This “how to” has been in the making for almost two years. It’s taken a while because I’ve had to learn a lot of this myself through trial and error. A lot of error. But I think I have the process down by now. I just had two successful semesters in a row and I feel so damn proud of that. I am now entering my third in just a week, so here are some tips that I hope will help you.
- Speak with your Disability Resource Center first. They will be your greatest resource. Epilepsy is an unpredictable illness and they can help you adjust in a classroom setting better than anyone. Don’t be shy, and don’t be afraid of the word disabled. They will help you with ways to communicate with your professors about your condition.
- Have a meeting with your professors before classes start or within the first week. Speaking with them directly will make you feel much more at ease. Professors who have been around the block a few times will already know what to do. For me, I told them what usually happens and what to expect if I have an absence seizure or throw up in their classroom or both. I still get lost on the way to class occasionally so I may show up late or not at all. I can safely say that has only happened twice this past semester, and both times they were fine. As long as you can keep up with the work and stay involved they won’t have a problem.
- Plan your routes to class and make sure they are in a crowded route. This is for your safety, especially if you are prone to tonic-clonic seizures. Having more people around will get you help faster. Learn where the bicycle paths are and avoid them, but stay around people just incase something happens. For me I usually have to stop and consult a damn campus map even if I have been there 40 times. And If I have a seizure I will be more familiar with my surroundings afterwards, and have less confusion. Stick to your route.
- Tell your doctor, you may need to up your meds or adjust them. I know I did. The added stress of school can trigger all kinds of seizures. They may also give you some vaccines so you will be less prone to pick something up and spend less time sick and at home. When I was taking two medications at once I had a weakened immune system and got sick so much. Vaccines are priceless when it comes to this.
- Carry emergency meds in an easily accessible place and make sure the professor knows as well. If you have an aura and know something is coming up you can get to it quickly and hopefully stop it in its tracks. The rest of the class may be a bit of a blur, but don’t worry you can ask for notes.
- Get a pill reminder app. JUST DO IT.
- If you’re living with a room-mate, tell them. They can help you, especially if you are prone to seizures in the night. SUDEP is a scary thing, but if there is someone around to help you in the middle of the night you reduce your risk dramatically. Especially if you go out and party, be safe. Mixing alcohol and AED’s can be dangerous. I am personally not prone to seizures at night, but my boyfriend tells me he still checks to make sure I’m breathing. It feels good knowing someone has my back and I won’t suffocate in my sleep. Seems dark and twisted but it’s the reality of living with this illness.
- If you get the flu, or anything that gives you the slightest fever go straight to the doctor. Fever induced seizures are no joke, and when I am sick my seizures double. Vaccines can prevent most of this, but just in case they don’t always go to the doctor.
- Take your tests in the disability center. You can schedule them and take as long as you need. It’s a peaceful, quiet area that will calm your pre test jitters. It’s way better than showing up the day of the final and seeing a crowded auditorium of over 200 people scrambling around and talking about how they didn’t study. No, you study and you go to the quiet place. My test scores improved when I took myself out of those situations.
Once you get into your routine, everything will become easier and easier. Reducing your stress is good for you and your grades. Before you know it, it’ll be the next semester and you’ll be succeeding.