Confidence to Cross the Finish Line

Annie is sharing her story about how confidence in herself led her to compete in triathlons despite seizures

By Annie Brooks

Friday, April 28, 2023

I was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2012 after having what I now know to be focal impaired awareness seizures. I had no idea epilepsy was anything other than visual fits. Doctors kept telling me it was anxiety or depression. I pushed on to see a neurologist who finally diagnosed me with epilepsy. Even though I was diagnosed later in life, my epilepsy changed significantly. I would be nearly seizure-free, then have clusters of seizures, sometimes during the day and sometimes at night. My seizures are sporadic. They seem to happen whenever they want to. 

I also had depression after my diagnosis. I was adamant that something was wrong for so long, and no one was listening. When I was finally diagnosed, the weight was lifted, and I was left with this big feeling I didn't know how to handle. I lost my driver's license and a sense of independence. I tried various medications to control my seizures like most people do. 

It took me about two years to accept myself and my disability, and I entered my first triathlon in 2014 with my husband teaching me how to front crawl. I loved it, but it took a few years for me to pick it up again as my confidence in myself grew. As the years went by, I felt less embarrassed about having a seizure mid-conversation or during an activity. 
I started pushing myself further. I loved triathlon, but could I do more? I have had seizures running before, but I know how to sort myself out. I finally understood my epilepsy and knew when I should and shouldn't race. I did 12 of 12 challenges with various activities to show how people with epilepsy could still have a full vibrant life. Escape From Alcatraz was a long course weekend that challenged me when I achieved my first 70.3 miles. I am even more active now than I was before my diagnosis. 

Since I couldn't control what was happening to me, my confidence emerged. I started making YouTube videos about my experiences with epilepsy. Why should anyone else feel as lost as I did? I didn't know about focal impaired awareness seizures, so I wanted to help others.

Partial seizures are challenging to live with, even if you can't see them happening. The internal horror I experienced is something else, so just because you know it's invisible doesn't mean you aren't living with epilepsy. Epilepsy is a challenging condition to live with. People don't always understand this with an invisible disability, but it's constant life maintenance. 

I don't want anyone newly diagnosed, going through a diagnosis, or people who want to learn more, to feel isolated. We have a community of others with focal impaired awareness seizures. We get it. We understand the brain fog, the confusion, and the big feelings. 

Don't let seizures and epilepsy hold you back; don't be embarrassed. You can still achieve incredible things. 

Reviewed By: Sara Wyen

Sign Up for Emails

Stay up to date with the latest epilepsy news, stories from the community, and more.