The Power of Exercise

My name is Mary, and I have intractable epilepsy. I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was 14, and my seizures are complex partial with secondary generalization. My seizures have never been controlled, so I’ve had many surgeries in an attempt to identify the focal point and resect it. Within the last five years, I also had two devices implanted and then removed. After the second device was removed, I had a seizure before my skull healed and I developed an infection. I was sent home with a small section of my skull removed, a helmet, and IV antibiotics. Eventually I had another surgery to repair the skull defect using an artificial implant. Shortly after, the surgeon was forced to remove the implant and a much larger portion of my skull due to another infection. I was discharged home again with IV antibiotics and a helmet for safety.

Prior to my injury, I was enrolled in college, working, and staying active. I loved to run, hike, and have taken ballet since the age of 3.  For the most part, I wasn’t limited by this condition, but I did lack complete independence as many people with epilepsy do. Exercising, especially running, has always been something that makes me feel independent. It also helps my anxiety, which has developed as a secondary condition over the years.


As a result of my skull defect, I have been forced to live a more sedentary lifestyle. Although I always wear a “fashionable”, hospital-issued helmet, it is still dangerous for me to leave the house or go for a run outside in case of a seizure. I have been on “bed rest” for months and have felt myself sinking further and further into my parent’s couch. I’m at a point in my recovery where I’m starting to feel better, so I’m pushing myself to start exercising again.


Today, I bit the bullet and turned on one of my mom’s cheesy workout videos because I could not be sedentary any longer.  Truthfully, I am horribly deconditioned from hospital stays and recovery time over the last year. I barely made it through the thirty-minute video; I found myself dancing and laughing towards the end with weights in my hands and a helmet on my head.


Although it was difficult to make it through a simple work out video, I am so happy I made myself try. Of course exercising is important for physical health, but today was also a reminder of the benefits exercise has on my mental state. Exercising today improved my attitude and my energy level. I felt better for the rest of the day. Working out in my parent’s living room was the best I have felt in months!


At times our circumstances can seem insurmountable, and it can be difficult to find motivation.  Though, Happiness can be found in taking small steps.




Mary is 25-years old and in the process of getting her degree in psychology at Kennesaw State University. She lives in Georgia with her family. Mary is passionate about neuroscience and raising awareness for women with epilepsy.