Discrimination due to Epilepsy…or a Different Turn of Events?

It’s a question I tend to field often…and it’s certainly one I ask myself repeatedly. Did I lose my job because of my Epilepsy? I hear and read that people feel they have lost their employment due to their seizures, and it’s something I have considered for months and months. Could they have? Would they have? Was it my seizures that led them to tell me there was no longer a spot for me?

I must give a bit of history, albeit brief. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy in January 2003 after a bout with meningitis and encephilitis. The whole illness was absolutely catastrophic. My now-husband and I were engaged and planning our wedding. I was working for my company, tele-commuting and planning a massive meeting. I thought I had the flu, until I had a series of 4 grand mal seizures one night and slipped into a coma. Brain damage, memory loss, major cognitive and language issues…all in all, it took about 9 months of rehabilitation and therapy for me to become a functioning person again.

And, when I made my return to life, my job was waiting for me. And, I worked in that job, for that same company for the next 7 years. Most everyone was understanding and cognizant of my Epilepsy. But, I never made a secret of it either. I endured 5 brain surgeries during my last 4 years with the company, and each time, they were kind and welcoming upon my return. They were my friends, my colleagues and they also came to understand a great deal about Epilepsy.

It was always amazing to me when I would walk the halls…how many people would ask me how I was feeling, or was I still having a lot of seizures. Was it a perfect situation? No. I had very little chance to move ahead in the company, but that was not entirely their fault. I struggled each and every day to stay well and to complete my responsibilities. So, when someone asks, my answer is always, “Epilepsy did not cost me my job, but it certainly didn’t help me keep it.” The company changed and things were realigned, so my job disappeared. And that’s the truth.

As for others, I hear so many stories of people who believe they have lost their positions because of their seizures. Many of these are people who are open about their Epilepsy and refuse to conceal it because of their advocacy priorities. If you feel your rights have been violated, and you’ve lost your job because of your seizures, there is help for you. The Epilepsy Foundation has some very good resources and will assist you in finding the right path to take. The ADA, which was expanded on January 1 2009, was enacted to protect, including people with Epilepsy.

True, you are not alone in your fight if you’ve been discriminated against, but you also must determine if indeed you were wronged. It’s so easy to place blame, but more difficult to understand the realities of true discrimination. I wish you all the very best…there is help out there!