We first found out I had epilepsy when I was four years old. I was diagnosed with juvenile absence epilepsy but was too young to understand what that meant.

I had my first grand mal (tonic-clonic) seizure aged nine. From then I remember having to try out lots of different medications to bring my seizures under control. It took a long time, but we eventually found a medication that worked.

When I was 13 I joined an epilepsy council support group. Around six or seven of us would meet to talk about living with the condition. It was great to discuss things with other people my age who were going through similar challenges. Since this time, I’ve been very open about living with epilepsy. Some people would rather not discuss it, and that’s fine, but I also think it’s important that there are also people who are willing to share their experiences and educate others.

I’m currently studying circus performance and acrobatics. I sometimes say that circus school is almost like the intense dance and theatre colleges combined. It requires a combination of dedication, athleticism, and a love of performance. Due to the strength involved, aerial acrobatics are often thought of as a male sport. But I always thought ‘why does it have to be? Girls can do it too.’

When I started in the circus, due to my epilepsy I was given 1-on-1 lessons with a teacher. This was very helpful, and they were shown what to do in a situation if I had a seizure. Now I have to do risk assessments, as any performer would, but epilepsy has not held me back.

As for my hopes for future research into epilepsy, I’d like to see more research into the causes of the condition, looking more at the brain and why the condition arises in the first place. I still do not know what caused my own epilepsy.

Finding new forms of treatment which are not just shoving more chemicals into your body, and with fewer side effects, would also be brilliant. I currently take sodium valproate and neurologists are very careful at advising me I cannot get pregnant while taking this medication. It would be nice not to have to think about these things already, but of course, I have to.

I’ve been fortunate to grow up in a very accepting and supportive circus community. We can all discuss epilepsy, and even joke about it, but it’s all done in a caring and understanding way.

Find a support network that works for you and don’t let epilepsy define you. I’m Hannah; epilepsy is a part of me and it always will be, but epilepsy isn’t all of me.

Thank you.

Hannah

Epilepsy interrupts the lives of ordinary, extraordinary people, just like Hannah. It’s invisible, it’s unpredictable, it’s frightening.

A life free from epilepsy is possible. But only through research.

Thank you for your continued support.