independence lost - a different perspecitve

Written by Dan Nicholls

Epilepsy took away my independence. I had my first seizure at sixteen and lost my driver's license along with all of the activities that I loved. Not having a license wasn’t so bad when I was a student away at school but when the summer rolled around I was literally stuck at home needing someone to drive me everywhere. I had just bought a car and put in big subs and thought I was really cool. Then my license was taken away and I'd sit in my driveway and think about how much cooler it would be if I could go anywhere I wanted. I wound up paying for my younger sister to take her road test just so that she could drive me around.

It even affected who I dated. Rule number one: all potential girlfriends had to have a car. I would call and ask, “Hey Katrina, do you want to grab some dinner tonight?” She would say sure and then I'd say, “alright, if you pick me up at 7:00 we can make a quick stop at the bank, then swing by the dry cleaners, and then maybe the mall, then dinner sounds great!”

When I got to college I was told to be careful about the amount of sleep, stress, and drinking in my life. That pretty much sums up my years in college. The side effects of the medication made being a successful student and athlete more difficult than it already was. I later found out that one of the medications that I was on, Topomax, is actually nicknamed “stupo-max.” I couldn’t think straight or concentrate and was therefore given my own special room in which to take tests without a time limit.  My first reaction was, “Yes! Jackpot,” but my mom pulled the plug. “Nope, he’s become an idiot, we can’t have this.”

Family members noticed a little bit of aggression in my behavior. My parents blamed it on the medication. Whether it was due to my anger, lack of independence without a driver's license, or my frustrations with epilepsy I got kicked out of the house in eleventh grade. I made it into Cornell and was able to play hockey there. Epilepsy had made things difficult but in the end it wound up being better that I had moved out.

Every time I have a seizure I managed to crack my face on something—a desk, a chair, the downspout of the shower. I must have bad posture, it’s almost as if I try. Even if I miss the desk there just happens to be a large industrial fan for me to crack my cheekbone on. I often fell on the shoulder that I had dislocated at hockey practice.

People always ask me about the embarrassment of it all, about losing bladder control. I honestly don’t find it that bad. When I have a seizure I don’t remember what happens and I’m pretty sure that all of the descriptions that I get afterward are watered down. It’s hard for me to not laugh after waking up naked on the living room floor while my neighbor is trying to put some clothes on me. One time I had a seizure in the eye doctor’s office, of course hitting my head on the desk on my way down. The friend that I was with immediately threw his jacket over my lap to hide the wet spot. That’s a team player, someone who sacrifices his jacket so his friend can pee on the doctor’s office floor.

Dan Nicholls

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