“Let me realize that my past failures at follow-through are no indication of my future performance. They are just healthy little fires that are going to warm up my ass.”
- ZeFrank (YouTube)
I believe it is important to define terms, especially when discussing things that are complicated, so I am going to make an important distinction. I don’t officially have anxiety. By that I mean I have not been diagnosed, as is the case with depression. The anxiety I am talking about is less serious and I use the word in a more colloquial sense, but it is still real.
My anxiety could be summed up by the ZeFrank quote, anxiety brought on by failure and delay. And that brings me to its relationship to epilepsy.
Anxiety Source 1: Eternal College Student
In August of 2004, I drove to Austin to start college as an International Business major. In December of 2018, I will graduate with a General Studies degree. I’m sure you could chalk that up partly to me being an indecisive, but there’s slightly more under the surface.
In those fourteen years, I’ve chosen five different majors and been to almost as many schools. I’ve taken breaks, I’ve decided that school wasn’t for me and vehemently swore I would never return.
The anxiety regarding school comes into play in a couple of ways. First, when I question whether or not I can make it through the semester without having too many seizures. Forcing myself to drop classes because my seizures got too bad to keep up has happened more than once. They are, therefore, a source of dread. To quote a journal entry from January of this year, “Tomorrow I start school again, and I’m terrified. Not excite. What if I fail again? What the hell will I do with myself if this doesn’t work out AGAIN, 13 years later? The stakes are so high this time, and I feel like I’m choking a bit.”
That fear and anxiety is nothing new.
It also comes in when discussing school with my peers. The question “Where did you go to school?” has haunted me for a decade now. It is hard to say “Oh, I’m currently at St. Thomas.” This invites questions about whether or not I am working on my masters, to which I refuse to say yes.
I wish I could say that I found a way to make peace with the idea that I haven’t graduated, but I never did. It is only now that I am so close to graduating that I feel ok about these things. And I find that unfortunate. Finding ways to cope and make peace with different potential elements of epilepsy is something I would like to be able to emphasize.
Anxiety Source 2: Temporary Temp-Job Worker
Holding a steady job is trickier. “What do you do?” is yet more painful than “Where did you go to school?” Assuming I am 10 years out of college, and not 14 years into college, some who ask that question don’t respond as kindly when I tell them I’m not working right now, even if I explain I am sick.
This has contributed a lot to my social anxiety. Not people’s reactions, necessarily, but my fear. Most people are kind and understanding, but I fear judgement to the point where my only discovered way to cope is to avoid these situations is to avoid social gatherings where that question may arise. That is not a healthy response.