Epilepsy on safari
Louise Glover was determined not to be defined by her epilepsy. But it was only on safari in South Africa, working with cheetahs and rhinos, that she began to discover who she really is and how her seizures are only a very small part of her. Louise tells her story.
'Maybe university isn’t for you… We would invite you out drinking with us, but what about your epilepsy? You’re unwell? Again? But you looked okay a minute ago? Maybe you should go on benefits, someone like you shouldn’t really work…'
Epilepsy doesn’t define who you are – you do. My name’s Louise, and since being diagnosed with epilepsy nearly four years ago I’ve learnt a lot about how important it is to be happy in yourself. I’m a positive character and I take epilepsy on the chin. How, you ask? Well, it’s been an adventure…
“ You have epilepsy” were three words I never expected to hear the day I was taken to the doctors. I’d fallen on the floor. My arms had twitched but so what, I thought everyone twitched. My friends at school told me when they were falling asleep sometimes they would twitch too. I thought this was completely normal. I was about to be celebrating my 18th birthday, studying my A Levels whilst working part-time at a fast food restaurant and about to start driving lessons – epilepsy was not on my agenda!
What was epilepsy? I had no idea. At the time I was reluctant to learn – I didn’t want to believe I had it, therefore I kept quiet and tried to carry on my daily routine despite how difficult it was becoming fighting with fatigue, migraines, generalised seizures, myoclonic jerks and absences. I was determined to finish my A Levels because I was so desperate to go to university – so I worked and worked. I passed and was accepted into my first choice of university.
So here I was, 19 years old, and about to enter university. I’d spent the past year trying to pretend everything was okay. With the help of the disability team at my campus, I was slowly beginning to realise I had to understand my condition. It was time I should begin to accept it.
University life and seizures
Wow. Being a fresher is so amazing: living in a city for the first time and it’s beautiful, all these clubs are amazing, everyone is so dressed up and enjoying themselves and I get to spend three years doing this. Hell yeah! …I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I got to spend my fresher’s ball in a hospital bed, after being admitted to A&E. There I made two new elderly best friends Pam and Shirley and they reminded me what was important in life: happiness.
I told Pam I didn’t like having epilepsy because when I tell people about my condition, they seem reluctant to want to know any more about it. I felt like they labelled and judged me. I wanted to prove that I’m just as capable as others to live my own life successfully. I wanted to make a difference to how people perceived those with epilepsy.
How was I going to make a difference? I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t drink and I was struggling to balance university and exams with trips to A&E. I decided to volunteer abroad. I’d officially been accepted onto a wildlife project in the middle of nowhere in South Africa, where I would spend five weeks loking after cheetahs, rhino and hyenas.
Volunteering changed my life. I finally learnt that the only people I need in my life are those who bring positivity and happiness.
How my epilepsy made me feel
In the wildlife reserve with no electricity, only a hut, campfire and the company of other volunteers from across the world, I shared my life with girls who knew the real me. They took time to get to know how I dealt with my epilepsy and how it made me feel. No judgement was made. They liked me for the person I really was.
Volunteering and travelling was an incredible experience and I would do it a hundred times over. Sure, I had my bad days and some days I was exhausted and my seizures got the better of me, but my experience at the Umkwali Reserve began to give me the confidence I knew I was lacking.
When I came home I decided to take a year out of studying as I had so many hospital investigations and scans and I wanted to get healthier and recover. I have since been working part-time at a cinema. I am open and honest about my epilepsy. I wanted others to know that it’s nothing to fear.
I don't let epilepsy control me
The more people I meet, the more they tell me how inspiring it is to see someone who doesn’t let their condition control them. They see me as a woman who takes epilepsy on the chin, who laughs and smiles about the hassles.
Now I am starting to share my experiences with others through my videos on YouTube . I want to help raise awareness about epilepsy and show people who have the condition that if they have strength and determination they can succeed at anything. Epilepsy will never define who you are - you do.
You can watch Louise contemplating the possibilities of rubbing shoulders with Harry Potter at Hogwarts on her YouTube video.