So many things have changed since I was first diagnosed with epilepsy back in 1992, and I’m not just talking about my life. Think about all that has changed in the world in the past 26 years. Now imagine living with a disability before, during, and after those events. For example, the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 2008 helped many individuals like myself. I can remember applying for one specific job in the late 90’s, and the manager told me he couldn’t hire me because of my disability. It was one of the first of many times I would come across potential employers that looked at me differently just because I had epilepsy. I was so naïve that I thought I had to tell that manager about my disability even though I was only applying to be a cashier. I can still remember going home and crying to my mom about what happened. She comforted me as best she could and firmly told me to not disclose that information next time.
She was right…why should I? Was it really an employer’s right to know my medical information? To be perfectly honest, to this very day, I even hesitate to disclose my medical condition on any application. On one hand, I fear the employer might not hire me because I stated that I’m “disabled,” and then on the other hand I worry if I do get the job I’ll be underpaid. Statistically, disabled Americans are more likely to be underpaid and underemployed in comparison to those without a disability even if that disabled individual has acquired the same education with the same skills or even more skills, (according to the United States Department of Labor). I must be blunt…that experience messed me up for quite a while. I now knew that being “different” was unacceptable. So for the next 10 years or so I pretended to be “normal.” It was what everyone wanted, wasn’t it? My family, my friends, and my coworkers, they all didn’t want to be around someone with a scary illness. I could see the fear in their eyes. They didn’t even have to say a word. And I can’t tell you how many times I heard from my Mom and Dad “how much I changed,” and they definitely weren’t giving me a compliment. Before long, I didn’t even tell people that I met and became close friends with that I had epilepsy. They didn’t even know the REAL me…until one day, it all came crashing down and it was like I was back in 1992 again…just like the day when I had my very first grand mal seizure.