Dating may be a normal part of teen life – but anyone will tell you that it’s far from easy. Going on a first date can be nerve-wracking under the best of circumstances; epilepsy just adds another twist.

One question people often worry about is how soon they should tell their date that they have epilepsy. It’s definitely a good idea to tell anyone you’re dating regularly about your epilepsy, just the same as you’d tell them anything else important about yourself. However, it’s also a good idea to wait until you feel comfortable with the other person before bringing up a topic as personal as epilepsy. Every relationship proceeds at its own pace, and it’s never a good idea to push things before you feel ready. Although you may think it will make things easier to “test the waters” before opening up about your own epilepsy – perhaps by making up “people you know with epilepsy” and seeing how the other person reacts – in the long run, it’s better to wait until you feel comfortable having an completely open and honest conversation. Being able to ask questions and share feelings on any topic, including epilepsy, will only make a relationship stronger.

Of course, if your seizures aren’t very well controlled, it might be a better idea to bring up the topic of epilepsy before it brings itself up. The conversation might be awkward, but it’s certainly better than the far more awkward situation of a seizure occurring with a new friend or boyfriend who doesn’t know about your epilepsy. Although it may seem tempting to tell the other person over the phone, in an IM window or by e-mail, instead of in person, any serious conversation like this is probably best done face-to-face – however uncomfortable you’re worried the discussion might be, you’re going to want to be able to see the other person’s face and react to them. On the other hand, it’s probably better to wait and find the right moment in the date to mention your epilepsy, instead of springing out of the blue. The more comfortable you are with the other person, the better the conversation will go.

Of course, whenever you ask someone for a date, there’s the fear of rejection. Everyone worries about it to some degree; some people worry so much that they never ask anyone out at all. In addition to all the normal fretting – will she like my hair, will he notice my zit, is my laugh too loud, are my clothes too bright – people with epilepsy also have to worry that they’ll be rejected because of their condition. Unfortunately, this does happen from time to time. People who don’t know anything about epilepsy are sometimes afraid, the same way that anyone can be scared of something that they don’t know anything about. With time and patience, however, anyone can be taught that epilepsy isn’t something to be scared of. How well they understand epilepsy, and what they feel about it, will reflect the understanding and feelings of the person who teaches them.

No one escapes being rejected from time to time. Anything could be the reason for it – a personality trait that doesn’t appeal, a physical feature that happens to turn the other person off, or even just the wrong circumstances and bad luck. Most of the time, the person who’s doing the rejecting can’t even explain to themselves exactly why they don’t think the other person is right for them. Sometimes, in order to set their mind at ease or explain to friends, they’ll even make up a reason that may or may not be the real one.

Yes, people might reject you because of epilepsy – but often that’s not the real reason for rejection, and if it is, it’s just a sign of misunderstanding and ignorance. Moreover, sometimes just worrying about rejection can make you think you see it in places it doesn’t really exist. The situation’s more comfortable if the other person already knows a little about epilepsy before you start going out. In that case, you don’t have to explain as much, or worry that epilepsy will “turn someone off.” Whatever happens, even with the occasional setback, epilepsy shouldn’t stop you from having a romantic life as exciting, fulfilling, and, yes, nerve-wracking as anybody else.

 

Authored by: Gregory L. Holmes, MD
Reviewed by: Joseph I. Sirven, MD | Patricia O. Shafer, RN, MN on 2/2004
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