I’ve been epileptic for four years. It’s not bad. Sometimes I’m grateful. There’s truly no better sleep than the kind you fall in to immediately after a seizure. It has also helped me acknowledge reality and grow up a little. Honestly, all things considered, I’m incredibly fortunate. My severity is mild. So long as I don’t do anything stupid and take relatively mediocre care of myself I won’t have one. The ones I have had haven’t been while I was driving, or anywhere where I could really hurt myself. Up until last December I’d never had one that left a scar deeper than a few stitches. That all changed though when a seizure took my voice and left me wondering who I am, and if I’d ever return to who I was.
I’ve always been overly critical. I don’t think there’s an only child out there that isn’t a little too hard on themselves, no matter how praising and encouraging their mother is. It just happens. You’re by yourself for a great portion of your development and so where a rival sibling or friend might have been, you create someone from yourself. You become your biggest challenger, which is great if you can beat him. Most of the time I couldn’t. Because of this I fostered a negative perception of myself that I tried to hide behind a massive, thin facade of self confidence. For those only children made of iron, this can be a forge. This can be the drive needed to relentlessly pursue their path. For me it was an ever-present excuse. I’d fail myself, and myself would invent some external factor that myself had overlooked, condescendingly pointing out to myself that achievement could have never been possible because of X, Y, or Z.
I also don’t think there’s an only child out there that doesn’t love to read. For the solitary mind there’s no more occurring mode of interaction than reading. I read all the time. I read everything I could. My Saturday mornings were waking up and reading in the backyard until I got a sunburn. This was the one area where I never questioned myself. No amount of self criticism or insecurity could convince me I couldn’t enjoy reading, or that this wasn’t the field for me. I thirsted to succeed in every part of the discipline. I practiced reading correctly, varying my speed and intensity so that when I read aloud in class I’d present the work exactly as the author intended. I wrote as much as I could, always writing more than what the instructor asked for but not so much I was never outside of one of the first three people done with my test. English and Literature became the needles through which I plunged the opiate of success into my being.
By the time I got to college I was a full addict. I wrote and read to fulfill my self esteem, to reassure my insecurity. I stopped challenging myself with it and only did it to make sure that I was still better than everyone else. My college essays were a study in self indulgence and superfluous language. Even one of my professors remarked that I had a tendency to over laden my writing with unnecessarily uncommon words, to the point that I came off purposely condescending. He was right. I wanted to write in the style of Hawthorne or Melville, to thicken my work into a fog so dense only the keenest reader could escape. This blog reflects that. So many of my pieces are just rants against some undeserving sect of society I’d deemed a philistine deserving of scorn and dismissal. As with all addicts there’d be occasions where the genius shone through the vice. But ultimately my writing was killing me, taking me to a place where I could only exist if I had this shield of accomplishment and self assurance.
That’s why I broke so hard after my seizure last year. For the first time I couldn’t be the sharpest wit in a conversation. Where there was a quiver of words waiting to be perfectly arranged, there were now only fruitless searches. I couldn’t remember the simplest phrases and names. I felt like the stupidest person in the room, like overnight I’d gone from Hemingway to Harry. I lost all the self indulgence that had been fueling my confidence and keeping my insecurity at bay, and it all came rushing back like a receded tidal wave. I didn’t want to talk to anyone because I didn’t want to fumble over myself, struggling for words, always behind in the conversation. I demoted my engagement in topics and society, preferring the unchallenged comfort of superficiality over the potentially failed challenge of deeper intellect. When I did try to write it came out rambling, incoherent, a shell of my former capability. Topics went untouched because they were either too much for my feeble mind to tackle, or it took me so long to remark on them that by the time I finished I’d already lost interest.
My writing became a stress, a demon that I wanted to conquer but was convinced I couldn’t. I became resentful of the success of writers around me, returning to my old habit of inventing external factors for my failure that were beyond my control. I thought myself forsaken, a former remembered only for his lashing out at others’ achievement. I don’t know what woke me up from that mindset, what made me slowly see my writing for what it had been, and not what I wanted it to be.
I don’t know if I’m back. I don’t think I’ll ever really truly return to the furious, Beethoven like style I wrote in before I seized. But I think I’m getting there. If this article doesn’t mark my redemption, then let it serve as a reminding apology for the sloppiness of my articulation, and a plea for forgiveness for who I’ve been the past year.