Pursuing My Goals Despite Epilepsy

Living with seizures is challenging for Elizabeth, but she still pursues her goals

By Elizabeth Johnston , New York

Person with Epilepsy

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

I started having absence seizures when I was 9 years old. They came out of nowhere. When you are a kid, having to go for weeklong medical testing and taking new medications makes you grow up much quicker. By the time I was in high school, I had my first tonic-clonic seizure. My situation only escalated from there. A few seizures landed me in the hospital with serious injuries. Growing up, I was always on edge about whether or not I would have a seizure, and I still am. Last year, I fell onto a train track, and the train was about four minutes away. Thankfully, the police were nearby and helped me. 

I wanted to get away from epilepsy and everything, so I went to a four-year college. Sometimes, stress got the best of me and would trigger a seizure. Once I left college, being in the real world only fueled my fire to achieve my goals, so I returned to school to be a funeral director. 

Living with epilepsy is challenging. I cannot drive and am extremely cautious when out and about. Learning to live independently and care for myself as much as possible to avoid seizures has been difficult. I recognize that my seizures came from sleep deprivation and stress. Knowing what contributes to my seizures has helped me focus on my mental health and how to deal with stressful situations. 

Despite how hard it is to live with the challenges of epilepsy, there are always people looking out for you. You are never alone! One of my friends from my first job had epilepsy, too, and it was a breath of fresh air to learn that I was not alone. There will be good and bad days, sometimes one more than the other. Epilepsy cannot stop my confidence. I have learned to pick myself back up and remember who I am, despite having epilepsy. 
I decided to tell my story because I sometimes feel alone and like my life has many restrictions. Despite every challenge I have been through, I have never lost faith in myself or my goals. I try to remember that epilepsy is something I have to face and deal with, not something that defines me. 

Reviewed By: Sara Wyen

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