Stories

Epilepsy and me

  • Serial
Illustration using collage techniques. Image shows a scene made up of mainly green and yellow hues. To the left is the back of an old fashioned TV set out of which is emerging streaks of electron, or neural pathway patterns. Behind the TV set are two figures. A black dog is leaping towards the TV set. In the centre of the image is a human head with the repeating dots from the face of a dice covering their eyes and surrounding area. To the right are illustrations of a plant and part of the palm leaves from a tree.
Experience. © Tracy Satchwill for Wellcome Collection.

Aparna Nair is one of 50 million people living with epilepsy. Here she tries to make sense of her personal experience of epilepsy by looking back at the history of a condition that is full of contradictions. It’s an illness of the brain and nervous system, yet its defining symptom, seizures, can be unforgivingly physical and happen in the most public of places. It was once associated with the supernatural but its diagnosis today is dependent on modern technology. People with epilepsy have been stigmatised by both science and religion in the past, but for Aparna, comfort and support has come from an unexpected ally.

About the author

Photograph of Aparna Nair

Aparna Nair

Dr Aparna Nair is an assistant professor in the Department of History of Science at the University of Oklahoma. She works on disability, medicine and colonialism in India in the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as disability in popular culture and the experience of epilepsy in South India.