The unmistakable sense of deja vu comes over me as for the third time in six months I find myself online booking accommodation for a foreign adventure. After being bitten by the travel bug on a gap year from college new runaways are a staple of my yearly calendar. Along with study, travel has shaped who I have become today. Besotted with the almost too perfect views of Lake Bled I finalise bookings for my 25th country while finishing breakfast. Its scenery will make it a far cry from my last unforgettable trip to Chernobyl! Taking my morning medication I pull myself away from the laptop, grab my bag and keys and head out the door of my city centre apartment to work. My walk takes me through the heart of Dublin to the offices of one of Ireland’s biggest architecture firms where I work as a project architect. The latest construction boom is evident as the office hums with activity. Gathering up our drawing pack I head to a design team meeting with my colleagues for our project in the Docklands. To be part of projects that are influencing the city we live in is an incredible thing. To see a project i have worked on take shape before me is the greatest reward of my career. My work-day is broken by a weekly muay thai class with my friends which serves as both stress relief as well as exercise! After work I run for the bus to take me to my weekly driving lesson. On the bus out I check my calendar for the coming week while taking my evening medication. The following evening I have a concert with my friend, Wednesday I have kept free, Thursday I have a photography workshop and Friday I have kept free. Balance has become the core to my routine. In my twenties driving was one goal I had accepted I would never achieve and now I am ending a day’s work with drives around Dublin.
Diagnosed at 19 the life I am currently living was a pipe dream. “You will never be able for it” was almost a mantra. While I always had my family around me who stood by my stubborn decisions, the support structure desperately needed for further research, mental and emotional support and understanding was not there yet and still has a way to go in Ireland. I learned by doing, by pushing my boundaries too far, having seizures and starting again. The important points to note are I was never starting from scratch as I had always learned something and I was doing what I loved.
In 2013 under the expert care of my neurologist, I spent 6 days in Beaumont Hospital’s Epilepsy Monitoring Unit. What we learned during my time here has taken me from strength to strength – from guaranteed seizures every three weeks to now dormant epilepsy. The right combination of medication along with a balanced lifestyle means I now use my epilepsy to live a rewarding life rather than have epilepsy dictate it.
I will always remember words of a family doctor when he said “The brain is the most complex organ in our bodies, it can make you or it can break you”. Without the treatment I did receive I could easily be leading the first life I described, not a day goes by that I do not realise how lucky I am. Epilepsy is an almost incomprehensibly complex neurological condition – one that affects its patients physically, emotionally and psychologically. With 40,000 people in Ireland suffering from it we do not have adequate facilities in place to both treat and research this condition to a high enough standard. Anyone can develop epilepsy at any stage in their lives. The reality and complexity of this needs to be addressed and an Epilepsy Centre provided to ensure we can treat Irish citizens and help make and re-make their lives, as too many currently feel broken.