Epilepsy and Guilt

Photo by Joe Hastings (Creative Commons)

Photo by Joe Hastings (Creative Commons)

Everyone in my family feels guilty because of my epilepsy. Often the first thing I hear from someone once I begin to recover from a seizure is, “I’m sorry.” They apologize for not catching me in time when I fall. For not noticing more quickly I was seizing. For the embarrassment I must feel over the seizure. For any number of other things they didn’t do right.

Sometimes I am the one to apologize. I feel bad as I stumble groggily to the bed for messing up plans for the evening. I apologize because my wife bruised herself trying to catch me. I see the fear in my eight-year-old’s eye, and I feel responsible. I apologize to him for producing the fear.

NO MORE. We have banished apologies related to epilepsy from our house. It’s nobody’s fault I have epilepsy. My kids didn’t give it to me. It’s not their job to always watch over me. My wife is not the one responsible for keeping me safe. I am not intentionally having a seizure the hour before our Bible study because I would rather sleep.

Epilepsy is just part of our lives right now. Nobody needs to feel guilty about anything.

We all do this. We apologize for the pain of others. We say, “Sorry” that our challenges has produced scheduling inconveniences. I was thinking this morning about why we do this and realized something startling. We feel responsible for the well-being of those we love, even in the areas we have no authority, ability, or access to change.

We confuse love with ultimate responsibility, and we unintentionally play the part designed for God. God is the one who keeps us ultimately safe. He is the only one who can stop my seizures, though He chooses not to right now (for reasons I don’t comprehend). He is the one who doesn’t eviscerate that irritating supervisor at work (or is that just me?).

Guilt is always the result of trying to wear God’s shoes, because our feet just don’t fit. Let’s instead draw close to each other when the storms come. Love one another. Commiserate in pain. Hug when it hurts. Cry with each other. This is where true bonds of community are born.

It is always those who have weathered the tornadoes in our lives that appreciate the sunny days the most. Let’s make a decision to be among those who can celebrate in the deepest way as victories come. No apologies needed.

 

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15 thoughts on “Epilepsy and Guilt

  1. pamela hodges

    Oh Chris.
    I was about to say I am sorry you have epilepsy. But I stopped myself in time. I will say, thank you for sharing your life and your struggles. Praying for you and your family.

    Reply
    1. sometimeshope Post author

      It’s so hard to break that habit. We do this in our family SO much. Pamela, I appreciate your kind words, and your prayers. It takes a lot of strength for me to share something about my epilepsy every time. I worry people won’t like what I have to say, will think I am weak, and will laugh at my pain. I have decided that I won’t apologize for my writing either, and this decision has empowered me to just move forward and share my life, my heart, my struggles.

      Reply
  2. kathleencaron

    I like that, because it shifts the focus back to God, where it belongs. When we pray for people, we say we are “holding them up” which can turn into believing that we are literally holding them up, instead of laying those burdens down at the foot of the cross.

    Reply
    1. sometimeshope Post author

      Oh, I never considered that, Kathleen! What a beautiful image. Maybe we are holding them up to God, reminding Him to pour His blessing into their life? I also think of Aaron & Hur holding up the arms of Moses as the Israelites fought. They supported him in his weariness, so he could accomplish what God had for him.

      Reply
  3. Robin

    Chris,
    Excellent writing! I especially related to and pondered over two sentences: “We confuse love with ultimate responsibility, and we unintentionally play the part designed for God.”; and “Guilt is always the result of trying to wear God’s shoes, because our feet just don’t fit.” Beautifully spoken! These words will go in my Faith Journal to remember and reflect upon as I have worked very diligently especially the past year to rid my mind of false guilt . . . . but I’m flesh, and satan will still try to throw guilt into my mind. Blessings to you!
    Robin

    Reply
  4. James Prescott

    Love this post Chris – as you know, I suffer from the condition as well, so I’ve been there. I constantly have to tell people around me to stop apologising when I have fits. As you say, there is no need. Epilepsy isn’t always easy, but we don’t have to let it control us. Great post.

    Reply
    1. sometimeshope Post author

      It is so hard for me and others to remember this. I know sometimes an apology is really a friend saying they feel bad I have this condition. Still, it is simply a part of life. My closest friends have learned how to support me and my family through this, and how NOT to do so.

      Reply
  5. Audrey Chin

    Chris, thank you for reminding me about this. I do tend to “take responsibility” for a lot of things that I shouldn’t. It’s almost presumptious or arrogant. Can you say a little more about how you and your family came to make this change. Was it a big bang moment or gradual. How did it happen?

    Reply
    1. sometimeshope Post author

      Wow, thanks for asking Audrey. I found myself getting frustrated about the constant apologies coming from my family, but I didn’t know why, or how to deal with it in a constructive way. For a while, I just said nothing.

      I realized I couldn’t stay quiet after a fall in the garage. When I came to, my eight year old son was distraught and nearly in tears. He gave me a fierce hug and said he was sorry he didn’t catch me. For frame of reference, I weigh 285 and he is eight.

      I realized something had to change. My wife and I had to communicate seizure protocol and set some ground rules for thinking about my epilepsy.

      The first part of the conversation was no apologies. My seizures are NOT their fault, and they don’t have ultimate responsibility for my safety. We also talked about why God heals some but not me.

      This whole talk was very challenging for me and my wife. Our kids were asking the same questions we struggle with daily. The end result though is that everyone is learning to let God do God stuff, while we do child/spouse/epileptic stuff. Very freeing. It’s all about communicating through fear, about fear, and where God fits into a busted world.

      Reply
    1. sometimeshope Post author

      Oh no! Just trying to be real. Not produce tears. You are among those who weather all the storms that come into our family’s life. Beyond that, you bring so much joy every time you visit!

      Reply
  6. mickcgorman

    I hadn’t considered guilt until this evening, reading your post is very timely. My Mother called to ask me to go out with some distant relatives next week and I said no because of medication issues at the moment, I have felt terrible since? perhaps I shouldn’t?
    Your blog always appears to say just the right thing at the right time. 🙂

    Reply

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