Beth

Beth, 27, had her first seizure aged 13. She fell unconscious for 15 minutes and lost all movement down her left side.

"I couldn't talk, I couldn't walk, I couldn't move the left side of my face. I couldn't recognise my parents and I had no memory."

Fourteen years on, Beth is 200m sprinter running for her country at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. She will also be part of the 4x100m women’s relay team alongside Dina Asher-Smith.

“I was diagnosed with epilepsy at 13, with no idea what it was really. It was a lot to get my head around. If I didn't really understand what epilepsy was, how was I going to explain it to others? I struggled to talk about it and probably didn't deal with things very well at the time, which is why the PTSD developed later on.

I was in a constant state of anxiety and really started to struggle mentally in my late teens. There is always that worry in the back of your mind that you're going to have a seizure, and for a lot of my life that dictated the decisions I made. This resulted in me suffering with anxiety and PTSD. I would develop phobias of things that I believed could trigger a seizure and had frequent flashbacks. I had to leave lectures halfway through because I felt so anxious and was convinced I was having a seizure.

Before my diagnosis I ran competitively. But when I was unable to walk, I had to take a lot of time off athletics and started back slowly. I was just so tired all the time and had a poor season. I took 3 months off running because I was struggling so much. But I kept going as athletics helps me mentally and the mental side has been the biggest part of my epilepsy battle. Soon, I went from not being able to make teams at the English Schools Champs to winning a silver medal. I took chunks off my time.

Epilepsy Action’s Facebook page was something I turned to whenever I was worried and especially when I was suffering with mental health issues. It provided me with reassurance about seizure triggers and how best to live a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of seizures.

Becoming British 200m Champion in 2018, despite all the adversity I had faced, meant that it had all been worth it. It does get better! Live your life to the fullest because epilepsy doesn't have to stop you from achieving anything, if it can be managed in the right way.”

Beth
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