My Epilepsy & Me

This year International Epilepsy Day is February 12th. It just so happens I have an interview on Clare FM that morning to discuss the recent Climate Emergency Measures Bill that passed through the Dail last week. Here’s Brid Smith from People Before Profit talking about it.

I was pondering how I might weave epilepsy into the conversation about the new bill that will ban fossil fuel extraction licenses in Ireland! The more I thought about it the more obvious it became. As ever it’s a personal story.

I have always said that my epilepsy has shaped who I am. It was almost gifted to me to point me in the direction I should take. It’s a bit of a knock to be diagnosed with epilepsy at 16. All of a sudden you’re different. Just when everybody wants to be the same. Just when you want to fit in. I was the one in class nobody could understand because I had bitten my tongue so badly. I learned to be different from a critical age. I reckon that has helped me embrace being different and not be afraid to stand up when I think or feel differently about something.

I also learned that one person can bring about change. My secondary school had to change one room to accommodate my recovery. I was different because there was a bed put into one of the small offices in case I needed to sleep off a seizure. Later on my employer had to change some circumstances to make it safer for me to work. I learned early on that it was possible to be that person who is different, who stands out and initiates or catalyses change.

A significant player in my development was college. Due to the fact that I had been diagnosed during my senior cycle in secondary school I didn’t really excel at the state exams. I was offered the opportunity to attend Roslyn Park, the National Rehabilitation College. They allocate a course to you based on an IQ test. I was deemed suitable to be a systems analyst. The trouble was that they didn’t teach systems analysis so I ended up training as a computer programmer. I went on to do systems analysis in my working life.

Roslyn Park was a fabulous place. I spent many happy months with people in wheelchairs, people unable to hear, blind people, others with intellectual disabilities and then there were other people you wouldn’t have a clue why they were there.

I always say “there’s a reason for everything”.

I’m including a photo taken at the National Rehab Awards in 1989. It appeared on page 3 of the Evening Press. Yes – I was a page 3 girl 😉

Epilepsy Ireland website is here and I know they were a life line for my parents. There are also great facebook groups for people with epilepsy and parents.

Happy International Epilepsy Day. Dare to be different and not afraid to change the system. It needs us!

Theresa O’Donohoe

February 11th 2018

 

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