The degree to which people accept their epilepsy varies from person toperson. Some people easily face it and learn to deal with it while others experience confusion.
Faith & Belief
As people grow up they are socialized into various spiritual and moral beliefs. For every faith and belief, there are views on epilepsy that impact how people relate to it. While some religions view epilepsy as a curse, others view people with epilepsy as a divine spirit. Sometimes, religious institutions offer more than only spiritual guidance to people with epilepsy. They run their own schools and clinics that assist in creating awareness about health issues, greatly contributing to the quality of health of their members.
While many religious leaders encourage their members to seek medical assistance from conventional doctors, some prohibit or discourage conventional treatment and solely focus on spiritual guidance instead. Some make use of both; taking the treatment as prescribed by the doctor while also asking their pastor or a faith healer to pray for God‘s intervention. In some cases, religious leaders or faith healers claim to heal epilepsy and discourage the use of anti-epileptic drugs. This can be a health risk. Seizures can recur more severely if one abruptly quits using their drugs without doctor consent.
Can epilepsy be transmitted through sex? - In some areas people believe that epilepsy can be transmitted through sex or even by touch. Fortunately this is not true. Epilepsy is not contagious and as such is not a reason to exclude one from social interaction and intimacy.
Can you get pregnant, or impregnate someone, when you have epilepsy? - Another myth is that people with epilepsy can’t have children. This is also not true as a woman with epilepsy can easily get pregnant and a man with epilepsy can impregnate a woman. If you are not ready to have children, it is important to engage in the services of a family planning clinic.
Might I have a seizure as I make love? - Sometimes, people with epilepsy and their partners worry that a seizure may occur while they make love. In fact, a seizure is no more likely to come at this time than at any other time. But it is true that it could happen. This is not a reason to be nervous about it, and even less a reason to walk away from the intimacy. Having a seizure as you make love cannot do any harm. As you are intimate with your partner, (s) he is close enough to give you the support and assistance that you need.
Can you get infected by HIV or any other STD? - If you have epilepsy, you need protection from HIV and any other STD as much as anyone else. Epilepsy does not prevent you from getting infected when you have sex or through any other way.
Like anyone else, people with epilepsy have feelings, desires and go out on dates in the hope of meeting that special someone and many questions will cross their mind. On the first date, one could be anxious and doubtful of what they should share.Should they only share the nice things or the challenges?When does one inform their date about their epilepsy? The choice is for you as an individual, although we encourage openness about health, as epilepsy is nothing to feel embarrassed about. A person who truly loves you will accept you with all your strengths and challenges.Take your time and explain what epilepsy is so that the person can understand you better and be there for you, for better and worse. You can explain that you are not a victim of epilepsy, as long as you have access to your treatment and as long as people treat you like a normal human being. Just remember that epilepsy is only a small part of you. It’s not your character, it’s not your personality, and it is only a disruption in your brain when you have a seizure.
Sex &Family Planning
Living with epilepsy cannot prevent one from having a successful marriage and bear children. People with epilepsy can make love and have children like anyone else. Therefore you also need to take measures to avoid pregnancy if you are not ready to become a parent.For women with epilepsy, it’s important to know that birth control pills may not fully protect against pregnancy, as some anti-epileptic drugs reduce the effect of the pill. However, condoms work the same for everyone and prevent pregnancy and the transmission of Sexually Transmitted Diseases .When you are ready to become a parent, first consult your doctor. They may change your prescription during pregnancy to reduce the chance of complications for the baby. In most cases, people with epilepsy have perfectly healthy children. During the pregnancy you could experience a difference in your epilepsy. The number of seizures could increase or decrease. This is different for every person. However, if you have a seizure during your pregnancy, we encourage you to inform the doctor about it so that they can check if there is need to change your treatment. In some very rare cases the seizure may harm the baby. Therefore it is important to check how to reduce the chances as much as possible.
When we think about stress, we tend to think about negative pressure; exams or work, how to get enough money for food or school fees. There is also another form of stress - the positive stress - excitement; the moment you get a positive message for example or when you get the job of your dreams. You might feel the energy coursing from your toes to your head, adrenaline kicks through your body.Or imagine when you are celebrating your birthday and your friends and family are visiting you. You are excited to see them together, this day you feel stress, but very positively. Both extreme positive and negative stress can trigger a seizure for people with epilepsy. You cannot completely exclude stress in your life, but weigh the consequences of the stress actions; is it worth the eventual seizure to come?
Exercise is a great way to make ourselves feel better. It makes us feel energetic and boosts our self-esteem. It enables us to sleep better and keeps us from being depressed. When we exercise, the body produces hormones called endorphins which give us a feeling of happiness. These hormones are usually addictive, so once you start with exercise, it’s hard to stop.For most people with epilepsy exercises don’t trigger seizures, but in fact reduce the occurrence. It is therefore not common for people to experience an attack while engaging in sports. Everyone has a type of exercise that they like most. One person may like dancing; someone else may love soccer. Another might enjoy walking more, or riding a bicycle instead of public transportation. When you have epilepsy, you need to consider which exercise is best for you as some types of exercises can be risky, such as swimming. If you get a seizure while swimming you could drown if you don’t get immediate assistance. Therefore you must have someone who can accompany you, so as to assist you if you get a seizure in the water.It is also recommended that you inform the lifeguard about your epilepsy and how they can assist you if you get a seizure. As you participate in sports, you need to protect yourself from exhaustion, dehydration and low blood sugar. These can trigger seizures. Do not cross your limits, and ensure that you drink enough water and eat enough food.
The ability to work and be productive opens doors for people to achieve their goals. People living with epilepsy have the same opportunity to attain anything they set their minds on. However, when choosing a job it is important to take into account your condition. In most cases, people with epilepsy can work just like anyone else. However, if you have regular seizures or extensive side effects from medication, it may make it difficult for you to fulfill your duties.Here’s a check list that can help to assess the relevance of your work:
- The place of work is safe (you and your colleagues won’t be at risk in case of a seizure)
- The work doesn’t have triggers for your seizures such as:
- Too much stress
- Sunlight (which can cause overheating)
- Lack of sleep due to long working days
- Your duties and responsibilities can be postponed or taken over by someone else if a seizure occurs
Nonetheless the jobs that can be termed as risky are a minority. We encourage you to find a way to get educated for the job you want. Combining education and volunteer work will help you broaden your network and improve on your skills. This will in turn make it easier to find a job.
Everyone who wants to drive a car needs to pass the tests for a driving license. But is it wise to drive if you can have a seizure? How can you decide if you can safely drive a car? Can you drive yourself from home to work? Or is this too dangerous due to the chance that you may get a seizure? In many countries people who experience seizures during the daytime lose the legal right to drive.Some people think they can drive safely because they get an aura before the seizure occurs. However, what will you do when you are driving along a superhighway as you get the aura? You may not have enough time to drive to a safe place to park your car. The risk of having an accident because of your seizure is greatly reduced in people who have been seizure free for 12 months. Therefore many countries allow you to drive if you are seizure free for a year.In Kenya, there are no clear published rules on your right to drive a car when you have seizures. However, we highly encourage you to make a wise decision. If you drive a car and you can have a seizure, you risk not only your own safety, but also the safety of other people on the road.
Alcohol & drugs
Some people get epilepsy because of extensive alcohol intake over a long period of time. People who have epilepsy can be sensitive to alcohol. Only half a beer can make a person with epilepsy feel drunk. Alcohol can also trigger a seizure. Consumption of drugs (like smoking weed) and alcohol is associated with behavior that is risky for people living with epilepsy.Most people with epilepsy can have one or two glasses of alcohol without increasing the chances of having a seizure. For some a small amount of alcohol provokes a seizure and they therefore must choose not to drink alcohol at all.Just like all other lifestyle issues, when youth are told what they should and shouldn’t do it generally has a negative impact. If they are told not to drink alcohol, they may feel the urge to rebel and drink excessively. It is therefore recommended that you give them the facts and let them make the choice for themselves.
Education is an essential aspect of life and epilepsy does not in any way prevent an individual from successfully attaining it. However, the condition has been classified by some as a mental challenge. As a result some people with epilepsy have been denied the right to access education even though they can attend classes and gain knowledge like anyone else. On the other hand it is important to note that the condition places an additional challenge upon those who live with it.Epilepsy presents with symptoms such as memory loss and seizures which can interfere with the normal learning process. It is essential not to let it limit or deny access to education. Staying at home would not only take away one’s chance to advance in the labor market but also take away the chance to interact with peers. You would also be missing out on socializing and this may lead to isolation and loneliness.