Epilepsy can develop at any time. Some people are diagnosed with epilepsy at a very young age and their adjustment to the condition begins in childhood. For others epilepsy may be an unexpected diagnosis at a later stage of life, such as during adolescence, adulthood or older age.
Nevertheless, whenever epilepsy develops, it can present a range of challenges across many areas of life that can be difficult but need to be managed.
People often experience a broad range of emotions and responses to the diagnosis of epilepsy, including fear, anger, disbelief, sadness and sometimes relief. Each person’s response to diagnosis varies as a result of a range of things, including the circumstances surrounding the diagnosis and their understanding of epilepsy. For example, some people with limited memory of their seizures may have difficulties believing or accepting their diagnosis, while others who have experienced unusual events and lapses in time for a while, may feel relieved and welcome a diagnosis.
Importantly, early on, most people have limited understanding of epilepsy, what it means and how it is managed. Thus, receiving a new diagnosis can, understandably, be a time of uncertainty for many people as they try to understand what their diagnosis means for them.
It is normal to have a lot of questions when first diagnosed with epilepsy. Questions about the frequency and consequences of seizures and the side effects of medications are common. Similarly, concerns are also common about the impact of epilepsy on the different areas of life, including relationships, childbearing, employment and ability to drive and participate in day-to-day activities, such as sports.
The answers to these questions are not always straightforward and will differ for everyone. However, many people find that, when they learn about epilepsy and work collaboratively with health professionals, they can get answers to these questions and maintain very fulfilling lives.
Adjustment to a new diagnosis of epilepsy can be challenging and can require patience, resilience, hard work and sometimes sacrifices. Most importantly, despite the challenges, people with epilepsy can live very worthwhile and fulfilling lives.