Dealing with Epilepsy as a Fitness Professional
My illness is something I've only recently started talking more about; many people close to me never knew about it until now.
It was something I hid for years because I didn't want to be laughed at. I just wanted to be normal and most of all, I didn't want to be a burden to anyone.
My First Seizure
At the age of 17, I had my first tonic-clonic seizure, a type of seizure that used to be called grand mal. This is the worst possible kind of seizure you can have.
I remember very well the moments leading up to this first seizure. I had just finished playing a video game and had gone upstairs to put on my pajamas. I put them on in the bathroom which I usually didn’t do, and then I walked over to where my twin sisters were watching TV. I told my sisters that the people in the TV were coming out at me. The next thing I can remember is waking up in an ambulance.
Although my immediate family knew about the incident, most people around me did not. For my last year of high school, all I wanted was to focus on football and forget about having seizures. I was told that as long as the seizures were under control, I could still play.
Fortunately, I never had a seizure during the day or during any of my high school or college football career. The seizures always came after the season or during times when I was highly stressed.
The Fear of Living with Epilepsy
It seemed like I had my epilepsy in control when it mattered, but deep down I was more scared than the people around me realized. To this day, going to sleep and wondering if I will wake up or not is a daily fear.
Still, in spite of the fear that comes with having a seizure disorder, I never let it stop me. I continued playing football in college, even surpassing many of my high school peers.
It was unusual that my seizures only came at night, and I felt lucky for that, but I still never felt quite normal. I was taking pills every morning and night. I've been on four different medications since the age of 17 and all have caused some side effects—weight gain, bloating, no appetite, uncontrolled temper.
One time a medication failed to go through my kidneys properly and I had to spend a week in the hospital. During that incident, I lost eleven pounds in a week. My Dilantin level was a 42, although it wasn’t supposed to go above 10. I had double vision, slurred speech, and other symptoms until my body healed.
The Power of Fitness
Then, although I was doing well generally, I had a breakthrough moment. One of my doctors mentioned that my seizures would be much worse if it weren't for my excellent level of physical fitness. This was a turning point, at which I decided to fight back against epilepsy and seizures. I dedicated my life to being in the best possible shape I could be—mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
It has been a journey, and I am always a work in progress. I laugh and smile to combat stress, and I am active every single day, without exception. These are the things that keep me sane. If I miss a day of working out, it takes me out of my element; I don’t feel right.
So working out for me is not for aesthetics, ripped abs, or to run a 4.5. Instead, I do it for my health, my wife, my son, my family, to live to the fullest and the best of my abilities.
Being active and fit is what I call a non-negotiable. Nothing will make me miss a workout even if it's only 10 minutes of mobility or a body weight finisher.
Telling My Story and Inspiring Others
I am telling my story right now, even while fighting back my emotions because I want to show people that even as an expert in the fitness community, I fight battles like everyone else. I, too, struggle and strive to be my best and to be a source of inspiration for others—day in and day out.
I am proud of the fitness accomplishments I have achieved in spite of my illness: I have run countless Spartan Races; I’m an SGX Coach; I competed in CrossFit; I’ve been a part of the Training For Warriors (TFW) Guinness Book of World Records Deadlift competition, and I have trained NFL Pro Bowl Quarterbacks. Even more importantly, I have become a husband and a father and I still have much more to accomplish.
Even with all the adversity I’ve faced, I have never backed down. Even on my worst day, I won't be defeated. To me, even though epilepsy is a life-threatening disease, it is also a superpower that allows me to relate to and be a role model for so many people who think they can’t do what I do.
I am telling my story to show you that I am no different; I just choose to continue the good fight. I'll leave you with this Japanese proverb: "Jozai Senjo," which means “Always be present on the battlefield of life.”
Certified Personal Trainer
The Certified Fitness Trainer program is designed to equip graduates with the practical day-to-day skills necessary, as well as the theoretical knowledge needed to excel as a personal trainer serving the general public. Along with the necessary exercise science foundation, the distance education program covers client assessment, program design, basic nutrition, and sports medicine along with business and marketing skills.