I was just 16 when I was diagnosed.
I headed a ball during training and as I came back down, everything went black and I passed out. I woke up looking at the sky with all my teammates around me. Fortunately, my coach and manager at the time knew exactly what to do. But the initial feeling of waking up, not knowing what happened, is a scary place to be.
I didn't know what to make of my diagnosis. I didn't know anyone else who had epilepsy at the time. I couldn't speak to anyone about it. At that age, I just wanted to be normal and, for me, the biggest thing I had to deal with was not driving. I couldn't take my test until I was 21 because I had so many seizures in those years. Driving was put on a back burner and it was very frustrating seeing all my mates having that independence. I hated it.
Doctors did advise that I should probably avoid playing football. But my love and participation of the sport wasn’t going to end at 16 years old. As a youngster, I had no fear. No matter what anyone said, I always wanted to play football. I was back out playing again within a few weeks.
I have taken medication for about 18 years now. But I really struggled at the start. Taking tablets every day was a constant reminder of what I had. At my check-ups I’d have to give blood samples for my medication levels. They never were at the right levels, as I would always forget or deliberately not take my tablets. This was because I naively thought I’d never have a seizure again. I was wrong! So wrong in my attitude that I kept having setbacks. I had to build a routine. Now taking my medication is the first thing I do when I wake up and the last thing I do before I go to bed.
The clubs that I’ve played for have treated me very well. The physios will want to know about my triggers and things like that. And if I do have a seizure, about my recovery. I give them as much information as I can. Having epilepsy has helped me to mentally deal with setbacks and injury like I had last year. I know if I can get through years of seizures then a Grade 3 MCL tear is nothing.
I started writing a blog because epilepsy is such a stigmatized condition and I wanted to help others like me. People often ask, “Is it to do with lighting?” Obviously, there's so much more to it than that. I know it can be embarrassing to admit to others you have epilepsy. But by being open and talking about it, I’ve been able to reach out to people across the world and make a difference. I always say, “Embrace what you have and own it”. Epilepsy is a part of you and what makes you unique. I will be forever proud of what I have. Happy Purple Day.