tests and stupid EEGs. Little things, really; but little annoyances can add up.

Can add up. And here’s where Dory comes in again. Dory’s trademark song is “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” When she’s not sure what to do, or when she’s sad about what life is giving her, she just keeps swimming. She goes ahead and does what she’s doing. And eventually, somehow, she gets through it. A good thing for me to keep in mind.

Dory has more wisdom for me, too. She doesn’t give up. “There’s always another way,” she says. Indeed there is. Sometimes I feel quite dumb. The epilepsy and the medications make it hard for me to think straight. There are problems I can’t always get right away anymore. But if I turn away from a problem instead of stressing out about it, sooner or later I’ll come up with a new approach. Maybe my conscious mind isn’t working so well. But my unconscious mind usually comes through and saves the day. Because there is always another way.

The last thing I noticed about Dory is her irrepressible joy. Even her worst memory losses and rejections by others don’t get her down forever. She delights in the small things – playing games, going exploring, enjoying the view. I can do this too. I have a good bit going against me. But that doesn’t need to get me down. The world is still an amazing place, and I still have an amazing place in it. Life has so much joy in it. How can I shut it all out?

Life can drag me down. But even with epilepsy, it can’t keep me there. I have to remember: Life is good. Just keep swimming.

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