March 26th is Epilepsy Awareness Day. Three people in my immediate family have been diagnosed with the condition. All three lead normal lives—their seizures managed with medication and simple precautions to avoid triggers like flickering lights and stress (not always easy, to be sure!). Epilepsy, like near-sightedness, does not stop them from embracing life. Such was not always the case.
|Maxime Raynal (Wikipedia)|
Back in the 1930s, in Nazi Germany, epilepsy was considered a disability and a disability meant forced sterilization—at the very least—and by 1939, it had the potential to be a death sentence under the Aktion T4 program.
In Tainted Amber, I explored the impact of epilepsy on a young couple as they fell in love during the Nazi years. The Nazi ambition of a perfect society stigmatized disability and this included people with seizures. Fortunately, in 2023, 90 years after the Nuremberg Laws for the Prevention of Hereditary Disease were proclaimed, epileptics are largely integrated into our world. You might be sitting near an epileptic on the bus tomorrow, or have one teaching your kids, or cutting your hair.
|Neil Young deals with|
epilepsy by avoiding crowds
Raph_PH (Wikipedia - CC)
To learn more about epilepsy, visit this website. And if you’re lucky enough to have an epileptic in your life, give them an extra hug and maybe wear purple on March 26th. Epileptics like Neil Young, Charles Dickens, and the singer Adele highlight the creativity that many people with epilepsy enjoy. Some might consider seizures a gift — a torrent of electrical activity in the brain—a true brain storm.
Manitoba has a volunteer-run advocacy group for families afffected by epilepsy. Visit their website to learn more. No more shame, no more stigma, no more institutionalization or sterilization.