Epilepsy and neurodiversity (can get along)

Coming off the heels of a post about numerous seizures, it might be a good time to delve into the whole “this is a gift!” vs. “this is a terrible sickness” discussion that seem to plague many a special needs community…

AHHHHH.

We just cannot think of people, inherently complex beings, in polarizing terms. Neurological differences can sometimes come hand-in-hand with neurological disorders like epilepsy but the latter cannot be used to define the former as pathological.

If someone has depression, we would not consider his/her entire being as diseased, but recognize that they are suffering somehow, and work to help ease that problem. Perhaps this is a shoddy comparison, but you get my drift, right? In fact, having gone through depression myself in the past, it’s often something I look back on lovingly as a very hard time that gave me immense, grounding knowledge.

Brains are infinitely complicated computers that can sometimes run into wiring issues – it happens to every one of us. Negative thoughts, obsessive thoughts, headaches, vision issues, fatigue, you name it… some obviously more serious than others, but all possible symptoms that can happen as a result of just having a brain. With stigmas, our culture has come to categorize some symptoms as more meaningful than others. The more chronic or holistically-affecting, the more it leaches into defining the person by that issue… and sometimes influencing whether we choose to pass that person over, or invest our time, love, commitment, etc.

If you’ve read other posts of mine, I can sometimes get very reverie-y about the fact that A is an incredibly interesting kid because he is neurologically different. I really do believe in and celebrate neurodiversity, all of the time. To me, being interesting is superior over being typical. I don’t mean neurotypical, just typical… fitting in, being predictable, operating on automatic, etc. But I try to keep myself in check with the whole “he has superpowers!” or “he’s totally the best BECAUSE he has disabilities” because… sigh. His epilepsy is an endless fucking bummer, and I’m sure he’d likely cash in his motor planning issues for the ability to walk and talk in a second. Let’s stay real.

But here’s the thing, I think: innovation comes from adaptation, peace comes from letting go, acceptance, and appreciating the good things when they come, wisdom is born out of struggle. And A is in a position to experience all of these things, always. It’s all he’s known. So it’s inevitable that in time, he really will become an exceptional human being. Not because of his disabilities, not because of his superpowers, not because he is sick, not because he is neurodiverse, but because he is simply human.

If that seems muddled, it’s because it is.