A recent troubling incident prompts me to write this. Maybe a little understanding will prevent what happened to me from happening to another person with epilepsy. There are many forms of epilepsy, I have gran mal seizures, which are full body seizures while unconscious. I am fortunate as these have been under control for the past 23 years. So, no seizures, no problems, right? Even though one may not have seizures, epilepsy makes itself known daily.
I hope you continue reading, if it saves even one friendship it was worth the time.
The incident. A very affable person whom I had known in a professional capacity for 15 or more years and who also works in a separate industry that I have done business with on a couple of occasions phoned me one morning. We had been working together on something over the past few days. I was asleep when he called. I answered the phone and he said who it was, both first and last name. I did not know this person. I didn't recognize his name nor his voice. He knew by the pause something was amiss and stated the I didn't know who he was. I admitted that I didn't. He then repeated his name and told me his company name. The link was finally made for me but the damage was already done. He became very terse and ended the phone call abruptly. I phoned him back several minutes later. The first call was terminated. I left a voice mail trying to explain on the second call. I then wrote an e-mail. He never responded.
This is not the first time I have drawn a blank on someone that I have known for a long period and had them walk away never to talk to me again. When it happens it is like the death of a friend. My inability to recall things generally happens when they are out of context or I am put on the spot, regardless of how well I know the subject.
Epilepsy is a symptom of an underlying neurological problem. When someone with epilepsy is not having a seizure they may still have to deal with memory problems of varying severity on a daily basis. It could be the inability to come up with a word, the inability to pronounce a word, the inability to remember an event that happened, the inability to follow a movie plot, or the inability to remember a person known for some time. Almost everyone can relate to simple lapses of memory. A person with epilepsy may have to deal with it on a much more frequent and severe basis.
The largest victim of this ongoing memory problem is the person's self confidence. Fighting the doubting of oneself is a constant battle. Wondering how the medications are affecting your life, both physically and mentally can also eat at you if you aren't careful. I don't want you to think I am sitting here feeling sorry for myself, that is not why I am writing this. I am luckier than most people with a disability. I have found love, have two wonderful children that have grown to adulthood, and have had a career that allowed me to retire early.
Epilepsy, like some other disabilities, is hidden. People with epilepsy generally walk, talk and look like normal people. Their brains however do not function normally, even when not having a seizure. So if you know a person that has epilepsy and they have trouble remembering something, even who you are, cut them some slack, help them to remember, give them some context to make the connection. Both of you will feel much better if you do.
The link is to an article that explains the memory problems related to epilepsy much better than I can: