Health Center - Brain and Nervous System

Brain and nervous system problems can affect one's central command system, potentially impairing memory and the ability to perform daily activities. Learning to live with or supporting someone with a neurological condition is challenging. We're here to help. Learn about the symptoms, causes, prevention and treatment of these disorders.

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.