Saturday, 26 March 2016

Life: Epilepsy: more than a diagnosis...

Image credit - Pinterest

Despite Epilepsy affecting 65 million people across the globe, the actual cause, for the most part, remains widely unknown. Back in 2012, I was diagnosed with Photosensitive Epilepsy which occurs in less than 5% of people diagnosed.

Photosensitive Epilepsy is where the person has a reaction to anything that flashes or flickers whether it is artificial or natural. Sometimes even certain patterns can trigger a seizure. Seizures can also be dependent on other factors. I am most susceptible to a seizure when I am stressed, extremely tired or I have drunk an excessive amount of alcohol.

Every person that is Epileptic is different and the types of seizures vary. My seizures are known as convulsive seizures. Generally I will lose consciousness during the seizure and will convulse. Once I come around, I have no recollection of the seizure and I'll have the biggest headache ever (no surprise!).
In my 28 years (genuinely still feel 18..), I have had 3 seizures. When the 1st seizure occurred, I was around 15/16 and it was on a school trip abroad. If I can remember correctly, I had had very little sleep the previous night which, combined with flashing sunlight, set me up for a fall. My 2nd seizure was the day after the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony. I had been out with friends the night before at Speyfest, drinking and Ceilidh dancing away to the Red Hot Chilli Pipers. Admittedly, I was really drunk at Speyfest and it's one of those nights where I can still only remember parts of it. However, regardless of how drunk I was the night before, it was essentially the amount of alcohol consumed, the lack of sleep and the stress of being unemployed at the time, that contributed to this seizure. Out of the 3, this seizure was perhaps the turning point where I realised that something may be wrong.

For me, being told by my Doctor that I had Epilepsy was not the biggest problem. I know that both medication and being aware of my triggers will help me to control it. The biggest problem I have is the constant mind games it plays with my mind. I find myself analysing every single thing in life: from where I sit on a bus to what I do socially. Every single damn thing. One of the most difficult situations that I find extremely hard to deal with are nights out. Back in university, I would be out several times a week with my friends drinking and dancing. I loved it and could think of nothing better than getting dressed up and heading out. Now, I am a shadow of the person that loved to go out. Any time that a night out is mentioned now, my mind goes into overdrive and I analyse it way beyond belief. Truth be told, I don't normally put myself in that kind of environment any more. As much as I love my friends and nights out, I always play the safe card now and tend to remove myself completely. In recent times, the only time that I have seen the whole night through was my work's Christmas night out. Even then, my mind was in overdrive and I was analysing everything like crazy. During the night, I was actually on Whatsapp to my friends freaking out (a lot). Their advice was to leave if I was uncomfortable (which I was) but that small stubborn streak inside of me wanted to stay as despite freaking out, I was really enjoying myself with my colleagues. In the end I did stay and I even made it onto the dance floor right at the very end. A small victory if I may say so.

Coping with having Epilepsy is obviously something that I'm still trying hard to deal with. I am actively trying to minimise my triggers: I now drink little to no alcohol; I'm always in bed before midnight (usually around 11) and I try to live a stress-free life. Something that I have found that really is helping me to cope is, unsurprising to some, the gym. When I'm at the gym, I am not actively analysing everything around me. I am completely 100%  focused on what I am doing whether that is working on improving my squat technique or having a bit of a dance during Sh'bam. At the gym, I am probably at my most content and relaxed in regards to my Epilepsy as I know that I can class it as a 'safe place' and I can enjoy myself.

With my Epilepsy, I am taking each day as it comes. I still have a long way to go until I feel completely happy to put myself into any situation without feeling the need to analyse everything. I have little milestones that I want to achieve and as I'm the kind of person that likes to prove myself wrong, I'm hoping that one day I will be able to reach them. But at the moment I am taking things slowly and as they say 'Slow and steady wins the race'.