Living with Epilepsy

By Heather EvrleyHeather Evrley

I do not let epilepsy define who I am.

As a college student, I spent my time attending classes, studying and spending time with friends. I also worked as a waitress to pay for college and earn enough money to buy my own car. After pinching pennies and saving tips, I finally got the little white car I had dreamed of for so long. My hard work had finally paid off.

But in one day, everything changed. I was taken to the hospital after having a seizure and, after four days of tests, I received news that came as a shock—I was diagnosed with epilepsy. Little had I known, I had actually been having seizures in my sleep for years. The diagnosis was difficult to accept—especially since it meant the loss of my driver's license. The car I worked so hard to afford sat gathering dust in the driveway, and monthly car payments were a painful reminder of the freedom I'd lost.    

I was determined to reclaim the independence that the seizures had stolen. I took my medication regularly, and the seizures became less frequent. Still, I often experienced odd feelings, as if my sense of awareness was "off." My neurologist brushed it off as a side effect of my medication, but a friend suggested that I see her neurologist for a second opinion. That was another surprise—we had been friends for years, and I had no idea that she had epilepsy.

The neurologist ran tests and discovered that in addition to the tonic-clonic seizures, I had been having 20 to 30 complex partial seizures per day. I felt reassured to have an explanation for the odd sensations and was even more relieved when the neurologist prescribed another medication that reduced them. It was a frightening realization that had I not spoken up, I might not have been diagnosed and treated for complex partial seizures and would have lived with the feeling of being "off" all the time.

The more I learned about epilepsy, the more I realized that it does not have to keep me from living my life. For example, I met my husband, Eric, while I was in college waiting tables. We spoke for hours, and Eric asked me out. But on the day of our first date, I had a seizure. Needing to stay home and recover, I called Eric to cancel. Instead, he came over to my house with dinner in hand and spent time with me and my family.