By Amanda Stickney
I remember having my first seizure in eighth grade. I thought it was nothing just stress. No big deal, I told myself. When the seizures continued, I thought I was not eating enough, or that they were something hormonal, right? That year, my art teacher introduced us to clay, and I was hooked.
The seizures continued. My parents took me to a neurologist, and I was diagnosed with epilepsy as a freshman in high school. Soon afterward, my parents got me a pottery wheel.
At first, I kept quiet about epilepsy, but I had a classmate with cerebral palsy. He gave a talk at school about people with visible disabilities (such as being in a wheelchair). I thought, If I stay silent, people are going to have ideas about my life. Now I speak up as often as I can.
In college, I considered such occupations as astronomy, psychology and interior design. I took business classes, but I thought, I can’t see myself doing anything else. I’d be miserable, exhausted and for me, that leads to seizures. I majored in art with a ceramics concentration.
I’ve never had a seizure while making art. When it’s time to work, my body and brain relax. Everything else goes out the window and I have fun! I can completely concentrate. Music helps me release tension. I focus to make sure the clay comes up smoothly. If that doesn’t happen, I start over.
I go to an art therapy group facilitated by the Epilepsy Foundation (search “Studio E” at Epilepsy.com). I enjoy hanging out and making some art. I would absolutely recommend the group. Try making something. When life gets crazy, I think, To hell with it! I’m not going to let epilepsy bother me. My body feels like making art. And I know it will make me feel extremely relaxed.
I love the thrill of putting clay on the wheel. Some of my friends have become well-known artists. I’d love to be able to sell thousands of pieces, but that’s not my goal. Art helps me to get rid of the stressors of everyday life and to make something people can use and enjoy. If they don’t, I will!
Originally printed in EpilepsyAdvocate, Spring 2017.