Finding Meaning When You're Housebound With Epilepsy

A dear friend of mine whose daughter’s epilepsy first struck when she was 14 left me speechless. She told me that I, unknowingly, had saved her from hopelessness, simply by existing. I had meaning. She saw that I had a good life despite my condition and could envision a future for her daughter filled with happiness and achievement.  (Flash forward:  In college now, her child just got all As and is a varsity athlete.) Her daughter’s life has been affected, no doubt, but her epilepsy never stopped her.

She’s one of the lucky ones, though. Her epilepsy is controlled and she lives with relatively few barriers. With no choice but to stay at home, many with uncontrolled epilepsy can’t work in traditional jobs and struggle to find meaning in their lives. But what is meaning?

Starting at the beginning, here’s the definition according to The American Heritage College Dictionary:

“1.  Something conveyed or signified; sense or significance.  2.  Something one wishes to convey, esp. by language.  3.  An interpreted goal, intent, or end.  4.  Inner significance….”

While all four apply to our search for meaning, I’m particularly fond of “4,” which acknowledges the importance of simply who we are. For example, even being the recipient of care is meaningful to the caregiver, and in a positive way.

When I was looking for meaning in my own life, one article I found especially helpful was “Cultivating Contentment: Creating Meaning in Your Life,” by Rachel Fintzy, MA, LMFT. While she writes for people with depression, it’s nonetheless valuable to all. It includes a process labeled with the acronym “SPECIFIC PATHS” to zero in on meaning for oneself, and she lists possibilities for meaningful activities and qualities of one’s life. Caveat:  Many of the listed items won’t apply to you, but some may. More likely, they could spark other thoughts as you identify the meaningful facets of your life.  Certainly, it opened my eyes.

I asked a question on the social media site “My Epilepsy Team,” urging people who are housebound and/or unable to have a traditional job to describe how they find and create meaning in their lives:

“I was homebound for about a year after I had brain surgery performed in 2001. I was then partnered with my first service dog who helped me regain my independence. Now, in 2017 I have had two great canine partners over the past 16 years, and I am able to accomplish anything I want in life. I formed a nonprofit organization, called: My Assistance Dog Inc. to help educate and inform people about assistance dogs and the amazing work they can perform. We have been successful helping people around the world truly understand the benefits these dogs perform. We have a following on Facebook. I learned that it even with my disability, I could lead a meaningful life and help others do the same.”

“I’m homebound and used to crochet.  I looked for a hospital that needed baby blankets or hats for newborns and I would make them….”

“…. I sometimes get stressed being at home. I write poetry and songs… this time I’m writing a book about my life and hope the Lord helps me through it.”

“[I believe] God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.  We all have a purpose here on Earth. I know it’s difficult.  I [have] been fighting epilepsy my whole life, but WE MUST NOT GIVE UP!”

But enough.  The last quote says it all.

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