St. Valentine, the patron saint of lovers, also happens to be the patron saint of epilepsy. I'll admit, those seem like strange, even contradictory, co-causes for patronage. But epilepsy, while not the least bit sexy or romantic, really was the force that kindled the flames of love in my own marriage.
I say that without levity.
I am entirely serious when I say that my epilepsy, though awful and trying, really did bring rise to the most incredible displays of love from my husband.
And it’s not like things weren’t good before my epilepsy diagnosis. He's always been good to me. He’s all about grand, romantic gestures: regular flower deliveries, international vacations, unexpected tickets to concerts I thought were sold out, surprise diamond earrings. And these things are great, beautiful, wonderful—but all of it pales in comparison to the new ways he showed me love after I was diagnosed with epilepsy.
See, it is hugely inconvenient to be married to an epileptic.
It is a complete lifestyle change, for the epileptic and partner both. It requires tremendous sacrifice.
It is a lot of dropping everything to quite literally pick them up off the floor. It’s a lot of last-minute plan changes. It’s a lot of trips to the doctor. It’s a lot of medications with horrible side effects. It’s a lot of MRI’s and EEG’s, followed by a lot of outrageous medical bills. It’s months upon months—or years upon years—of medical cancellations on the epileptic’s driver’s license, which means arranging transportation for things that were so easily taken for granted before: groceries, appointments, haircuts, Target runs. And it is the constant, nagging worry that a seizure could happen at any moment, provoked by even the slightest trigger, one that could even be fatal.
Epilepsy is a thousand pebbles of inconvenience that quickly combine to become an avalanche, and it’s easy to feel buried by their slide.
Epilepsy has proven to be the staunchest test of our marital vows. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health suddenly required real-world implementation, and all the while I’ve watched in awe, eyes wide and jaw slack, as my husband doubled down on his commitment to me.
I did not know the true depth of his love for me until my epilepsy brought it out of him.
I did not know how much I meant to him until I watched him endure these inconveniences on my behalf. Epilepsy stripped away my independence and left me bare in so many ways. It revealed a deeper layer of vulnerability than I was comfortable showing to anyone, even to him. But he has proven himself to me, over and over and over, and I never would have known the true level of his love for me if epilepsy had not forced me to lean into him and allow him to care for me.
Those grand romantic gestures he’s made over the years, the flowers and the diamonds and the vacations, simply cannot hold a candle to the thousands of everyday sacrifices he has consistently made for me over the past nine years. In the end, these simple, ordinary gestures—sitting in a hospital waiting room during my appointments, murmuring words of comfort during my seizures, holding me while I cry in frustration, driving me forty miles to the nearest Target for shampoo and laundry detergent—proved infinitely more romantic than any all-inclusive beachside resort could ever hope to be.
Nothing demands sacrifice quite like sickness.
And nothing says I love you quite like sacrifice.
Maybe that’s the true meaning behind St. Valentine’s strange patronage.
I was two semesters into a journalism program when one of my college professors pulled me aside and said, “Are you sure this is what you want to do with your life? Because I am not sure that journalism is a good fit for you.”