Since my Epilepsy was re-diagnosed in 2017, I’ve been trying to find the perfect balance with my health, I thought October 2019 would remain as my last seizure, but on my birthday this year in July, I had an episode. Knowing that it was caused by missed medication made me more irritated, as it could have been avoided. Luckily, my neurologist said that considering it was a provoked seizure, this shouldn’t affect me getting my license back in October (yay!).
After I’ve had a relapse, I try to bounce back as soon as possible to return to my normal life. I couldn’t do this without the support from my amazing friends. They’ve gone above and beyond after my seizure, I’m pretty sure they were more shaken up about it than I was. It’s not something everyone has seen, so I can understand why it would be an emotional experience.
On some occasions, I had been putting my body and mind under immense stress. Working too many hours each week to get some extra cash, overthinking how the next 6 months of my life will pan out and letting my anxiety get the best of me were all contributing factors to my seizure and it could have been avoided.
Most people don’t realise there is more to the condition than avoiding flashing lights. This can be true for some people, but it’s a stereotype and isn’t always accurate. In fact, only a small percentage of people are sensitive to flickering lights. There are lots of different types of epilepsy. Each person has different triggers and warning signs. Every situation is unique. I wanted to write this post to explain in a little more detail about the condition and how it’s affected me over the years.
Symptoms of epilepsy can vary from barely noticeable to very dramatic, depending on the area of the brain affected. Some people stare into space, this was a symptom I suffered from when I was younger. I would blankly stare for several minutes then carry on the conversation where I left off not realising that others had moved on by this point. Looking back, I think people would humour me and continue the same chat.
Confusion is another common symptom. Just after a seizure, before I’m fully conscious, I can feel on edge and confused on my whereabouts, sometimes I don’t recognise my family or friends. Other people vomit, giggle uncontrollably, have difficulties breathing, lose consciousness, or experience tremors.
SEIZURES HAVE STAGES
All seizures go through a 3-stage process. The first stage is where you experience signs of a seizure. These will be smells, sounds, tastes or feeling lightheaded for example. Stage two is the seizure itself, whether it is a partial or a major one. The final stage is where the brain is recovering, this can take seconds or hours depending on the person and severity of the episode, and usually this is followed by confusion and memory loss. If a seizure lasts for more than 5 minutes, call an ambulance for help.
IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT SEIZURES
Epilepsy isn’t only about seizures, sometimes the condition can cause a change in behaviour and personality or lead to other neurological problems such as learning difficulties, depression or anxiety. I personally have suffered from all of these in the past. Due to my medication, I’m unable to go on anti-depressions as it increases the risk of a seizure. I’m happy to say that I haven’t dealt from these issues for a while.
Each person will experience different warning signs. Personally, I feel exhausted and have headaches before a seizure. When I was younger, I would smell burnt rubber before an episode. Although the recent ones haven’t given me these heads up. Depending on the person, warning signs can be anything. You need to understand your body and how epilepsy affects it, the sooner you identify the warning signs, the better prepared you will be.
Due to the nature of epilepsy, certain limitations are put on your life. I believe the hardest one for me was losing my driving license, a lot of people aren’t aware that you have to be seizure free for a period of time. Every country will have different requirements. In Canada, you only need to be healthy for 6 months whereas in the UK it’s 1 year. Even if you’re on medication, you still need to wait the set time. This took away a great deal of my independence; I felt the restrictions of not having the freedom to travel where I wanted on my own schedule. I would have to either ask for a lift or work to a bus timetable. On the plus side, I was given a free bus pass in the UK, not in Canada though so that sucks!
This next one could make some people very angry. To reduce the risk of seizures, it’s recommended to keep track of your alcohol intake. You can still grab a beer with friends or have a glass of wine with a meal but be careful. Try not to go on hardcore nights out, especially until you have your Epilepsy under control. When you’re diagnosed, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, it just means you have to be more considerate.
To tell you the truth having epilepsy sucks! This can be said about so many other medical conditions. At the end of the day, you need to own it so it doesn’t take over your life. Learn to accept things that you cannot change, it will be difficult to begin with, but in time everything should fall into place.
Since I was re-diagnosed, I’ve come to terms with the cards I’ve been dealt and learnt to live with the condition.