If you have spent more than five minutes with me, you have probably figured out that summer is by far my favourite time of the year – longer days and a warm breeze, the sound of kids playing in the park midday, having to eat your ice cream just fast enough that it doesn't melt. As much as it pains me to admit it, the end of summer is fast approaching. It feels like I blinked and three months passed by.
In times like this, I catch myself feeling nostalgic, searching for a time when the end of the summer was something that I relished. One particular summer comes to mind (I won't age myself and tell you how many years ago it was); the year that I was heading off to university for the first time. I think that may have been the first (and possibly only) time that I couldn't wait for summer to wrap up so that I could embark on what everyone seemed to tell me would be 'the best years of my life'.
As with most teenagers, the idea of leaving the nest and heading off to university was met with excitement, avidity, and a slight fear of the unknown, but I felt ready and prepared to take on the challenge. However, living with uncontrolled Epilepsy meant that I had more planning to do than the average student. Here are a few things that worked for me during my post-secondary years:
- Don't try to hide from your Epilepsy – If you feel comfortable, be sure to tell the people around you (friends, residence assistants, teachers, etc.) about your Epilepsy and what your seizures may look like. In my experience, people want to be able to help, but are usually unsure how – walk them through your seizure first response and help to put not only them, but also yourself at ease.
- Have an Emergency Action Plan – This is a document that can speak for you in a situation that you cannot speak for yourself. Be sure to include your full name, date of birth, home address, emergency contact information (no amount of emergency contact numbers is too many), the type of Epilepsy you have, a list of medication you are taking, any allergies that you may have, your doctors' (Family Physician and Neurologist) contact information, and any other information that is prevalent to your condition. Be sure to keep this document somewhere handy for others that may have to assist you.
- Set an alarm for your medication – Starting post-secondary school can usually mean a change up from the routine that you had while living at home. Between classes, meeting new people, and the excitement of living independently, remembering to keep an eye on the clock is not always priority number one. Set an alarm and keep on track of your medication routine.
- Breeeeathe – Stress can be a major seizure trigger for so many people living with Epilepsy. Do your best to manage your stress levels by finding a relaxing activity that you like to do outside of school, finding a good support network of friends and staff at school, and by getting enough sleep!
- Take advantage of the programs set up for students – Do your research and find out what services are available for students living with Epilepsy. Post-secondary institutions offer lots of great student wellness accessibility services – find out what will work well for you, get in contact with your guidance councillor, and help to set yourself up for academic success.
Moving away from home for the first time, and managing the stresses that come along with university was definitely a challenge, but with the right planning and a good support system, it truly was the most amazing experience. Study hard, have fun, and call your parents regularly, no matter how many jokes they make about enjoying their slightly emptier nest.
Best of luck future post-secondary students...these will be some of the best years of your life.