Epilepsy Scotland board member Graham Loan shares his experiences of having epilepsy and reflects on how this has impacted his career.
Graham is a gas engineer to trade but now works in IT at the gas network company SGN.
When were you diagnosed with epilepsy?
I was first diagnosed in 2017 following a tonic-clonic seizure at work. It was all a real shock to me as I didn’t know anything about epilepsy and just assumed it wouldn’t be something I would develop at 35.
I also didn’t know anyone with epilepsy so my lack of awareness of the condition made it more difficult to come to terms with.
Do you feel your diagnosis impacted your life and career?
I think the biggest challenge for me developing epilepsy later in life was that I was so used to getting around by car and overnight that was taken away from me.
I took a while to come to terms with losing some of my independence but having access to a free travel card for the bus and disabled person rail card made a big difference.
Getting used to the medication was also a challenge. I’ve recently had my medication adjusted and I’m reminded of how strange it makes you feel until you get used to it.
Have you have faced any barriers or limitations in your career because of your epilepsy?
I’ve not been able to hold a driving license for very long over the last 5 years so I’m quite conscious of not taking on roles that require significant travel only to find myself or others disappointed.
Last year, I was asked to provide an update to the company shareholders and despite knowing I was really nervous about it, my boss had confidence in me and wanted my effort to be recognised. He came to the meeting with me to show his support.
What type of support have you received from your employers to support you in your career?
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a very supportive employer. I’m quite open about having epilepsy and my colleagues are aware of my seizure triggers so will have a word with me if they think I’m not looking after myself!
When we realised that stress was a trigger for me my Human Resources Manager offered me the chance to work on a project that still had the same level of responsibility but allowed me a bit more time to plan my work and think things through. That made a massive difference to my overall health.
What do you think employers need to do to better support people with epilepsy?
There is still a lot of stigma associated with epilepsy and with it often being a hidden health condition it isn’t something that many people are aware of.
I think increased awareness of epilepsy would help in the first instance. Epilepsy Scotland runs a great epilepsy awareness course and has a range of publications available for employers. You can find out more on their website.
What advice would you give to anyone with epilepsy worried about their career prospects?
I would say if you are currently in employment then make your employer aware. They may not even know you have epilepsy but could take positive action to make reasonable adjustments to help you out.
If you are currently seeking work then consider employers who are Disability Confident. They will often offer a guaranteed interview for those who meet the minimum criteria for the job vacancy.