I'M NOT DRUNK, I'M HAVING A SEIZURE

As my frequent readers and social media followers will know, I have Epilepsy and I like to raise awareness about it. I have so many stories to tell about the consequences of people not knowing enough about Epilepsy, so I thought that I would start telling these stories here on my blog. I'm hoping that they will somehow teach people a little bit more about Epilepsy, and also hope that some people who also have Epilepsy can relate to what I'm talking about in some way.

Today's post is all about the times I have been kicked out of clubs for being "drunk" when in reality I have been having seizures.

Title photo. Post title inside a black triangle in the centre, with a photo of alcoholic drinks in the background


A bit of information before I start with the story, as I know that not all of you will be familiar about my history of Epilepsy. I started having seizures when I was 19 after a car accident. They don't know if it was the trauma that caused it, or the stress of the accident and other events in my life too. At the time I started having seizures, I was also studying at university. Those who have been to university know that night life is a huge part of the experience, and going out to local bars and clubs was something that I really enjoyed. I even worked as a nightclub photographer before my accident as I just loved the whole environment. It was always a lot of fun being sober in a room full of people who were tipsy/drunk and having fun.

I remember one particular time when I had only just started having seizures. I was in a bar with some of my housemates and we'd only been out for around an hour. I must have had approximately one vodka and Red Bull so there was no way I was drunk. (In fact I'm pretty good at holding my liquor). The next thing I remember was being on the floor in an alley next to the club with my friend sat beside me (who had been drinking before we had gone out and was pretty drunk. I was always the one who looked after everyone). She was too drunk to have called for an ambulance, and there were a few people stood around too. People had assumed that I was just drunk, so left us to it.


Sarah aged 19 with a blue alcoholic drink in her hand. She has a broken arm.
Taken in April 2007, 4 months before the car accident, and seizure free
When I finally came around from my seizure, I was confused and had no idea what was going on. When you have a Tonic-Clonic Seizure (the type most commonly associated with Epilepsy...you know the one on the floor with the shaking and foaming...kind of like a fish out of water) you don't remember what has happened. You do not know you have had a seizure until someone tells you once you have come around, or when you notice you have wet yourself, or injured yourself. For me, it can take up to 45 minutes to know what is happening. I literally have no idea who I am, let alone where I am when I come around from a seizure. I get very emotional too and so you can imagine why people may think I'm just drunk and emotional.

The way I knew I had had a seizure is because my mouth was cut, and I was aching. I was exhausted too and it felt like I had run a a marathon. When I eventually was able to walk I went back to the bar and tried to walk in. The bouncers pushed me aside and said I wasn't allowed in as I'd been banned for being too drunk. It turned out that whilst I was in the toilet, I had sat myself down by the toilet as I obviously knew I was going to have a seizure. I ended up on the toilet floor and someone had alerted the bouncer that someone was drunk and passed out in the bathroom. Obviously the bouncers didn't even check me, and had carried me (or dragged) me out of the club and had just dumped me in the alley with my friend. When I tried to explain to them what had actually happened they didn't want to know and even threatened to call the police. They called all the bars in the area to prevent me going anywhere else...even to get help.

I ended up getting a taxi back home alone. This is a huge risk as I have been known to have multiple seizures in one go, where I come around and then go back into a seizure. This also meant that I was then home alone. I did end up in the hospital the next day as I had more seizures.

Photo of Sarah in 2008, aged 20. She has Brown hair that is past her shoulders and is wearing a grey t-shirt with blue cardigan
Me in 2008, a year after my accident and when my seizures were frequent
Sometimes a seizure can look like the person is drunk. It isn't always a tonic-clonic seizure on the floor. There are such things as absences and those having them may be aware it is happening, but they can't do anything about it. People have thought I'm drunk because my speech goes slurred on occasion, and if I'm tired I stutter, or get my words very confused. I can't even talk in full sentences. Again this has had me kicked out of places for being "drunk". Also after a seizure I can appear drunk due to the confusion and I may wander around or try to leave a secure environment with people I know. At that time I do not know who you are. I do not know who I am. I do not know where I am. This is why kicking me out, or leaving me alone is not the right thing to do.

Instead of assuming someone is drunk because they are acting out of the ordinary, please take the time to ask if they are okay. If something doesn't seem quite right then stay with them. If you are scared or don't feel safe, keep your distance but please don't leave them alone. Call an ambulance if you don't know what to do. They are trained and know how to help people. Please also help with their dignity, having seizures can be very embarrassing in public places so please sacrifice your coat if you need to cover someone so they are not exposed.


SARAH HUGHES
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2 comments

  1. I can share a related experience.

    I had a seizure in a shopping mall mid-afternoon, which itself wasn't the issue. It was the journey home.

    Needing to be excessively sick every 10 minutes or so, my friend had to take me into various shops to use the their toilet on the way back to the car park. My friend has told me that in every shop, the initial opinions of the staff was that I was being sick because I was drunk.

    I was in no state to be able to speak coherently. Fortunately I had my friend to explain what had happened, but without him I am not sure how the chain of events would have unfolded.

    It's sad this is the default opinion from the public in a non-alcohol related environment, I can only imagine what it would be like in a bar or pub with other drunk people.

    I've only just found your blog and enjoyed the first post I have read.

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  2. Thank you for raising awareness about epilepsy, Sarah. I had no idea that seizures can make you look like you had one too many to drink. This is very eye opening x

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