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Living and working with epilepsy

I’m Sam and I have epilepsy. It’s not the usual way I introduce myself. In fact I’d guess that most people who know me will be completely unaware that I even have epilepsy. They would be more used to: “I’m Sam, I’m a Brit, I have a rambunctious but adorable Dachshund named Tilly, and you will usually find me cooking up a storm in the kitchen with a fabulous glass of red wine in my hand. Oh, and I’m also a recruiter!”

However, over the last couple of months not only has the red wine had to go (much to my despair) but the phrase “I have epilepsy” has been on the tip of my tongue.

I have dreaded the moment I’m going to have to tell a friend, colleague, client or total stranger that I have epilepsy and they are about to see exactly what that means. Over the last couple of months my epilepsy went from controlled and hidden to uncontrolled, exposed, and scaring the absolute hell out of everyone around me when I drop to the floor, and as a friend of mine calls it, ‘do the wiggly worm’.

For this reason, I’ve decided to break the British ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ code and share this on social media (with much hesitation and anxiety). For those that don’t know, there are various types of epilepsy with a myriad of different side effects. I can have full blown convulsive seizures, like those you will commonly see on TV shows or films. I can also pass out or ‘zone out’, which looks very similar to a daydream but unfortunately doesn’t involve one of the Hemsworth brothers bringing me a cocktail on a deserted island. I can experience complete sensory overload including shakes, pins and needles, feeling foggy, dizziness and confusing emotions. I can stumble over my words or completely forget words as the lady at Woolworths self-serve till experienced the day after a seizure when I completely forgot the word ‘eggplant’ and proceeded to have an emotional breakdown at my faulty, stupid brain.

All of the above can happen before, after, instead of or on top of a full-blown convulsive seizure, and so far, I’m experiencing at least some of the above every single day. As you can imagine, zoning out halfway through a conversation, being the recruiter that forgets the word for that thing that a candidate writes all their employment history on, or dropping to the floor in the middle of a conversation or phone call, can significantly affect not just my life but also my job.

Recently I went from a partial seizure in the kitchen at the office to taking a job brief within a few minutes. Last Wednesday I sourced candidates at home in my PJs. On bad days I’ll send an email instead of a making a call so I can check I make sense. Most importantly, on the days when I need to take a step back, my amazing team at Beaumont step forward to support me and share the load.

So why I have I decided to share my awkward, anxiety-filled ramblings? For a few reasons. To be honest with myself and my network that I’m not at my best right now and I’m working to get back to 100%. To apologise if I’ve been a little slow getting back to anyone, this is the reason. And to let anyone else in a similar situation know that you are not alone.

I’m trying my absolute best to show up, be present and kick ass every day, and yes, there are days when I am just not functioning at full capacity. Thankfully on those days I happen to have some absolute superheroes in my life who have my back and will quite literally pick me up off the floor!

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