Celebrating Epilepsy Worldwide
Today is February 8th, the 2nd Monday of February, and the 2nd time we celebrate International Epilepsy Day. Epilepsy is a condition that’s been around for millennia dating back to the Code of Hammurabi over 4000 years ago. According to the Code of Hammurabi, if a slave was sold who had epilepsy, or even developed epilepsy, the original owner had to take them back and give back their money.
Even in the 20th century, epilepsy colonies existed as did eugenics laws. These laws weren’t just for people with epilepsy, but also included people with other disabilities, alcoholics, and even paupers. The laws varied by state. I happened upon the eugenics laws when researching Craig Colony for Epileptics (which I’ll be writing about in future blogs.) These eugenics laws sometimes forced people to be sterilized or denied them the right of marriage. People with epilepsy could be classified as imbeciles, feeble-minded, or idiots. In fact, a famous Supreme Court case, Buck v. Bell, tells the story of Carrie Buck and her forced sterilization. Interested in learning more, read this article from Trevor Burrus I read just last week.
Today there are no colonies and no eugenics laws. Many people with epilepsy live everyday lives–working, driving, enjoying time with their family, following their passions. At the same time, there are many who can’t enjoy life, who have hundreds of seizures a day, who can’t get control of their seizures and lose their driving privileges and/or job. Epilepsy is a hidden disorder, one of many invisible disabilities.
I never lost my job–well, I was laid off, but that was because of the economy, and luckily my employers made accommodations over the years as needed, even changing my schedule so I could participate in a clinical trial when nothing else worked. I did lose my license, but made accommodations–bike, bus, carpool, walk. I’m glad I have my license again, but when I was sick last month, I took myself off the street as a precaution using Uber to get back from the doctor’s. I’ve had to deal with numerous side effects from bone/joint problems to rashes to excessive weight loss/gain. Of course, my life with epilepsy cannot be compared to anyone else’s. We might have similarities, but we all have our own challenges.
Even though things are better overall for people with epilepsy, it is still a challenge. It is still a disability. It is still misunderstood and people with epilepsy still face a stigma and discrimination. In fact, 42% of children with epilepsy are likely to be bullied according to this study. And even with all the new treatments available, only 2/3 of people with epilepsy gain full or partial control of their seizures.
What Can You Do for International Epilepsy Day?
- Check out the International Epilepsy Day site for more information.
- Get your purple on.
- Post your selfie on social media with #epilepsyday.
- Share an epilepsy truth from Epilepsy Education Everywhere‘s 24 Epilepsy Truths Facebook campaign.
- Learn more about epilepsy and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Mark your calendar for the 2nd Monday of each February to celebrate epilepsy worldwide!