Reuben

I developed epilepsy in the summer of 2018 at the age of 15. I have tonic-clonic seizures every few months. I felt very alone when I was diagnosed. I knew that epilepsy existed but I did not know anyone with it. I soon found out that several people at school, including teachers, also had epilepsy. That was reassuring.

The diagnosis was more distressing for my family that it was for me. My main worry was for the responsibilities they would have to take on. Epilepsy is not an individual experience — our carers' needs are of equal importance. But I did find the confrontation with mortality at a young age worrying.

My medication has noticeable side effects such as low mood and tiredness. The worst side effect of my epilepsy was an injury. I had a dislocated shoulder that needed major surgery to relocate — it has left me with a physical disability and two visible scars.

I am proud of getting into the University of Cambridge for a history degree. I enrolled last autumn and it has been a lifelong aspiration, so I'm delighted to study here. Epilepsy brings a few difficulties but the support in college is excellent. I would like to tell applicants with epilepsy this: do not hesitate! 

Trying to have a social life can be hard, especially since alcohol is everywhere. The late nights are problematic, they can trigger my seizures. But there is so little time in the day to socialise, so the night is all we have. Please don't feel pressured to take on the late nights and compromise your safety. Find people who understand your needs. 

My epilepsy is much more invisible than its side effects. I have mental health issues for which I get help, both at university and from the NHS. Learning to use both has been handy. My friends confront my mental health issues and my injury more regularly than my seizures. Luckily, I have not faced any discrimination here at uni. But I am passionate about invisible disability, disability benefits and discrimination against disabled people. Epilepsy Action has always provided me with helpful information, particularly when I first developed epilepsy and was unsure about what I was getting into.

Reuben
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