A Student’s Guide To Epilepsy

As a previous university student, I believe it’s important to let others know that having epilepsy does not stop you from doing anything, including getting your degree! I learnt a lot during my first year away from home – cleaning, tidying, time management, cooking and most importantly looking after myself and my body. If you’re studying at high school, college or university, have a quick peep at some tips I have for you!

Understand your seizures 
Moving away meant I had to look after my health – including my seizures and how to deal with them. To make this as easy as possible I used a calendar and diary and tracked when I had my seizures and what type, how much I slept, what I ate and my daily routine (including nights out, lectures, socialising). I began noticing a pattern emerge and learnt what to add and avoid. This really helped when it came to doing assignments as I always knew when my body was at it’s strongest.

Got an assignment? 
Epilepsy can be unpredictable which can be a massive pain as a student (and trust me I know)! One assessment I spent 4 days straight pushing my body to it’s limits to get my presentation finished – it caused migraines, sickness and seizures and took me nearly a week to fully recover. To avoid situations like this, my advice would be to start ahead. I made sure I did daily pieces of work and would nearly always submit my work early. Having discipline and organisation meant if I were to have an unexpected seizure, I wouldn’t fall back on my studies. Time management is key.

Make your flatmates and friends aware
I can remember the first time having to tell my new roommates that I had epilepsy. My roomies were fantastic and didn’t really bat an eyelid! It can be pretty daunting but make sure your friends are aware. Although having a seizure can be scary for you, it can be extremely overwhelming and scary for someone who doesn’t know what to do. So educate and prep for emergencies!

Take care of your body
I think I’d probably advise this to anyone and everyone – look after your body! Your brain needs to function properly, so be careful what you eat and drink. I know from my own personal experience that I cannot drink coffee, grapefruit juice and I can’t eat a lot of chocolate or white bread/pasta. Your body is incredible so learn what’s best for you.

Party, drinks and more drinks
University life is full on, and I mean crazy! There’s freshers week (which basically turns into the whole year), pre-drinks and parties, clubs and more parties, socialising, gatherings, hobbies and more parties… on top of studying and attending class. This side of uni-life is fantastic and I would suggest grabbing the excitement with both hands however never push yourself and look after your body. Only you know what is best for you so never let anyone else tell you otherwise. Pushing your body’s limits can be dangerous.

One step at a time
Whilst others were able to study for hours at campus, go for drinks and then continue to study until early hours of the morning – I couldn’t. My body was more fatigue and my immune system was always so low which caused my seizure threshold to be crazy. I just couldn’t hack that sort of lifestyle and it definitely wasn’t healthy for me (let alone anyone). I’d end up being unwell for days on end and it just wasn’t worth it. I began to balance my studying and social antics alongside looking after my body. It’s all about managing! If you feel you need to finish your studying early and hit the hay then do it! Your health is important.

Do not let anyone put you down
…and if they do then bring them to me and I’ll tell ’em what’s what (I’m totally joking I couldn’t hurt a fly if I tried). Whether it’s at school, university, work or in your social life, you will meet someone who perhaps doesn’t understand the condition, is uneducated and may without realising bring you down about you and your condition. Remember that you are strong and powerful. I am so proud of myself for what I’ve achieved and I’ve learnt so much about myself along the way. You should be proud of yourself too. Epilepsy will never define you!

I suppose my key tip for you is to learn your body and your own do’s and don’ts. The beauty of life is that every single person is different. My way of managing may be completely different to yours and that’s okay! Find something that works for you. Find that time to wind down and cope. Epilepsy can be extremely difficult sometimes – whether it’s the seizures itself or the medication and side affects. But no matter what, remember you can power through.

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