Life’s Surprises: An unfolding Story!
By Dan Dougherty
It is late spring of 1972 and I am in my mother’s dreams. On June 8th that dream was fulfilled as I came into the world, but gave my parents an unexpected shock of a lifetime by seizing the moment. I went into fetal distress and the doctors took their good old time in taking me by C-section. For four days straight, I was in the hospital with all these crazy tubes and wires connected to keep me going while I decided to have non-stop convulsions. It was my stuborness and the grace of God that allowed me to survive.
For the first ten years I was a relatively healthy boy who loved to play! When I was ten years old, I contracted viral meningitis. A few months later I was sledding in the park and had a seizure at the bottom off the hill. The seizure was scary. The world was spinning, I was throwing up and screaming scared. After many tests, I was diagnosed with epilepsy.
I continued with seizures and the experience of the trial and error of medications. Dilantin gave me a rash. Phenobarbital made me very, very irritable. The years of trial and error of medications had been very frustrating, but a stubborn part of me never allowed this demon to knock me down totally. This internal strength and a supportive family allowed me to get through school until I finally graduated from Cheltenham High School in 1991!! A lifetime milestone that will never be forgotten!!!
I went on to take a few part time jobs until I landed a job at my church for seven years in 1995. During this whole period up to and including 2001 I lived a life of constant Grand Mal seizures. The medication mixes never could help the seizures to be milder until I was put on Trileptal along with two other anti-convulsive medications. Only then was I able to live with less severe seizures.
Now with the less severe seizures, I had the opportunity to go onto college. I entered Philadelphia Community College. I only lasted a week. My sensitive nervous system could not handle the stress of higher education. At the same time I was taking a medication for seizures that had a side effect that put me emotionally out of control and I landed in the psych unit! This experience forced me to start a journey of individual therapy and antidepressant.
I would like to begin by saying I was not happy making the decision to get therapy. I walked out of the therapist office a couple times. It is very hard to admit I need help from another person!! I used to say to Marianne (my therapist): “I am paying you to listen to what I can tell a friend. “ As years went by my weekly meeting with Marianne progressed to help deal with living with epilepsy, especially getting out all the crap to the point of crying a few times.
Here I am, forty – two years later in mid-2014, fully accepting uncontrolled epilepsy as part of my life. What a peaceful feeling!! This could not have happened without Marianne’s help. The bonus of my past experience of thirty years: I am now an advocate and public speaker for epilepsy!! Only God knows what is next as my life’s story continues to unfold!!