Standing Up to Stigma

Smith, Melissa

doi: 10.1097/01.NNN.0000511222.28654.96
Departments: Letters

Lawrenceville, GA

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I could relate to the article about artist Paula Hayes, who has epilepsy (“Coming Out,” October/November 2016, http://bit.ly/NN-PaulaHayes). I've had epilepsy since I was 7 years old. After being diagnosed in 1970, the doctors told my mother I would never go to school, never drive or get a job, never get married or have children. My mother grabbed my hand and told the doctors to go to hell. Although I was discriminated against as a child—people thought epilepsy was contagious, and I had few friends—I went on to graduate from school, drive, get a job, get married, and have children. All I wanted was to be normal. Then I realized I am normal. My kind of normal. Like Paula Hayes, I'm no longer going to be ashamed of myself and my illness. I'm not going hide. That only furthers the stigma of having epilepsy.

—Melissa Smith

Lawrenceville, GA

© 2016 American Academy of Neurology