#BeyondSeizure: Epilepsy and work: Anna’s story

Anna was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy when she was 12 years old. She shares the barriers she has faced in her work life and what employers need to do to support people living with epilepsy.


What sort of impact do you feel the diagnosis of epilepsy has had on your life?

It has had quite a lot of impact. There were so many fun activities that I was no longer able to do.

I had that dream of being able to drive, and being able to go off and do some walks and things.

I would say some of the other sporting activities that my sisters were able to do like water rafting and more water sports that I wasn’t able to do.

Also, work has been impacted. I had a job at a hotel and I was told by one of the managers that I was turning up drunk.

The seizures I had in the past were up to 30 minutes and I was doing things I didn’t know about.

She said, there was times I was throwing coffee over the bed and obviously I didn’t know I was doing that. So, I would say that’s been a bit of an impact there.

But now that I work in Barclays and that’s definitely been better.


Do you feel you have faced any barriers or limitations in your career because of your epilepsy?

I would say so, yes. The degree that I did, there were several projects and things I had to do and I did quite well.

The other one was more of an exam. They gave me some extra time, if I had a seizure then they’d add the time on to the end of the exam.

However, I left university with a third degree and to get any of the graduate jobs you need to have a 2.2 or above. So, I wasn’t able to get into a grad job. So that’s kind of been a barrier for me.

Just trying to get a job as well. Going into an interview and then unfortunately having a seizure when I’m there was a quite disturbing and deflating experience.

They told me I’d done quite well in the first part of the interview. But then the second-half, I wasn’t able to continue with it. So, that’s been a bit of a barrier there.


What kind of support have you received at work?

At work, I had a couple of issues with one of the managers who wasn’t very accepting of my epilepsy. But the HR department were really good.

I was able to talk to a psychologist who was an external member and they were able to remind me that there’s these other things that I can do and helped calm me down and said not to worry too much and that this wasn’t going be the end of my career.

The HR department had a good look around to see if there were any teams that could possibly be more suited to myself.

When I had mentioned like being quite good with dashboards and stuff because that’s visual, they said there’s this possible team that I could join and they had spoken to the manager already.

They still did a formal interview to make sure that I fitted the criteria they needed. So, the support there has been really good.


What do you feel that employers need to do to sort of better support people?

I would say at the very beginning having a one-to-one meeting with your manager or it might be a team meeting if they’re going to be starting in a bigger department.

Being able to sit down with them and have them listen and you explaining these are the type of seizures I have and remind them that not every seizure means you drop to the floor, so have them have a good, thorough understanding of your epilepsy.

Also, make sure you don’t take on too much work at the very beginning and take a gradual step. Also, make sure you have your lunch break.

I made sure I was keeping well trained at the very beginning, asking them to see what things I would be better to study before I started work.