I woke up this morning, not with a skip in my step, but a thumping pain in my head. As I wrote last night, I have epilepsy and experienced two minor seizures yesterday afternoon.
These tend to result in a headache that lasts into the following day and a mild sense of feeling down. I won’t use the word ‘depression’ as it’s not applicable here. But I’m definitely not feeling my usual chipper self.
In my experience, epilepsy is misunderstood by many people. Some view it as making life impossible – not so and I’d like to think I’m proof of that. Some view it as somehow related to mental illness, which it is not. (And yes, some people still believe it has religious or supernatural connotations. I won’t dwell on that…)
It is, in fact, the most common neurological illness in the UK, affecting over 600,000 people directly. The problem with epilepsy, I think, is that it can take many forms and has many root causes.
Some people experience seizures from birth. Others after a traumatic brain injury. Mine only manifested in adulthood and, at the time, I was completely unaware that this was even possible. The original cause of mine is still unknown and, rather unhelpfully, labelled “idiopathic” by my doctors.
(Medical shorthand for “we don’t know where this came from”)
Seizures can be frightening both for the person with epilepsy, but also those around them. It’s still stigmatised in society, making the experience even more difficult for those of us living with it.
One organisation that goes out of its way to help is Epilepsy Action I saw this tweet this morning, and for for the first time, learnt something useful from them:
— Epilepsy Action (@epilepsyaction) February 14, 2014
So from now on, Valentine’s Day has a new meaning for me. Not that I somehow believe in a saint or supernatural influences on illness – but that on this day when much of the world focuses on exchanging “romantic” cards, gifts and cringe-inducing romantic poetry, we can also spare a thought for people with epilepsy. And their carers.
Those people who can’t work or live independently. Those whose education was hampered by the illness. Those whose seizures resulted in physical injury. And those for whom the illness represents a crippling, embarrassing secret.
It needn’t be. Check out Epilepsy Action’s website and learn something new today. You might be surprised at how some of your preconceptions are challenged.