For people with epilepsy, Purple Day is a huge deal. It is a day dedicated to encouraging people to open up about their condition, boosting a feeling of togetherness and spreading awareness. And, of course, it’s also all about dusting-off the all-purple outfits and accessories.
But Purple Day is an even bigger deal if you think about how it started.
The year was 2008 and it had been a year or so since eight-year-old Cassidy Megan from Halifax, Canada, had been diagnosed with complex partial epilepsy.
The youngster found that epilepsy affected her life – she couldn’t go climbing, swimming or even for walks by herself. School was sometimes difficult because she had trouble with her memory or would get confused.
The first Purple Day
It was that same year that Cassidy and her family decided to create a day dedicated solely to talking about epilepsy.
Today, March 26 has a big purple circle around it in calendars all over the world. But back in 2008, it just happened to be the most convenient date for Cassidy’s school and for the Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia, who did a presentation for Cassidy’s class. And it just stuck.
Cassidy picked purple to represent this day. She thought lavender is just a shade of purple and everyone has something purple they could wear to show their support. Little did Cassidy know at the time that lavender is internationally recognised as the colour of epilepsy.
At that remarkably young age, Cassidy had overcome something extremely difficult and familiar to a lot of us – the fear of speaking out and putting yourself out there.
“Although I was still a little afraid to speak about epilepsy to my whole school and to others, it was good helping people understand some things about epilepsy,” she said.
Dreaming big has not been a problem for Cassidy right from the start. She explained that she had her eye on taking Purple Day out of Halifax and out of Canada before the first one had even happened.
“I’ve always wanted it to go worldwide, that is what I even said to my mom when I first told her about wanting to do Purple Day. I wanted everyone with epilepsy to know that they are not alone. I still want that and I want to help educate everyone.
“After the first Purple Day, I felt really good about how many people were joining in and supporting it and spreading awareness. It made me want to work even harder to make Purple Day a worldwide event.”
Purple Day is now the biggest international awareness day for epilepsy and people everywhere are stepping up and sharing their stories and wearing purple.
Raising awareness is quite a broad term, but there’s a good reason – because it covers so many aspects of spreading the word. It means dispelling myths about epilepsy, getting people asking questions, and informing everyone about the right way to help someone having a seizure.
And for Cassidy, there is another important reason – showing support.
“Someone you know may have epilepsy and just be scared to talk about it,” she explained. “And that’s completely understandable. But that person needs to know it’s OK to talk. With more awareness and education of the general public, people too scared to talk about epilepsy can become stronger.
“I know that it can be really scary to talk about epilepsy. I still get nervous sometimes, but it is best to tell people in case you ever have a seizure around them and need help.”
If you are feeling inspired by Cassidy’s courage and the wonderful spirit of Purple Day, here is how you can get involved:
Share your story! If you or someone close to you is affected by epilepsy, you can tell us about your experiences on Epilepsy Action’s Facebook page and Twitter or become a media volunteer.
There’s lots of ideas for Purple Day fun on our website – you could wear some purple! Whether it’s a shirt, a dress, a hat or a tie, most of us have something purple lurking in our wardrobes.