The 18th of March. What would otherwise be a perfectly insignificant day is a day that for my family and I holds a unique significance this year. It is the day on which I will be 1 year seizure free – my first time since my diagnosis reaching this milestone.
Before having epilepsy I didn’t know that this was a cause for celebration for people living with epilepsy but as I approach the milestone myself I cannot help but feel a mixture of relief, excitement and perhaps a sense of a fresh start. For me, when I was diagnosed with epilepsy I could only see what I had lost. I had time out of medical school, had to put my sport (equestrian mounted games) on hold, I had lost my driver’s license and even lost some teeth! Since then, although thankfully now not having had any seizures for a year, I find that epilepsy has not “gone-away” as one might have expected.
For people with epilepsy there is much more to epilepsy than seizures themselves. For example I have faced misguided comments saying I am embarking on the wrong career by wanting to be a doctor based on my epilepsy. Whilst these can easily be brushed off as incorrect and frankly nonsense, that is not to say that they don’t hurt as they certainly do. In one year I went from knowing very little about epilepsy to having it always in my mind in some way or another. This is what I would love people to know about epilepsy: that it doesn’t change me as a person and shouldn’t change the way people perceive me. That is why I am determined to keep talking about epilepsy as unfortunately for such a common condition there is a lot of misconceptions and stigma still surrounding epilepsy.
"This is what I would love people to know about epilepsy: that it doesn’t change me as a person and shouldn’t change they way people perceive me."
Whilst I had once felt a sense of loss, I now want to go forward with a sense of hope. Hope that I will continue to be seizure-free, hope that people become more epilepsy-aware and hope that more can be done to promote epilepsy advocacy and awareness. This is why, at my 1 year milestone, I want to share what I have experienced by living with epilepsy over the last few years.
For people with epilepsy, particularly those who continue to have regular seizures, this year has been increasingly challenging in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the demanding circumstances under which the health service finds itself. The strength of the health service is vital for those with epilepsy. In spite of ever-growing waiting lists and thinning-resources, the real strength of the health service is its staff. For me, the neurologists, epilepsy nurses, and all the innumerable members of the healthcare team have been invaluable in allowing me to reach this milestone of 1 year seizure free. For that I am immeasurably grateful and I would like to express my gratitude for that.
"Whilst I had once felt a sense of loss, I now want to go forward with a sense of hope."
I also think that it’s important to know that for people being newly diagnosed with epilepsy, although there is no doubt that it can be a challenge to process this diagnosis, it is by no means an end to your achievements or aspirations. I once felt hopeless after my diagnosis but I now feel that I have emerged from the other side of my initial epilepsy battle and look forward to looking at things from the new perspective epilepsy has given me.
1 year down! Paddy 1 : Epilepsy 0
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