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Defining Who You Are


I glanced at my diary this morning and saw that today is the 20th anniversary of my first epileptic fit1 and for some reason that reminded me that whenever I talk about this I conscious try not to refer to myself as "an epileptic". But then I thought about it some more, and (as Mark Kermode would say) here's the thing: I do refer to myself as "a migraineur"2.

And that got me thinking. My logic for not referring to myself as an epileptic but instead as "someone who suffers from epilepsy" is that my epilepsy doesn't define me. I'm lucky, it's now very well controlled (touch wood) via medication and although I can't really drink booze any more, well not in the quantities I'd like anyway, the drugs have meant I've not had a full blown tonic seizure for the best part of a decade now and it's over four years since my last partial. I suspect that if you've always had epilepsy, or it's more poorly controlled, you're far more likely to refer to yourself as "an epileptic".

Which perhaps explains why I do often label myself as "a migraineur".

Language: it's a funny thing.

  1. This was nine years before my more recent trouble and was a full tonic-clonic (aka grand mal rather than a tonic or a partial, which is what I've had since my bleed. It was a one off and the cause was never discovered. Whenever I brought this up with neurologists and neurosurgeons after my bleed in 2002 they all thought it was completely unrelated. Apparently one off idiopathic seizures are relatively common in the population, about 1% of us will have one at some point in our lives.
  2. Someone who suffers from migraines. This isn't a word I'd ever come across before until I met Chris who lives just down the road from me and is also a sufferer. I looked the word up on the Web today, not least because this brower's spell checker didn't recognise it, and although some online dictionaries acknowledge its existence Merriam-Webster notes the first usage they're aware of it (in American-English of course) was in 1970 so it's a relative newcomer even that side of the pond.

Tags: health, words Written 21/04/13

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