Rushden woman shares her battle with epilepsy, bullying and isolation

Tammy Potter.
Tammy Potter.

A Rushden woman has spoken of her struggle with epilepsy as part of a day to increase global awareness of the condition.

Tammy Potter, 24, first developed epilepsy at the age of four.

She was rushed to hospital in a serious condition and fell into a sleep coma.

The doctors did all they could to help her, and eventually she came through it but was diagnosed with epilepsy.

Initially, Tammy’s seizures were nocturnal and then developed into photosensitive seizures. She spent most of her childhood in and out of hospital and as she grew up and her epilepsy really started to affect her self-esteem as she became scared to leave the house.

But aged 14, ten years after her diagnosis, her seizures subsided and she came off her medication.

Two years later, Tammy’s seizures returned and this time it seemed that anything could trigger them.

At the same time, she was being bullied at school.

Struggling with her health and bullying made her feel very isolated.

Tammy said: “It knocked my confidence so much, I was too scared and embarrassed to go out with my friends.

“I wasn’t allowed to do a lot of things because of epilepsy.

“I felt like I had to be in bubble-wrap and wear a helmet in case anything happened.”

Tammy missed much of her final year at school and when she reached 17 was told she wouldn’t be able to drive.

Her seizures increased dramatically and she missed much of her college course, before deciding to take an early gap year and focus on her health.

During her gap year, Tammy worked part-time before returning to college, defying her own expectations and qualifying as a beauty therapist.

She started a new medication which started to reduce her seizures.

Turning 20 was a crucial stage forTammy - she hadn’t had a seizure for a year, which meant she could finally learn to drive.

Now aged 24, Tammy is now a qualified nursery nurse and hasn’t had a seizure in five years.

This, coupled with the support of friends and family, has given her a new-found confidence.

She is also enjoying things that were previously off limits to her during her childhood.

She said: “I’ve learnt to ride a bike and have been to a water park.

“I’m ticking things off my bucket list.

“It doesn’t matter what they are or how long it takes. I’m going for it.

“It took me a long time to accept it, but as I got older, I learnt to understand my epilepsy.

“Without it, I wouldn’t be the person I am.

“I’ve tried to get through my loneliness by fundraising and volunteering for youth groups, helping other people.

“Life experiences are an eye-opener.

“I feel very lucky to be here.

“Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

“No matter how hard it gets, don’t give up.”

Purple Day, the global awareness day for epilepsy, falls on Mothering Sunday (March 26) this year.

Epilepsy Action chief executive Philip Lee said: “Epilepsy is an invisible condition yet it affects people’s lives in so many ways and can leave people feeling alone, isolated and misunderstood.

“We know that loneliness can have a significant impact on people’s physical and mental health, and even life expectancy.

“It doesn’t have to be this way.

“Epilepsy Action is there for people when they need us most, whether it’s a chat with one of our helpline experts or friendly support at one of our coffee and chat groups.

“On a weekend when many people will be getting together with their families, we are asking people to donate so Epilepsy Action can continue to make sure people with epilepsy don’t have to be alone.

“This will help to break the cycle of isolation which so many people with epilepsy have to face on a regular basis.”

To donate £3 to Epilepsy Action, text PURPLE to 70300.