For me, high school was a positive place. I knew I had epilepsy, but there aren’t many negative memories that were brought on by my condition. Although it led to a few seizures, whenever it did, I managed to shrug it off with a laugh. Most of the time, it all seemed under control with a little dose of my medication.
I remember when I had a strange spell in English class once. From what I remember, we were told to start writing silently by our teacher and the rules were followed. But then, our teacher asked me ‘Are you okay Joe?’, and I looked up. Everybody in the classroom was looking back at me with shock. My good friend Nathan was sat next to me looking pretty scared. But I didn’t know why.
From what I remember, I just said ‘Yeah…’ After that, I guess we just let it pass and got on with our work.
Being a Kid
Although childhood officially lasts for 18 years, the era of ‘being a kid’ I’m looking to talk about is after we hit double figures and puberty follows. Puberty itself doesn’t cause epilepsy, but some types of epilepsy syndromes tend to begin during your teenage years. I wasn’t far from adulthood when my epilepsy started to bother me a lot more, but looking back, I think I had a syndrome starting to take effect towards the end of high school.
A syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms that suggest a medical condition is due to occur. I remember having what might have been my only tonic-clonic seizure in my final year of high school. Staring at an exam paper, I also really struggled with one of my GCSE exams and wasn’t sure why.
Despite living with the knowledge that I had epilepsy, I enjoyed life in high school. I know for other children it can be a lot more difficult to live during that era, for a number of reasons.
Movement from Normality
When any child has epilepsy, the one rule to remember is that safety comes first. This rule doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything as a child, but before your epilepsy is well controlled there are a few things to consider when you’re taking on an activity:
- If you’re taking a swim, let a life guard know about it beforehand.
- Always walk with a friend if you’ll be near open water.
- Always wear a helmet when you’re on a bicycle, and take the quiet paths to your destination.
- Always use heated appliances around the house when somebody else is in the room.
It’s best to just find your safest methods: if you come up with the best routine for yourself, you won’t regret it. It’s a lot easier to pick yourself back up after a less dramatic seizure or no seizure at all.
Personal experience backs my claim. I can’t deny that I drank alcohol and occasionally smoked cannabis when I was a teenager. Sometimes my epilepsy was better controlled than others, and when it wasn’t, it led to a few nasty seizures. It really wasn’t the right thing to do.
Staying Social with Others
Whether born with the condition or just diagnosed, knowing you have epilepsy can make you feel a bit different from others. Many young people with epilepsy admit that they worry about people treating them differently because of the condition.
The best way to manage these feelings is just to try and relax. Take having epilepsy in your stride, explain it to your friends, but keep calm and tell them it’s not a big deal. By doing this, it’s more likely that your friends will accept your epilepsy.
If your friends are a little alarmed by your epilepsy, to begin with, don’t panic. Everybody needs to learn more about epilepsy at some point in their lives, and this is a chance to point them in the right direction. There’s information they can find (like on this website) to help them understand the condition and feel more relaxed about it.
A Little Ignorance
As well as that, if any difficult incidents with friends and fellow pupils occur in school, then stay calm. It’s not uncommon for people to occasionally treat you different in high school. It might be because of your epilepsy, or it might not. You can always take a minute to find out by talking one-to-one with the other person; they might be able to explain what they’re feeling.
Some people may be treating you differently through ignorance; it’s normal to feel scared of something you don’t understand. In high school, you’ll want all of your teachers to be aware of your epilepsy, although even they may be a little unsure of how it works.
If teachers or pupils at your school need a little education about epilepsy, then this is something that can be supplied by Epilepsy Action with their epilepsy awareness training. It costs £200 to arrange, and payments can be arranged through a little charity fundraising if needed. Also, don’t forget that raising epilepsy awareness is a key to helping others with epilepsy – the more people who understand about it, the better the world will be.
Living your Life Back at the House
When anybody moves into puberty, and their teenage years, it’s common to look for more independence as you further mature. However, if epilepsy is an issue that you deal with, then it’s easy to understand why your parents are going to be a bit worried about you when you’re spending time alone.
Nevertheless, there are ways around this problem. The best thing to do is have a sensible chat with everybody you live with to fully confirm that you’ve got all the information needed to keep yourself safe.
Here’s a useful list of things that can help your parents feel a lot less worried:
- Making sure that you always wear an epilepsy wristband and carry an epilepsy awareness card.
- Put an alarm on your phone to remind you when to take medication.
- Have a talk with your parents about the risks of alcohol, drugs and late nights.
- Get your friends to talk to your parents and confirm that they understand what to do if you have a seizure.
- Make a note of any seizure that occurs and tell your parents about it.
- If out with friends, agree to contact your parents every so often by phone to tell them you’re fine.
- Talk to your parents about a bed alarm if they’re concerned about you having seizures in the night.
Along with your parents, always make sure that any brothers and sisters you have feel comfortable too with you and your condition too. It’s going to be important that they’re aware what to do when you have a seizure. Again, they’ll probably benefit most from epilepsy information you point them to online.
Things can be Tricky, but there’s Plenty of Support
In a way, people with epilepsy are unique with the way that they have to deal with it. Whether you’re a boy or a girl, due to the medical problems and ways it restricts your lifestyle activities, there’s a lot of little problems that can occur when growing up at different times. However, there’s also a fair bit of help to receive when certain problems feel like they’re bothering you a lot.
The most eligible charity to mention here is Young Epilepsy. They look to provide better futures for young lives with epilepsy and associated conditions. If you head to their website, you’ll find yourself a lot of help and support with a helpline, other contact methods, and plenty of information about epilepsy for young people is available.
It was impossible for me to pick up every possible ‘epileptic experience’ when I had epilepsy growing up. But when you have epilepsy and enter a new part of your life (e.g. starting high school, beginning puberty, having your first relationship), it’s much better for you to understand your condition in every way that it could bother you. Don’t be afraid to talk to your family, friends, or at least take a look at information that’s available for you online when needed.