21 Weeks Feels Like Forever

It has been 5 weeks since my seizure. It seems like yesterday and it seems like a lifetime ago all at the same time. The Christmas holidays helped keep me busy and speed the days along. There were always gifts to buy, gifts to wrap, decorations to be hung (or not) and places to go. Now I have to figure out how to settle in and get through the next 21 weeks of unknown.

At night, I lie in bed and try to exhale as much air as I can to try and relax my stiff body. I’ve been operating on the holiday high, get ‘r done philosophy for over a month now and I realize it is time to breathe. The last month or so have felt like I am on the Spongebob ride at Carowinds. You know, you walk in from the sweltering heat to the air conditioned theater, desperately inhaling every cool breath of (recirculated, dirty, infection infused) air. You sit down and rest your weary legs and hope it will take a couple extra moments for the attendants to double check the locks. You realize your body needed to sit and cool down more than you knew. Just as you take a deep breath and begin to relax and take in the surroundings, the lights go out and the chair jolts forward as the ride begins. And before you can grab the hand grips you are off again, into the land of the uncontrollable. You are forced to “enjoy” the ride but you have no control over it. It throws you back as if fooling you to think the chaos is over. Then BAM, another jolt forward and your emotions are on the edge again. BAM, one jolt back, lights come on and the attendant says please exit to the left. You inhale and rush out with the crowd, forced to move on to the next. The ride happens so fast you barely knew what just happened!

For five weeks I have been busy moving on to the next, jolted this way and that way, trying to keep my eyes peeled for the next unexpected detour. Everything happened so fast, I am only now realizing what happened. The rush is now over and the possibility of another grand mal seizure has overwhelmed me. It is frightening. I realize that my diagnosis is real, and much like many other diseases, it can come out of nowhere and change your trajectory instantly. Sometimes I feel like I am on the Spongebob ride and my seat belt didn’t work and I’m tossed midair into the dark theatre. I’m only 40. It is scary to look into the future and think it is possible for this to strike again. I very very strongly do not like my meds, but I realize they are not optional. I very very strongly do not like being “watched”, but I realize it is for the best. It is so hard for me to look at the calendar and visualize the next 21 weeks feeling so dependent on others. I look around the house and think I could paint this, clean that or reorganize that. You don’t realize how dependent you are on transportation to accomplish almost anything until you lose it. Everything, and I mean everything has to be planned in advance. Going to the gym, haircuts, doctor appointments, shopping, music lessons, Goodwill drop offs, after school activities, tutoring, church commitments, sports….the list goes on and on. It overwhelms me.

My Grandmother used to quote me a lot. Now, I know this will shock many of you. When I was very little I was at her house and she tried to help me with something. With my big blue eyes and dimpled face I looked at her and said “no, I do it my own self.” Shocking, I know! I could barely talk but I always knew, and so did everyone else, I was one to do it my own self. Now that is gone. That ability is gone but the drive remains. I feel like I have been jolted the same way the Spongebob ride stops. Just when you get going you look around and realize so much is different, and you wonder how you got here.

This is hard. This is just hard and I so very much want to do it my own self.

© Copyright Gatewood Campbell, January 2014


Fear NOT the Change

Several months ago I wrote about fear and why we have it, why we need it, and what good it serves. Today I’m facing fear again and it leads me back to the same questions.

Once a week I sit down with a ziplock bag full of medicine, my green seven day pill box and a pill splitter. This morning I dumped out the bag of bottles and looked at the notes I scribbled months ago during a conversation with the doctor.  I knew the date was coming and it made me sick to my stomach to even think about it.  After four months of stepping down dosage of my main anti-seizure med and stepping up a new med, today starts the last phase of the weaning process. I will take a minimum dose of the medicine that sustained me for the last 6 years and the highest dose of the new delight (I nicknamed it that to convince myself that it’s fun). It raises so many questions when forced to depend on something new. Though I have been very slowly raising the strength of the new drug while even more slowly decreasing the old, fear of change remains. Will this work?

So when faced with fear I remind myself to turn more directly and look to my Creator, the One who molded and shaped me in His own image. I must trust Him to see me through this fear-filled time and carry me safely to my next great adventure.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, May 2012

Reaching Beyond Comfort

There have been two hot topics in our town recently. One is just annoying, and the other raises moral and ethical issues and also gives all of us the opportunity to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone.

One is the new quadrant left traffic pattern which someone in Raleigh claims will alleviate congestion. That remains to be seen, amid a sea of solid red brake lights. I can’t speak directly to this as I have managed to completely avoid this area of town for 9 solid days and will continue my boycott as long as possible (on the advice of all those who have attempted to navigate said quadrant).

The other hot topic is the Town Board’s decision to deny a rezoning request that would have allowed a mental health facility offering both inpatient and outpatient care. The Town Planning Board recommended the rezoning 8-1 yet the Town Board voted down the request 4-2. I didn’t attend the meetings, but I did keep up with the information that was published and I was bothered by what I read.

The rezoning became a debate because the 17 acres in question is adjacent to a neighborhood. Here it comes, Not In My Back Yard.  Oh yes, loud and clear, that’s what the neighbors said over and over and over again. Some said they weren’t against the need for the facility, again, just not right in their backyard. I cringed as I read comments from opponents who said they were afraid of patients who might do something stupid. Stupid? Oooo, I didn’t like hearing this word used when discussing this issue. I get it. The problem is fear. We fear what we don’t understand. We steer clear of what we don’t understand. It makes us uncomfortable, so we dodge it.

Here is what I do understand. People with mental illness are still people, living breathing people. They have families who love them and are searching for qualified professionals to help them get better. They need proper facilities to help them, whether we are comfortable or not. The whole thing really struck a chord with me. Why is it ok to turn our heads or close our eyes and not look at the need, whatever it may be? 

I was disappointed that I didn’t hear anyone offering solutions or compromises that would have swayed the Town Board’s decision, or perhaps educated both sides of the issue. I was frustrated that 60 much-needed inpatient beds as well as outpatient facilities in Mecklenburg County will not be ready in 2013 which puts even more people out of help. I was frustrated that our town had a chance to employ over 150 people and missed out on it, not to mention the construction that it would have brought (as well as broken equipment, cha-ching CAT). My Grandfather spent many summers volunteering his time at Broughton Hospital to relieve the overworked Chaplain. My Grandmother and I talked about it last week. She cried as she recalled the desperation she saw in families who needed professional care for their loved ones. She shook her head and said it was a shame Huntersville had missed out on the chance to really make a difference for a lot of people in need. When you have seen it first hand it always brings a different perspective. She has seen the other side and it made her weep.

As I thought about this over the last week, I had to take a long hard look at myself. OK, Miss Priss, just what are you doing to make a difference for someone else?  Was I guilty of turning my own head too?


Guess who else has a comfort zone? Uh huh! I can give you a list a mile long of reasons why I have a comfort zone and they all make sense, medically, emotionally and Gatewoodally. But seriously, I had to look at myself and wonder if I was going to ask others to step out, then I had to be willing to do the same myself.

Do I have any extra time to do anything else? Well, what exactly do I do with my time? I go to the gym 3 times a week and aside from the really old lady keeper and the obvious endless chores and tasks of a car-pooling and sometimes seizing stay at home mom of 2 boys who sits at home and eats ice cream all day, I guess nothing much. Oh yea, and I run. OH YEA, I RUN! That’s what I need to do! It hit me like a sign blown over by the wind! There is a 5K/10K at our local high school this Saturday to benefit the Exceptional Children’s programs in our local schools. I’m running a half marathon the following weekend so the 10K would even be the right mileage for my schedule. Perfect, except that I didn’t know anyone else running the 10K. That threw a mild kink in my plan, but Johnny and the boys planned to go with me so I wouldn’t be there by myself. Great, I can use my running to help a wonderful cause! Fantastic! So I signed up for the Run TOO Overcome, this Saturday, March 17th at 8 am.

Together Overcoming Obstacles!

The mission of the Run TOO Overcome is to provide awareness and support for the children, families, and teachers whom meet the daily challenges, and celebrate the joys, of supporting our special needs community. The Run Too Overcome unites our community each year to raise funds to provide our special needs teachers with the equipment and supplies needed to provide differentiated instruction to enrich and engage students of all ability levels.

I finished my registration and picked up Justin from baseball practice and he told me when his next practice would be – yep, Saturday morning, 9am. AH, HELLO? Guess what that means? No Johnny and no kids with me at the race on Saturday. God really does have a sense of humor folks because I’m going WAY outside of my comfort zone for this one. It’s all solo on this one. OK, so I had to get over myself and move on. The Run TOO Overcome isn’t about my comfort zone anyway, it’s about celebrating the awareness and support of the special needs community and raising funds for our local schools. If reaching beyond my comfort zone celebrates others who have overcome adversity, Amen to that!

(Don’t worry Mom, I’ll carry my phone with me during the race just in case, though seriously, I’m with Michael Scott, In Case of Emergency, just call 911).

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, March 2012

Fear. What is it good for?

A curious thing…fear. It keeps us from walking into a busy street because we know the danger of being hit. This is a no brainer. Fear the busy road. Plenty of times fear saves us from danger and harm. For example, it’s generally in my best interest NOT to shop at Target.  Driving on Sam Furr Rd in Huntersville is hazardous to your heart, health and vehicle.  I fear Target and Sam Furr Rd, so I stay away from both, thus it keeps me from danger. You get the idea.

Fear could have kept me from walking into Weight Watchers in 2004. It didn’t. Fear could have kept me from running my first half marathon in 2004. It didn’t. Fear could have kept me from walking away from my job in 2007. It didn’t. Next to marriage and having children, those three decisions have changed the course of my personal life more drastically than any other decision I have ever made. 

The familiar walls of my home keep me comfortable. The recognizable faces of my family and friends keep me in my safe place. Texts and emails make communication much easier for me. Then sometimes I think, it’s been so long now…my inner routine…, what do I fear about the outside world?

What fear is holding me, or you, back from reaching a greater potential than we might have already realized? Am I afraid of something that isn’t even worthy of fear? How many times have you finished something you feared and thought to yourself that it wasn’t nearly as bad as you thought it would be? Oh, just in case you were wondering, marathons are as bad as you feared they would be, but they are worth every step, just so you know.

I’ve conquered some fears in the past, and I’ve got my fair share to conquer in the future and beyond. What lies beneath the surface? I wonder, would it bring me good or harm and why do I fear it so much? I certainly don’t have all the answers. Just thinking about fear. What is it good for?

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, January 2012