Monday, 30 January 2017

Are we ever going to make any real progress - or are the myths here to stay?

The bottom line is: there are many of types of epilepsy - and not just the type you're probably thinking of as soon as you hear the word 'epilepsy '.

I met up with some people for coffee who'd become friends during the 12 weeks we'd spent on a business course. When they asked how I enjoyed my New Year I explained it had been a funny one because I'd spent a few weeks in hospital - not an emergency but a medication change. I have a form of epilepsy and I've been on one of my anti-epileptic drugs for so long, doctors decided I'd be better off starting the medication change with supervision (i.e. in hospital).

The group didn't seem hear anything after I'd said the word 'epilepsy'. Two of the women immediately looked at the floor to make sure there was enough room for me to fall on it.

"I don't have that type of epilepsy," I sighed.

"Is there another type?" someone asked.

"There are loads. About 50, I think. And since you haven't seen me have a seizure in the 12 weeks we worked together I'm probably not going to have one now, am I."

"What do you do when you have one?"

"I'll probably go blank for a little bit - won't respond to you - which might seem a bit rude and I might put my head on your shoulder but within a few minutes I'll be fine."

"Should we call an ambulance?"

"Absolutely not. There's nothing they can do and I'll be fine - more than fine by the time they arrive."

"When did your epilepsy start?"

"When I was 15 and I didn't realise it was such a big deal then. I'm 56 now and I only know it's a big deal now because of reactions like yours. It's not your fault. It's just that society doesn't seem to have moved on, if you know what I mean. If you're not in the epilepsy 'business' it's a bit of a closed shop! We seem to be fine talking about almost any other medical condition, except epilepsy."

One of the guys asked: "What do other people with epilepsy do - cos you said there were 50 types of fit?"

"Some shout, some wander, jerk, jabber, stammer, there's a whole range of stuff.

"Funnily enough, the picture most people have in in their heads when they hear the word 'epilepsy' is not the most common seizure overall. However it's the one everyone seems to know. I think it's because television and theatre can dramatise epilepsy without having to explain what it is by using the shaking seizure type. But it means that that particular myth perpetuates and the stigma lives on."

The table fell quiet for a bit while they took in the new info - particularly about me.

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