Medication and Epilepsy at School

I was prescribed Epilim Sodium Valporate. I can’t remember what dose they gave me to start. It was increased to 1000 – 2000 mg during school years.

It was the start of my GCSE’s but it was the end of my school education as far as memory and concentration were concerned.

School was a bit of a blur  after that. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to learn and do the work for my GCSE’s. I went down in my language classes, maths, science and history lessons my marks never recovered at school.

Exercise was also none existent by the time I left school. It had become increasingly difficult to do exercise because I would feel really exhausted afterwards, and normally I was exhausted before I started!

I don’t think that there was the understanding at the time of the effects of anticonvulsant medication on memory and concentration and its potential to disrupt education. It is a bit sad but I just thought I was stupid and was different to my friends who were hitting their academic milestones. It felt a lot like I was thinking my way through treacle.

During school I can’t remember how many more seizures I had, but I think it was actually no more than 4 or 5 over the course of my teens. It appeared from observations made at the time that they were linked to my menstrual cycle, but sleep deprivation played a big part. I think the reason the seizure frequency was so low was because I was on enough medication to knock out an elephant!

Honestly, I was so dizzy! Apparently I used to sing to myself in class. I wouldn’t even notice I was doing it! My friends found that my little idiosyncracies were what made me, so that and the excessive sleep with desire to spend time in a library were part of my personal charm! 🙂 In my school year book which was made when we left school, one of the comments a friend  made was drugs? Everybody knew I was a bit spaced out.

I remember my art teacher told my mum that it was like I had a personality transformation. I used to be a happy, bubbly person who was able to learn.

All I wanted to do at school was sleep. I really did sleep a lot. I found it hard to get up in the morning and would nap through the afternoons in 6th form. My Dad used to go nuts because I would miss the bus in the morning and he would have to take me to school.

When I started my ‘A level’s’ the pediatrician had identified that the Epilim Sodium Valporate was having a poor effect  (the excessive sleepiness may have been classed as needs to spend more time awake). He prescribed Epilim Chrono. The crucial difference between Sodium Valporate and Chrono was  that Chrono was designed to be slowly released into my system. This is vital because if you take 200 mg of a drug in the morning; having the whole 200 mg downloaded into your bloodstream before lunch will not mean that you are awake and spritely. Chrono seemed to gradually improve my levels of consciousness and so it was the drug I was left on into my early twenties.

When I left school I had an A in Art ‘A level’, but low grades in german, art history and general studies. It was all a bit frustrating, but I was happy with my art results and went on to study art at foundation.

There was one other person I went to school with who had epilepsy. My pediatrician was also his pediatrician so he asked us both if we would like to meet. This was a good idea because it really did help to meet someone with similar problems. We compared notes about seizure types and medication side effects. This made a big difference to me and I think it made a difference to him as well. He had a bad time because his seizures were partial complex seizures which meant that he would still be moving around while he was unconscious (as opposed to head banging and going blue).

This had led to big problems in his first school, so he had to change schools to my school. His teachers thought he was mucking around when he used to walk around the class and lie on the floor. They thought that epilepsy was all about falling to the floor and frothing at the mouth. This is a big problem for people with partial complex epilepsy or any type of epilepsy. I didn’t even know what epilepsy was before I had it, imagine finding out that there is more than one type  of epilepsy!



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