Posted by: ritagone | June 22, 2016

Learning Empathy the Hard Way!

Sometimes you have to experience something in order for you to truly understand what it feels like. I believe the expression is to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” I’m beginning to live the reality of that expression. I always thought it was hooey until now. Until this past week, when I experienced my second seizure in a year.

WalkMyPath         There’s nothing like waking up and being told that you’ve had a seizure. You have no memory of it, so you must rely on the report of your husband who was right there beside you while it was happening.

Last July I woke up in an ambulance on my way to the emergency room of the local hospital. Apparently telling the paramedics that you are 37 and live in Montreal will guarantee you a ride on a guerney and a comprehensive medical examination. They could tell I obviously wasn’t Canadian!!

This time it was much less severe. The seizure didn’t last as long and had no lasting repercussions.

Still, to be told that you were shaking and convulsing for ten minutes or so is alarming. And the fact that my tongue was raw and red and sore on one side where I obviously bit it was proof enough that this had really happened; my husband wasn’t gaslighting me.

And so it begins again: the three-months of not being able to drive and being dependent on others, especially Michael. (Fortunately we’ll be gone for one of those months, as we’re leaving in a few weeks for one month away in London and Budapest.) The doctors’ appointments, the poking and probing to try to discover the cause(s) of the seizure and to discern whether or not this is going to be a regular part of my life. I will most likely have to take seizure medication now for the rest of my life. It’s a small price to pay if it prevents further seizures, an adjustment I can easily make.

Now, here’s where the “walking in someone else’s shoes” comes in: I have always had a silent low tolerance for those who dwell on their own ills and maladies. I think my default thought process always was: “Snap out of it.” “Be strong.” “Get over it.” “Overcome it.” Nobody would have guessed that that’s the way I felt, because I kept it well hidden beneath a layer of courtesy and well meaning felicity.

But just the same, I felt it was a weakness to give in to one’s illness, because deep down I believed a sick person was a weak one.

Now I know that sometimes – in fact, most of the time – illness overcomes and overwhelms us and there’s not a thing we can do about it. So maybe this is the greater lesson God means for me to learn: a tolerance for those who are ailing, infirm, sick.

I get it. I truly do.

Being sick does not equate to being weak. It just means being sick.

Boy, do I understand that now!!!

And I also understand all too well that when you have something wrong with you, it tends to take over your day to day life, dwarfing everything else, at least for a time, until you get it put into perspective along with the rest of your life.

So if you meet me and I talk about my seizures too much, forgive me. This too shall pass, and eventually I won’t talk about them as much anymore. Cut me some slack right now. And I promise that if and when you don’t feel well or come back from the doctor with a new diagnosis that overwhelms you, I will let you talk about it and dwell on it for a lot of conversational time. And I won’t think you’re weak or flimsy.

Because now I understand, I really do.



  1. Rita-
    Sorry you have to endure this again. I can empathize.
    Some of us are “sick of getting sick” and want to be all cheery and upbeat so as not to be a complainer. But it’s tiring and lonely and frustrating and it’s good to have friends who can commiserate and offer to pray and bring you food. I think that’s why God encourages us to have community. So feel free to be disappointed that you will need yet another medication. You remind me of my sister,Paula, who pushed on to do God’s work, in spite of debilitating pain, right up to the very end in May. It seemed God was “squeezing out” every last bit of service before he took her home. I see your heart willing to do the same. Your determination and resilience are inspiring. I know you will continue to be a blessing in spite of how you may feel wherever you serve.

  2. Bless your heart, Rita. I agree it is not a sign of weakness…it is a sign of sickness and can even be frightening. So thankful for your desire to push on in His path for you and thankful too that you have family and friends around you to care for you and to pray you thru those frightening moments. Thanks for such a gift to those who know you.

  3. Awwwwe, we love you. Love your honesty, your vulnerability.

  4. Rita! Thanks for your transparency. Sooner or later, we will all be able to relate. I always appreciate your wisdom.

  5. Just recently heard about your seizures from BP. What a frightening experience for you and all around you. I, too, have had a low tolerance for illnesses of others but the Lord has shown me that the problem is mine, not theirs. Sorry we missed seeing you last spring but maybe next trip. We will keep you in prayers.

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