You’re scared. Who wouldn’t be? The docs. There are lots of terrific ones. The tests. They can actually help to correctly diagnose your epilepsy. I’ll die. Not very likely. My life is over. No, it’s not, but it will change…
And although you’ll come up against plenty of myths like “epilepsy is catching.” (Geeze!) People with epilepsy are “challenged” and you shouldn’t expect much from them. (Wrong.)
Some of the greatest people in history had epilepsy. It didn’t stop them and it shouldn’t stop you.
Imagine how different our world would be if these people threw in the towel. Alexander the Great, Aristotle, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Van Gogh, Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Lewis Carroll, Theodore Roosevelt, Bud Abbott, Richardson Burton, Prince, Margaux Hemingway, Neil Young, David Hockney, Duke Ellington, plus a host of sports figures and others.
And then there’s me. I’m not great or famous, but I have had epilepsy for decades. When I was first diagnosed as a teen, no one knew what to do with me. My parents refused to use the “E” word. People treated me like I was some kind of pariah. I was cheerfully told I “would never amount to anything.” They wouldn’t even pay for college!
But here I am. A successful writer for 33 years with my own freelance business, wonderful friends, a terrific husband. I refused to believe them. My life was not over. (Or maybe I just wanted to prove how wrong they were.)
Yes, it took time. To learn, adjust, and adapt. But the biggest lesson was to use my own strengths to come to terms with this new lifestyle and cope.
FACT: You can either become a victim of epilepsy and let epilepsy take over your life. Or you can simply say, “I have epilepsy” and decide your own fate.
Here are my steps for “beginners”…and maybe all of us!
Step #1: Get a great neurologist. One you’re comfortable with and one who can answer your questions. In English. No mumbo-jumbo. If you’re not comfortable with the first one, move on. Or get a second opinion. Keep looking. There are plenty of good neurologists out there and there’s no reason to settle. After all, this is your brain we’re talking about!
Step #2: Get an accurate diagnosis. This will help define what kind of epilepsy you have (yes, there’s a myriad of different types of epilepsy) and diagnostic testing will better target what meds you should try.
Note: There are a lot of new medicines out there. That makes the options both better and more confusing. The first drug may or may not work. You may need another drug or a different combination. Everybody is different and we each have our own chemistry. So what works for one person may not be the answer for you. Be patient and give your doc a chance. (I kissed many frogs before I found my “magical medicine mix!”)
Step # 3: Keep a daily seizure diary. Keep track of your sleeping patterns. What you eat and when. Daily activities (including stress.) Seizures themselves. How you feel before a seizure. Triggers? Auras? Length of seizures, if you know. How you feel afterwards. This will help both you and your neurologist better figure out what’s going on with you.
Step #4: Educate yourself and your family and friends. This will help them understand and alleviate THEIR fears. A wonderful source of knowledge is at http://www.epilepsy.com. At the top are drop down menus in blue. Go to the second one on the left (About Epilepsy) And you’ll find a treasure trove of information.
Step #5: Spread the word about first aid. It will help handle the fear of others who undoubtedly feel helpless not knowing what to do if you have a seizure. And it will help them help you as well as help them understand that they CAN do something about a seizure.
People want to help. Just give them the chance.
Step #6: Talk about it! I can’t even begin to stress how important this is! Share your epilepsy and feelings with your family and friends. Also teachers, employers, colleagues. The more people hear about epilepsy, the more they’ll know and understand.
Prejudice is born of ignorance.
Also join on-line forums and, if you can, local support groups. Find out what other people have done and what they’re going through. Believe me, you can learn from them and vice-versa. (I know I have. And the learning doesn’t stop. Or the support and caring.)
Step #7: Don’t give up! Think of epilepsy as a hurdle, not a death sentence. Life is too short for pity parties, anger, or denial. Give yourself time, and give others time, too. Sure you’re probably scared. But so are they. They may shy away from you, because they don’t know what to do. Or they’ll embrace you, because you’re really still the same person, but you happen to have epilepsy.
There’s a whole community of compassion and caring out there. Just reach out.
Life goes on. And so will yours.
Some food for thought:
2012 List of GOOD Neurologists…Epileptologists…Neurosurgeons…and Pediatric Doctors
2012 Best Neurology & Neurosurgery Hospitals in the U.S.
Beyond EEGs…Diagnostic Tools for Epilepsy
Conditions Commonly Misdiagnosed as Epilepsy
Common Epilepsy Triggers
Epilepsy Foundation – First Aid
The Stats and Facts of Epilepsy
25 Best Epilepsy Books for People of All Ages
12 Recipes for Happiness – Even If You Have Epilepsy!
Websites – Forums
Epilepsy.com Community Forums
Coping With Epilepsy Forum
Epilepsy Foundation Forum