A black compass face with the silver needle pointing towards the word “Growth”.

Can Buddhist Principles Help Me Navigate Another Seizure?

As long as I perceive a forward momentum in Maya’s growth and development I feel accepting of what we face together as a family each day. This is what keeps me feeling grounded. I guess this is why my emotional dam eventually broke when Maya had a prolonged seizure the other day that required a stay in the hospital. I was basking in the light of progress and hope when CABOOM; the canon fired and I shot out of my current reality and ended up in a far different emotional space.

This seizure felt like a terrible setback replete with a list of unanswerable questions that I wanted the answers to. Why did it happen? Maybe it was that much discussed “super moon”?, Could we have prevented it? Why, What, Maybe..What if…?; an endless swirl of thoughts and questions in my head along with a choking feeling in my throat.

Whenever my feelings and thoughts overwhelm me I recall a class I took in college on Buddhist ethics. If I had to guess why my mind goes there I would say it is because I am trying to find a way to escape the chaos in my head and the sadness in my heart. A central tenant of Buddhism is the release from suffering.

There is a Buddhist concept that attachment is the root of all suffering. It is the idea that by attaching and relying emotionally on material objects, people, ideas, and circumstances to remain a certain way, we will suffer when they change to something less satisfying to us (this is my very watered down version). Therefore, we live through a roller coaster of emotions that shift and change because what surrounds us is constantly in motion.

According to Buddhism you must transcend the mind (the origin of attachment) in order to transcend suffering. So as a human being who often analyzes and tries to think my way out of pain, I have landed smack in the middle of disappointment and suffering.

I get Buddhism’s point and recognize my delusion, but talking about it is not the same as integrating the concept into my psyche. Even if I spent my life in a monastery, I don’t think I could meditate/pray myself into that space of emotional detachment accompanied by compassion that Buddhism speaks of. But, it is a lofty goal and one I look upon with awe: not in this lifetime though (Buddhist joke).

So then there is the reality that most of us live in where emotional health is linked in various measure to how things are going around us; our jobs, people’s opinions of us, the health and well-being of our family etc.

Ah, if only I were like those Buddhist monks. The closest approximation I have to their nirvana is the big “D” word: Denial. Denial is this lovely coping mechanism where I pretend that everything around me is fine, peachy, etc. when lurking within me it is anything but ok.

I go through the numb/denial phase for about five days after Maya has a seizure. It’s a pattern of mine. During an emergency I am your woman. I can think, plan, act, and even make a few jokes. But my family has been through this before and my husband and I are all too familiar with how my strength and coping skills succumb to a different phase; me dragging my physical body around behind a big bag of emotional presents waiting for me to open and process.

So here I am in this post denial space processing these emotions; feeling my way through the pain, disappointment and guilt that always seem to visit me after one of these intense experiences. By this point Maya is doing well and we are getting back to our routine, so I appear a bit strange to my family and close friends who are wondering what could possibly be wrong now that the seizure has passed and Maya is ok. I don’t feel like telling them that I have this quirky yet quite adaptive emotional process where my tears start flowing long after everyone else’s have stopped.

I don’t want to look at these feelings and define and redefine myself against Maya’s challenges and how I relate to them. I would rather take a deep breath, wave good-bye, and say, “check you later”. But alas, these feelings don’t go away so easily after something this big. The canon has shot me so far from my comfortable emotional home that I have no choice but to grab some compass of my own design and start putting the pieces together that will lead me to yet a new emotional vista. I have to. There is no other choice. I cannot stay here and I cannot go back.

Just like Maya must work so hard to make new neural connections that help her put together the incremental steps to accomplishing what comes so easily to others, so must her mother discover and piece together new ways of relating to and managing my feelings about her struggle.

We all have to find our unique way through our dark places. When I have no idea how to move ahead I find comfort in knowing that other parents and people have done it before me and through far more challenging circumstances than my own. This is my mantra right now, my compass. Keep going…keep going… all states of being are temporary; even this one. At least I can find comfort in applying the detachment concept this way, in knowing that this pain too shall pass.



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