Whenever I hear the word mercy, I think of two things: church and death.
That may seem a bit simplistic (and morbid), but it’s true—I think everything I’ve been told about mercy boils down to these two things: God’s mercy for sinners and how death can be a mercy for the suffering. The word always carried connotations of desperation and vulnerability, so, naturally, since I spent so much time pretending that I was invincible, it wasn’t a word I that I really paid attention to.
That is, until I had to.
I spend most of my workday pretending to be invincible, and I usually make a pretty good show of it. I am in charge of a bunch of teenagers and it’s my job to make sure they sit down and shut up and learn, so I have to be in control.
And epilepsy is the complete opposite of control.
If I lose it in front of those kids, if I start shaking and twitching and clenching and babbling in front of them, I--
I don’t know.
I don’t even want to think about that.
I’ve done about everything I can do to prepare for that horror. I’ve told my students about my condition. (Even though most of them already knew—there are no secrets in a small town.) There are hot pink posters hanging up all over my classroom explaining what to do if I start seizing. But even still, the idea of having a seizure in front of my students looms, a terrifying and humiliating possibility.
I am in such a vulnerable state when I’m seizing. It would be so easy for my students to take advantage of my unconscious state—to let me fall over and repeatedly bang my head against the floor, to point and laugh if I wet my pants, to take pictures (or worse—video) of my episode, to walk out of the room and leave me there alone.
But I don’t think they will.
To me, I’ve found that mercy is this: holding the power to do harm and choosing not to do that harm.
I am at the mercy of those kids.