Epilepsy and Travel

Tomorrow is the start of Epilepsy Awareness Day at Disneyland Resort. I’m going to start this entry by promoting it because I am so excited (epilepsyawarenessday.org). If you are in the Anaheim area (or even if you’re not and you need a vacation), this will be a great event to check out.

I’m on my way now down to Anaheim. As I’m writing this, I’m actually on the airplane. I just had a nice two hour nap. Fortunately I’m in the window seat and leaned against the window and not in the other seats and leaned against my neighbours. I can tell that I didn’t drool in my sleep but I have no such surety that I didn’t snore.

I’ve always been pretty good for sleeping while travelling. Some people don’t like the idea of sleeping in a giant metal tube surrounded by strangers, but I’m totally fine with it. Same goes for sleeping in airports. It certainly makes the travel time go faster. 

I’ve heard the “advice” that I shouldn’t travel alone, as a person with epilepsy. This usually comes from sources that are not in the medical profession. I understand where it’s coming from, a place of concern or worry. That’s fine but not necessarily accurate. In my opinion though, that follows the same logic as I shouldn’t shower alone, as a person with epilepsy. But no one says that to me. I feel like I’m more at risk as a woman travelling alone, but that’s a topic for another time.

I don’t know how many flights I’ve been on in my life. In the last year, I’ve been on 15 flights (including this one, so there will be a return flight as well for 16 total by the end of 2017). Some have been personal, some have been for work. Some have been to visit family, some to run races. Some have been to places I’ve been every year and some to places I’ve never been. Half of those flights were to bring me home.

I can’t even imagine what my life would be if travel wasn’t part of it. It would be super easy however to justify avoiding it. I’ve had seizures while in transit. Once I’ve mentioned before, where I was sick on the unfortunate individual next to me. Once I was at the airport and I realized something was wrong in advance and was able to be picked up by my relatives so the seizure happened at my relatives house instead of in public (although that was the first time my relatives had seen me have a seizure, which I imagine was upsetting). Once was at the airport with my husband and we missed our flight to Arizona because the medics insisted I go to a hospital. I am pretty sure there were a couple times I had myoclonic seizures on the longer flights to Europe but I can’t specifically remember them now.

I could pretty much go on forever about how amazing travel is. Ahhhhhhhmazing. There’s something for everyone. History, urban life, food, drinking, exercise, culture, food, music, fancy hotel rooms, sketchy hotel rooms, food. Food food food food food. I plan to eat my weight in churros this week. I have never travelled and loved it.

That means loving it, in spite of the times I’ve had seizures. I’ve had seizures in Paris, Rome, Munich, rural Greece, and likely a bunch of other places. It is still totally worth seeing those places. The epilepsy will still be there. It’s just how it is. Take precautions and carry the information about the condition in all the languages of the places you will visit.

Travel is more than going from one place to another. It’s about going outside your usual routine, outside your comfort zone, outside the life you are used to. It’s about experiencing something new and scary and beautiful. Maybe I’m a little biased, but all of those things are heightened by having a medical condition. New is more remarkable because it’s being experienced knowing this is something that could have been easily excused away. Scary is more terrifying because there are more risks and things that can happen that are out of my control. Beautiful is more stunning because I know what my life is, where my comfort zone is, I know that I pushed my personal boundaries to see whatever I’m seeing. Beautiful strikes me to the heart because I realize how fortunate I am to travel, to see parts of the world and to want to see more (and know that if I want it and work for it, I can make it happen.

It doesn’t matter where I go. I’m at Disneyland, so I will make a Disney quote. “If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter what road you take”. If we only ever KNOW where we are going, we are never experimenting. We are never challenging. We are never risking. Pick a road. Flip a coin. Toss the dice. Ask a grinning Cat. Walk down that path (whichever it is) with your head held high, face forward, and love every moment of the experience.

And try churros. They are a piece of deep-fried, doughy, sugary heaven.

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