There are many young people who live with epilepsy every day. Some of the most important things to remember are to always take your medicine, let you closest friends know what to do if you have a seizure, and be sure to talk about your epilepsy with your parents or health care team if you have any questions or concerns. Here are some key questions and answers:
There's alcohol and sometimes drugs at parties. It makes me feel different to always say no. How would they affect my seizures?
Using either is a real risk, because drugs are against the law and using alcohol -- if you are a minor -- is also illegal. You could get caught. You don't want that kind of trouble. Besides, mixing street drugs with epilepsy meds is even riskier. Some illegal drugs -- cocaine, for example -- can cause seizures in people who don't even have epilepsy.
Other illegal substances, like pot, may contain all kinds of additives that could be harmful to you. As for alcohol, it's unlikely to cause a seizure immediately, but it may the following day. Remember, just one seizure can set you back on qualifying for a driver's license.
Will I be able to go to college? Get a job?
Yes, to both. If your high school grades are good enough to get you into college if you didn't have epilepsy, there's no reason to think that having epilepsy would be a barrier.
Sometimes, the meds might affect how quickly you can complete tests and similar projects. In most cases, you should be able to work with the college administration to take a lighter credit load and even have extra time to complete your work.
The key to getting a job is to have marketable skills and some work experience. Try building a resume with part time jobs while you're still in high school and at college, or do some volunteering or community service. Sometimes volunteer jobs can become permanent ones.
My parents don't want me to play sports. But I really want to. How can I make them see how important this is to me?
Have you tried raising this question with your doctor? He or she could be a good ally -- depending on the sport and how your seizures affect you. Most teens with epilepsy should be able to run track and play basketball or tennis or other sports with no problems.
Swimming alone is not a good idea, at any time for anyone. Swimming with others who know you have epilepsy and are good enough swimmers to help you if you should have a seizure is a better plan.
Protective helmets can reduce the risk of head injury from cycling, baseball and football, although not completely. Helping parents let go is never easy, and it's especially tough when a teenager has a medical problem. Perhaps you can convince them to let you try and see how things go.
Ever since I started having seizures I've felt very down and sad. I worry about having seizures. What's causing these feelings?
Seizures can affect how you feel in a number of ways. They can affect areas of the brain involved with feelings. Or maybe it's how you feel about having seizures? No one likes seizures and many report feeling nervous or scared about them. It could also be the medicines. Or maybe the 'down' feelings are related to a change in mood that is not related to your epilepsy at all.
Tell your parents how you're feeling and see if you can get an appointment with your doctor to find out what is causing you to feel this way. A change in medicine might help. Depression and anxiety are not things to ignore. They can be treated successfully.
I think I'm more likely to have seizures when I'm really stressed or tired. Is that possible?
Yes, being under stress or not getting enough sleep can trigger seizures in some people. All nighters are not a good idea when you have epilepsy. That doesn't mean you have to nap all the time, just get an average amount of sleep to feel rested.
Someone told me flashing lights or even video games can cause seizures. I really like the games, and I've never had a seizure when playing them. What's the story?
Some people are what's called photosensitive, which means they may have seizures if a light flashing at a certain rate is shined in their eyes or they look at flashing images of light and dark.
If you've had an EEG test, they probably did a photosensitivity test as well, using a light, to see if your EEG would respond. If you didn't have a seizure, or there were no telltale signs on your EEG, then flashing lights or flashing video game images may not be a problem for you.