Helping to change perceptions around epilepsy
Local student, Debra Kobe, recently represented Ireland at an international forum for young people with epilepsy.
Debra, 18 originally from Mullingar, was nominated by Epilepsy Ireland to take part in the event which encourages young people to speak about their condition in order to raise awareness of epilepsy and remove the stigmas associated with the condition.
Debra, who is currently participating on Epilepsy Ireland's one year Training for Success Course in IT Sligo, spoke of her delight at being able to attend.
"The Training For Success course co-ordinator Maire approached me about representing Epilepsy Ireland at the workshop and I was delighted to accept.
"It was a really great weekend where we met with other people from across the world who have epilepsy or an association with epilepsy. I have never felt more blessed and honoured in my life.
"Throughout the weekend, we were encouraged to tell our stories and given examples of how a simple story can be a vehicle for change.
"By being open about epilepsy and by letting people know about how it affects us, we can change public perception about the condition."
Debra was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of nine and admits that her journey with epilepsy has been a difficult one.
"Epilepsy can be difficult and frustrating as you try to manage your medication and gain control of what may and may not affect your seizures.
"My epilepsy was particularly difficult at school due to having a lot of seizures and it did disrupt my school life. Thankfully, my local Epilepsy Ireland Community Resource Officer, Cliona Molly made me aware of Training For Success.
"This is a course run by Epilepsy Ireland that helps people like me whose schooling may have been disrupted due to their epilepsy.
"Epilepsy Ireland provides fantastic support for people like me and their families but the biggest challenge facing me and Epilepsy Ireland is changing the public perception of the condition. As mentioned, while it can be frustrating to have epilepsy, perhaps the most frustrating part about epilepsy can be the general public's opinion of it.
"I know that having the condition will not be a barrier to the things I want to achieve in my life but sometimes the public can think differently!
"An example of which is that a person with epilepsy can't drive. The reality of the matter is that in the majority of cases, a person with epilepsy will gain control of their condition through medication and lead a normal life and can drive wherever they want to go like everyone else! I was thrilled to attend the IBE event as one of Epilepsy Ireland's representatives as it has given me the confidence to speak out about my condition by sharing my experiences with others in similar situations.
"I've learned how to tell my story in order to help break down the stigmas associated with epilepsy. I look forward to telling it to everyone who will listen because as proven in many historical events, it can take one person to influence and motivate the world to make a positive change!" For further information on epilepsy and Epilepsy Ireland, see epilepsy.ie.