Before I was diagnosed with epilepsy, I used to suffer with depression and feeling very tired and confused a lot of the time. I probably held myself back at school because of this. I struggled with my studies because I was always tired, and perhaps didn’t work as hard as I could have, because I didn’t have very high expectations. I also struggled to make friends. I’ve also had problems with concentration and memory.
I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was 14. I think I’d heard of epilepsy, but I didn’t know what it was. I spent a long time in denial, feeling ashamed and confused. I didn’t want to stand out from the crowd.
I spent a lot of time thinking about how different I was from my family and my friends. I felt very passive in life, as if things were passing me by. My teacher arranged for me to see the school counsellor, to see if she could help me deal with my feelings.
After my diagnosis, there was also a sense of putting the pieces of the puzzle together – it was quite overwhelming. I was told that I had probably been having focal seizures for a few years, but nobody ever picked up on them. I think that the seizures did affect my ability to study at school, we just didn’t realise it at the time.
My diagnosis was a turning point for me. I worked out that my depression, as well as concentration & memory problems were connected to my epilepsy – it wasn’t just a permanent part of my personality. With the help of the school counsellor, I became more positive and realised that I could try to change things. And I did!
Once I started my meds, my seizures happened less and less and I also didn’t feel as tired. Some of my depression began to lift and I found it easier to concentrate on my school work. The school has also helped me develop some strategies to help my memory. I make sure to keep an up to date calendar, to keep track of my days. And, in addition to class notes, I record classes on my mobile, to go over later on.
My teachers helped a great deal. They made sure that if I missed any information, due to a seizure or a medical appointment, they helped me catch up. They also found different ways to help me learn, such as presenting information in different ways – verbally, in writing and in pictures. They also regularly checked that I had understood what we had been learning about.
I’d never really considered going to college, but I ended up doing much better than expected in my GCSE results. So I decided to apply for an Access to business course.
Before applying, I contacted the Disability Services and Learning Support Team at the college, who offered me loads of advice about what support would be available to me. This included helping me to get extra time in exams and also emotional support.