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Leah's Story - #EpilepsyWeek

Leah Murphy and the quote The public remains largely unaware of the mental and physical toll epilepsy exacts.

For National Epilepsy Week 2024, Leah Murphy has sent us this piece about her journey with epilepsy so far, entitled Embracing Epilepsy: A Journey of Resilience and Hope.

At the age of 13, my life took an unexpected turn when I experienced my first seizure in school. The memories are fragmented – from being fine one moment to waking up on the classroom floor, with my mother by my side and a jacket covering me. A surreal scene unfolded, my history teacher in a state of concern, and paramedics arriving promptly. The routine questions followed – my name, my location, and the most challenging of all, the awareness of the current day.

Upon learning that I had experienced a seizure, I understood that my life was about to change irrevocably. Confronting my fear of hospitals and the prospect of taking medications became an inevitable part of my new reality. Being wheeled out in a wheelchair, shrouded in a blanket with an oxygen mask, the emotional part was glimpsing my distressed friend in the lunch hall. The event had unfolded before him and the rest of my classmates. As I left, he waved, and in the ambulance, the surreal feeling persisted – not quite in my body, wondering if it was all a dream.

The fear of hospitals, a major phobia, seemed to dissipate in the face of the realization that my life was now different. Uneducated about epilepsy, I faced the unknown with a mix of courage and uncertainty. It was only when epilepsy touched my life that I understood its profound impact.

Diagnosis proved elusive until I had another seizure in front of my mother. Walking down the stairs, my awareness faded, and I fell into the sitting room. This time, the night warden at the hospital played a crucial role, recommending prompt attention. A letter arrived, marking the beginning of my journey with medication.

As I matured, my understanding of epilepsy deepened. Post-seizure emotions and the coexistence of tonic-clonic and absence seizures became part of my daily life. Learning to control absence seizures, I grapple with understanding tonic seizures, identifying only the warning sign akin to a panic attack or absence seizure.

Epilepsy, I realized, is not just a personal battle but a challenge for those around me. Misconceptions abound, often reduced to 'flashing lights.' I confess to living in fear for some years, but a shift occurred. I couldn't live on eggshells forever. I adopted the philosophy of 'if I take a seizure, then I do.'

The public remains largely unaware of the mental and physical toll epilepsy exacts. Seemingly inconsequential triggers, perpetual fatigue, and the constant vigilance over sensations become our daily reality. We cannot fully let our guard down and revel in moments as others might.

Entering my final year of law, I find pride in my journey. A girl with memory loss pursuing law might seem surprising, but it brings me joy and a sense of accomplishment. The head of law in my course sees my struggle as inspirational – navigating neurological challenges and still excelling academically.

To fellow epilepsy warriors, I want you to know that while epilepsy may initially alter your path, you can reclaim control and pursue your dreams. Don't let it dictate your life; you are no less or different from anyone else on this planet.

Thank you Leah for sharing your story with us for #EpilepsyWeek 2024.