I had my first real epileptic seizure when I was 5 years old. My mother says my eyes were rolling and I was staring off into the distance. She was terrified.
What I had is called a "petit mal" seizure or an "absence" seizure. It’s called that because there’s a lapse in conscious activity for a couple of seconds. It’s different from a "grand mal" seizure, when people have convulsions. That’s what most people think of when they think of epilepsy. A petit mal seizure may not sound like much, but it’s still dangerous because you can drown or have some other kind of accident in those few seconds.
Once the doctor diagnosed me after that first seizure, we were able to learn about the disease and how to manage it. For instance, I take antiseizure medication daily, and that keeps my seizures under control. But I still get them sometimes, such as when I get dehydrated or stressed, or my medication level falls too low. I can tell when I’m about to have a seizure because I start to feel dizzy and my head hurts or I feel nauseous. If that happens, I tell an adult that I’m about to have a seizure. Afterward, I check in with my pediatrician and my neurologist just to make sure everything’s OK.
Coping with Epilepsy in School
But my epilepsy hasn’t really stopped me from doing things. I’m in 11th grade now at a public school. Most kids at my school don’t even know I have epilepsy -- you know, I dress normally and act normally. I’m an honor student at my high school; I have a 3.48 grade point average. I’ve been playing soccer for five years, and I bowled on a team for three years. I’m a Girl Scout, and I volunteer for the Red Cross as well as for a drug abuse prevention program. After I graduate from high school, I want to go to college to become either a forensic investigator or a lawyer.
I don’t think epilepsy has to stop me from doing what I want with my life. I used to be afraid to tell people about my epilepsy, but after having a seizure at school in middle school, I realized that people needed to know, that I needed to share safety tips with them.
So if there are other kids out there who have epilepsy, here’s what I want them to know: "Don’t be worried about what others may say about you," and "You’re not the only one who has epilepsy." Sometimes I even write letters to kids who have written to the Epilepsy Foundation looking for tips on how to cope with it. I want them to know that in my life, I may have epilepsy, but epilepsy doesn’t have me.