Being A Teenager Living with Epilepsy

What is epilepsy? It is a medical condition within the brain that causes recurrent seizures. Epilepsy is not a disease, nor is it contagious, and it definitely does not define you as a person. Being diagnosed with epilepsy as a teen can be extremely difficult and quite scary. Teens already have so much going on their lives, from growing up and coming into their own or trying to fit in with others at school. Dealing with epilepsy can be a great challenge, but just remember that you are not alone. There are actually over 300,000 people in Canada who are living with epilepsy, and chances are good there are other teenagers, possibly teachers in your school who know what it is like to live with epilepsy day in and day out.

Just because you have epilepsy does not mean that you have to stop pursuing your future goals or dreams. Being able to have good control over your seizures can help you live a fulfilling life. For instance, researchers have found some ways that can help you reduce some of the triggers of your seizures. For example, it is important to reduce some of the stress within your life and find ways to manage it. You also want to make sure that you are getting enough sleep. Being over tired can be a trigger towards your seizures. Another thing to look at is your eating habits. Eating healthy and well balanced meals and living a healthy lifestyle are all very important. Many food additives, sugar, caffeine, stimulants or processed foods can trigger seizures for some people. Additionally, it is also very important to remember to take your seizure medication regularly and on a daily basis.

On top of finding ways to better cope with your seizures, you may also find yourself asking a few questions about your epilepsy. For instance, is this going to affect my school work? What will my friends think of me? Am I ever going to be able to drive? Will I be able to have a part-time job? Will I ever be able to date? There are probably many more questions that a teen with epilepsy may have, but here is a bit of information that some researchers have found that may help you in regards to these questions.

School and Friendships
It may be beneficial if you and your parents/caregivers can inform your teachers about your epilepsy and the medication that you may be taking especially if you experience side effects on a daily basis. This will give your teachers a better understanding of what you may be going through, and can also help to get accommodations put in place such as extra time when taking tests or completing assignments. Also, informing a very close friend of yours that you can trust about your epilepsy can also be very helpful. It would also be important that they would know what to do if you were to have a seizure. Another question that you may have is will I be able to play sports in school? And yes, you can definitely still be able to play sports, but there are a few safety precautions that will need to take place. For instance, there are certain sports that you may want to avoid due to some safety risks, like swimming, rock climbing or scuba diving. Having epilepsy does not mean that you cannot enjoy playing sports, it would just be important that you were to inform your coach or gym teacher about your epilepsy and the medication that you are taking, so they can be there to help you if a seizure were to occur.

Driving is another question that many teens may have. Many may wonder if there is still a possibility that they can get their licence. And the answer to that is yes, there is still a possibility of you getting your licence; however, there are still some restrictions for people with epilepsy. According to Alberta Transportation, in order to be able to drive and to get your licence, you have to be seizure free for at least 6 to 12 months, and you also must currently be seeing a doctor and getting a positive recommendation from them. The main concern is for your safety and the safety of others.

Many teens would like to have a part-time job while they are in school to either get some extra pocket money or to gain some independence. Having epilepsy should not stop you from having a job, but it would be important to make sure that this job does not cause extra stress within your life, which can be a trigger for your seizures. Another question that you may have is whether or not that you should tell your employer that you have epilepsy. Stated within the Canadian Human Rights Commission, you are not obligated to disclose to your employer that you have epilepsy, if it would not become a safety risk within your work place. If there is a concern that this may become a safety issue within your workplace, than it would be important to tell your employer, so then they would be informed about it and would know how to help you, if needed.

Dating and Relationships
When it comes to dating, it can be quite scary for anyone. You may wonder when would be the best time to tell that person you’re in a relationship with, that you have epilepsy? This would depend on how you are feeling about the relationship and how comfortable you feel around the other person. It is important that you feel that you can trust the other person to understand and accept the challenges you live through each day. You may be afraid of what they may think of you, but whether you have epilepsy or not, rejection is a huge fear for many people.

There are a lot of things to think about when you have epilepsy as a teen, and it might take some time to get use to all these changes. It may take some readjusting to your new life, but remember that once you are able to have better control over your seizures, it is possible that you can still live a rewarding life. Having open and honest communication with people in your life who support you, as well as leading a healthy, active and balanced life will also help with not only seizure control, but help you to just feel better on a daily basis. If you have any questions about coping with epilepsy, seizures or being a teenager who lives with epilepsy, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Melissa Hall
Mount Royal University
Social Work Diploma Practicum Student
Support Program