Artist Helen Butler shares her experiences of epilepsy


Artist Helen Butler will be exhibiting at Lifeworks19 art for Epilepsy Scotland exhibition next month. Here Helen shares her experience of being diagnosed with epilepsy at a young age and why she started to take up art.

My seizures started out of the blue when I was nine years old and presented themselves as daydreams. There was a lot of speculation over their cause.

I was in a coma for five days when I was months old due to suspected meningitis. Over the years, scans had detected scar tissue on the temporal lobe, which had formed during this period.

University was challenging, lecturers misunderstood what bearing the epilepsy was having on my studies. I had to work twice as hard to prove I could get my degree.

I was told working in website design was too high pressured for someone with epilepsy. This made me even more determined and has driven me to this day. I graduated with a BA Hons in Interactive Media.


Declining independence

In my twenties, my seizures started to progress into falls and I became more reliant on those around me. My independence started to decline and this also had an impact on my husband.

I had been found unconscious in many places across the city, sometimes in the road, catching the bus and the train. This is when it was decided that working in the city was not the place for someone with epilepsy.


To overcome the challenge of not being able to work, I started my own business. I was also undergoing tablet trials and surgery testing, so this meant I could choose my own hours.

It was a very tough time due to the side effects of the medication.

The results of the surgery tests at the time did not show the greatest outcome, so it wasn’t pursued further.


Moving to Argyll

We decided to move to Argyll when a job came up with my specialism. This made it safer for me to work and my husband was able to set up his business.

This did not come without its own difficulties. I would still have seizures and falls and my husband would receive phone calls from the emergency services.

The Hippocampus

Not as drastic as before but it still had its dangers. This delayed my husband’s plans and he became my carer.

A few years later, my neurologist asked if I would pursue the surgery route again. I went through all of the tests; this was a four year process.

It also involved more tests than were available previously, which meant a more positive outcome.

In July 2018, I underwent a right temporal lobectomy and hippocampectomy and my seizures are now under control. I took up art to help me recover from the surgery.

It really helps to have something to focus on during this early stage. I have been keeping a blog of my art to tell the story of my recovery and I am now exhibiting my work. My work can been seen at and on Instagram at: h2odesigns1.

If anyone is considering surgery there is a lot of help out there, including online support groups, Epilepsy Scotland helpline and website and the Epilepsy Surgery Friends Facebook group.

Believe – This represents all the hopes and dreams that could possibly come true.

The Hippocampus – The seahorse is a symbol of strength and determination for many brain surgery survivors and epilepsy sufferers.

These pieces will be shown during the Lifeworks exhibition from October 24th – 25th  at the Kimpton Blythswood, Blythswood Square in Glasgow. For tickets click the following link: