My Father and Epilepsy (Article)

For my Father,

This post is dedicated to my father who has carried the responsibilty for my epilepsy upon his shoulders since the beginning.

While some cases of epilepsy occur as the result of an accident such as a blow to the head in the majority of cases this is not the case. for most people – six out of ten, in fact – there is no known cause. This is called ‘idiopathic’ epilepsy and it is the type of epilepsy that I have. For parents of an epileptic child it can be extremely difficult to accept that there is no real reason for the condition developing. They may feel that there must be some incident, something or someone to blame, something that makes sense. In dealing with my epilepsy my father placed the blame upon himself a burden that he has now born for eighteen years and a burden that it is time to lay down.

I have already described my first fit so I shall merely recap that I was in my backgarden playing football with my father and my brother and like all eight year olds inevitably do I fell down. Watch a bunch of kids any age playing football and it is difficult not to notice they tend to trip up, bump into one another or just fall over their own feet. At one point during that game the eight year old me feel over after bumping into my dad during a tackle. It is this one little bump that has allowed my father years of those ‘what if’ moments.

The answer to that ‘what if’ is easy. If I hadn’t fallen over that particular second I would have managed it a few moments later, or I would have been pushed over at school in the playground or tripped over my own shoe laces. That of course is presuming that I didn’t have my first fit before falling over. Idiopathic epilepsy is there in the brain already, a fall or a blow to the head may encourage a fit but it is not the cause of the condition. When someone is tested for epilepsy they are usually sent for an MRI test. This test can help to find if there is an abnormality in the brain that might be causing epilepsy, for example, scar tissue due to a brain injury. My MRI scans have never shown any sign of trauma or indeed anything unusual at all meaning that there is a slim to none chance that my epilepsy was caused by any trip or bump.

For a long time I felt confused about my fathers guilt. Often I felt guilty myself – after all, if I didn’t have epilepsy he wouldn’t have to feel guilty. For a while during my later teenage years I felt resentful, believing that it was my problem not his or anyone elses. Now thinking back I just feel sad that one of the people I love most in the world has spent so long blaming themselves for something that wasn’t their fault to begin with. So this post is a plea to my father, for Purple Day, let go of all that guilt for good and simply be proud of being the best dad ever.





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