I was nine years old when I had my first seizure. It was a snowy, cold winter day, and I was playing a hockey game at Norwich University with my team. As I was getting dressed, I started to get this drowsy feeling and an abnormal headache. Being the nine-year-old I was, I thought I was coming down with an illness, and it was not anything serious or something to worry about.
When game time came around, I went out for my first shift. I stepped on the ice, and the first play I battled was a one-on-one going into the corner. As I transitioned to skating forwards, my mind went blank, and I stopped skating. I lost consciousness. I could not hear, see, remember, or feel anything for ten long seconds. My coach approached me and asked, “What just happened?” His guess was as good as mine. I had no idea. My parents watched me get onto the bench. They peaked their heads over the railing and told me I was not playing for the rest of the game.
My parents noticed other changes in my behavior and overall self, so they made an appointment with a neurologist in New Hampshire. Walking into that big, white hospital, I had a gut feeling something was wrong with my body. The scary part was I had no idea what I would be walking out of this hospital with. It took months to figure out the genuine problem because they needed to run me through different tests, but on December 20th, 2012, I was diagnosed with childhood absence epilepsy.
I felt different after my diagnosis. I felt like I wasn’t a normal girl. Having epilepsy was hard for me when I first got diagnosed because I did not want to admit anything was wrong with me. I had seizures every day for the first couple of years. I wanted to be a normal teenager like everyone else, but I knew my life would never be the same. Instead of living my own life, I was living my seizures. Since that day, my life has not been easy at all. I got monthly blood work, EEGs, MRIs, and CTs. I went to the hospital frequently to check in with my doctor and make sure my medicine was doing its job and that I was on the right track.
Having epilepsy has not only affected me and my daily life, but it has also affected my family in many ways. My new identity was epilepsy, and it was all-consuming.
Managing sleep, stress, and maintaining a healthy diet is hard, but I made sure I did all these things to stay healthy. I would not stay out late socializing with my friends. Instead, I would come home, do my homework, and take care of myself before doing anything else.
My seizures have not stopped as I got older, but there are fewer. I began to see my doctor once a year. As I grew and matured, I managed my epilepsy better than I used to. Having epilepsy and managing school at the same time is still a challenge for me. Getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals, staying hydrated, and taking care of my body have allowed me to stay healthy and be the woman I have dreamt of being.