Long term health conditions

Annette - Interview 31

Female
Age at interview: 19
Age at diagnosis: 16

Brief outline: Annettte was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 15 years old. Before her diagnosis she was going through what she described as a 'very rebellious phase' and both drinking a great deal and taking illegal drugs. After her diagnosis she stopped taking illegal drugs and nowadays she hardly drinks alcohol at all. Family and friends have been very supportive.

Background: Annette studies full time and lives at home with her parents and two siblings. Ethnic background/nationality' European.

Audio & video

Annette was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 15 years old. She said that before her diagnosis she was going through what she described as 'a very rebellious phase' and both drinking a great deal of alcohol and taking illegal drugs.

When she went to her first hospital appointment Annette told the consultant about her drug taking but then felt judged by her and her consultant's initial disapproving attitude became an obstacle in their relationship. Annette did not trust her. She stopped taking the illegal drugs after her diagnosis - except for one occasion - but then was too frightened to do it again.

She thinks the NHS did not know how to deal with her. She became depressed and lost her confidence after diagnosis but she was never offered any counselling. Over the years she has seen a number of consultants but said that the most supportive and encouraging person that has looked after her, has been her nurse. 

Soon after diagnosis she went travelling with a friend and during this time did not take care of herself very well. She was drinking, not eating and had two seizures while abroad. In retrospect she knows that she was 'in denial' of her epilepsy and pretending to be just like everyone else i.e. to be completely 'normal'. 

Annette says that drinking alcohol is a big part of youth culture in the UK and that as a teenager she found that she very much wanted to fit in with what her friends were doing. As a teenager and after her diagnosis she found it particularly difficult to drink in moderation but nowadays she hardly drinks alcohol at all. She said that lack of sleep and too much alcohol made her twitch a lot in her sleep and she tended to have more 'jerks'. 

Her friendship group was much based around her drug taking and she was worried that she would be excluded from the group when she stopped taking the drugs that they were 'into', but her friends have been very supportive and after her diagnosis they provided a great deal of encouragement for her to stop taking drugs.

She says that it has taken her a few years to come to terms with her condition and to understand that having epilepsy doesn't stop her from living a normal life and doing the things she wants do to. 

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