Matt, Eric, Ana, and Me at her beautiful home in San Sebastian, Spain

What I learned from a grand mal seizure…

It was a beautiful Sunday morning and we were just driving back from a powerful leadership development weekend in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains in northern Georgia. The three of us in the car were reeling after 2 days of growth and transformation. I was the co-founder of a leadership development organization and one of our projects was bringing a group of 30 people to a larger luxurious cabin in the mountains for a weekend of personal development. It was a perfect weekend and everything went off without a hitch; until that point.

As we were driving down the road with myself in the driver’s seat, my good friend Ana in the passenger seat, and our friend Matt in the backseat, I looked over at Ana and knew something was wrong. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head, she started shaking, and every muscle in her body contracted. I knew at that moment, Ana was having a seizure. I was astonished at how calm I was in the moment. I would’ve expected myself to freak out but I calmly told Matt that Ana was having a seizure and to please support her head and make sure she didn’t bite her tongue. Matt swiftly moved in to support her as I pulled the car over to the nearest gas station. We sat there calmly supporting her for what felt like an hour but was mostly likely just a few minutes until she finally came out of it.

I learned a lot from that experience.

Matt, Eric, Ana, and Me at her beautiful home in San Sebastian, Spain

Matt, Eric, Ana, and Me at her beautiful home in San Sebastian, Spain

I learned from Ana that we all possess a strength that we may not think we have. The fear that Ana must have felt all those years battling seizures and knowing that the next one could strike at any time must have been terrifying. Her seizures could literally hit her at any time and in any moment. Nothing was immune to it. It could have hit her in the middle of an exam, walking through the grocery store, or taking a shower. The strength and commitment that one must possess to overcome a challenge like that is extraordinary.

Ana taught me that when we have a challenge that seems insurmountable, we can all dig a bit deeper and persevere even when there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Ana taught me to be present and live in the moment. If she lived in anything but the moment, the fear of when a seizure would come would be an unbearable mental hurdle, but living in the moment is the only antidote for the mental virus that is worry.

Ana taught me about self-acceptance and love of thyself. She is extraordinary at seeing the perfection in the imperfections. She embraced her challenge as a gift to transform herself and transform the lives of those around her.

Ana taught me that our greatest opportunity is living in service to others. Every time I speak to her she is most passionate about using her lessons, life experiences, and unique challenges to elevate the people in her life.

We all want to know when we are going through a challenge that there is meaning behind the pain; meaning behind the suffering. Meaning can come from two places: from the individual experiencing the pain and the individual observing the pain. I think we both created an extraordinary meaning from that day. At least I know I did.

All the best,

Dr. Matt Westheimer

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