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Epilepsy – so what!


26 June 2013

Jasmine Smith on holiday in CroatiaJasmine Smith, 22, explains why she will never let epilepsy stop her from following her dreams, including travelling alone and cliff jumping.

‘Imagine somebody with epilepsy going clubbing!’ Ironically when hearing this five years after being diagnosed with epilepsy, I was on my way to a nightclub. This quote was one of the most inspirational I have ever heard. I was going to prove them wrong.

For years after trying different epilepsy medications, surgery and some more surgery, my biggest fear has always been letting the condition entrap me and limit what independence I have in my life. Some may say I go to the extreme to prove a point – that’s definitely true. I have always been a keen traveler, and my wish has always been to travel alone. Meet new people, make my own decisions and figure out what works for me.

So two weeks ago, I decided this was as best a time as any to fullfil my wish. I was feeling better than ever. My last seizure was four months ago, I have recovered well and definitely wanted to top up my tan!

So there it was, I booked a flight to Croatia, a place that was next on my list. I had no idea where I would stay and who I would meet. I was nervous – who wouldn’t be!

I suddenly felt this satisfying independence I had been craving for years and was bubbling with excitement.

Breaking it to my parents was the worst part – “why on earth would you go away on your own, we will be so worried about you, what if you have a seizure!? ” Of course, this was always going to be the first thing they said. However after discussing that I was obviously “just down the wire”‘ and I could use the genius of Facebook to let them know my whereabouts every day, they eventually came around.

Six days later, my bags were packed and I was flying away. It was liberating. Packed with me were stacks of Keppra epilepsy medication, hospital letters and epilepsy badges, all there ready for paramedics if I did have a seizure. However unpredictable my seizures are, I felt a positive energy within me. I was feeling so happy and free that whatever happened would never ruin this for me.

Staying in hostels, I spent ten days with some of the most inspirational people I have ever come across from all around the globe. I danced, sunbathed, read, practised yoga, went clubbing, cliff jumping, cliff climbing, walked… the list continues!

I must admit, the whole of Croatia must now be absolute experts in epilepsy after my visit! I was determined to get the word out there. The greatest thing is how shocked people seemed when learning I had the condition. It was as though it wasn’t quite the done thing for somebody with epilepsy to be so “normal”. I felt so safe having people around me – some merely strangers – who knew of my condition, and this was my choice. The more people knew, the less scared I was of speaking about it, the more they were interested and willing to accept it.

Epilepsy can have a stigma that will hold thousands of people around the world back from doing what they dream of doing. If I have any goal in life, it is to change this. I can’t wait for my next adventure…