March is Epilepsy Awareness Month, a great time to raise awareness, challenge myths, and help break the stigma surrounding epilepsy.
Chris Kullman is the president of the board of directors for the Epilepsy and Seizure Association of Manitoba. He says epilepsy can be hard to define sometimes.
"It's a neurological condition where the neurons in your brain misfire and trigger seizures," Chris explains. "There are many different types of seizures. The most commonly known one is what used to be called grand mal, now it's called tonic-clonic. That's where you see visual convulsions in the body. There are many other types that exist that don't cause convulsions, but they cause other issues."
Kullman knows all too well the impacts that epilepsy can have on a person's life. He was diagnosed with epilepsy at 12 years old.
"I've had epilepsy my entire life due to birth trauma. It's been a difficult road all of these years," said Chris. "I wasn't diagnosed until I was 12 because, I was only having partial complex seizures where you get odd sensations in your head, weird feelings or sometimes you get very bad deja vu. Even at other times, it was almost like I was staring down a long white tunnel. It wasn't until I had my first grand mal or tonic-clonic seizure at age 12 that I was diagnosed."
Chris says after his diagnosis, life became very difficult because, in 1992, he didn't have access to things like social media or support groups. It was 15 years before he met someone else with epilepsy.
"It was life-changing for me," Chris explained. "It was through a website that had a forum where you could communicate with other people going through the same thing. It was such an amazing moment in my life."
Now internet forums are fading away, and Chris says social media has come together in a big way.
"There are now Facebook groups and so many people on Twitter sharing their experiences," said Chris. You can now instantaneously post to your friends that you've had a bad seizure, and you need some emotional support, and they can give it to you right away."
Chris says that raising awareness for epilepsy will help to erase the stigma surrounding the neurological disorder. He says those who are interested in learning more are encouraged to get involved with their provincial epilepsy association.
Today on Connections, Chris shares his journey with epilepsy. He'll also share the importance of drawing awareness to this neurological disorder.