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So, you're dating someone with epilepsy and you're wondering what you can expect from the future? What can you do to inform yourself about what's ahead?
When you are dating someone with epilepsy, you will be eager to find out as much as possible about the disorder. Idiopathic, cryptogenic, symptomatic, generalized, focal, or partial — when it comes to epilepsy, you'll encounter many confusing terms. Idiopathic means the cause is unknown, while cryptogenic means no cause has been identified yet but it likely can be, and symptomatic means a cause has been pinpointed. Generalized seizures involve the whole brain, with partial and focal seizures originating in a specific part of the brain.
Long-term complications of epilepsy can include injuries, such as from falls, car accidents, or drowning, complications of surgery, complications during pregnancy, and in some cases even permanent brain damage. These are scary things — nobody wants to see their partner get hurt.
Remember: your partner is the expert on their own body and the type of epilepsy they have. Rather than turning to the web for general information about what living with epilepsy is like, it is best to ask your partner questions about how their life is affected by the condition. Open and honest conversation about epilepsy and your feelings surrounding it is key during the early stages of a relationship.
If your partner regularly experiences seizures, you may find yourself being a carer on occasion. You may find yourself switching role continuously, going from partner to carer and back again, and this can take its emotional toll on both of you. While carers can play a hugely important role in the life of someone with epilepsy, it is important to reflect on the way in which these changing roles affect you as a partner. Finding the right balance is important — while it's great to have someone around who can look out for you when you are having a seizure, do resume the role of partner as soon as that need has passed and make sure you're not permanently stuck in a carer position. We all want equal partners, not parents!
At the same time, you'll want to admit that being an occasional carer to your partner may influence your own mental health. Don't forget to look after your own physical and emotional needs, and be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot handle.
In The Bedroom
Thinking or talking about epilepsy in the context of sexuality may be somewhat difficult, but research shows that many people with epilepsy and their partners are worried about seizures during intimacy. These worries can impact your sex life. Additionally, some seizure medication affects libido. A couple's sex life is an important component of their relationships, so discussing these issues together is important. Epileptics should also feel free to bring a lowered libido as the result of a particular medication up with their treating neurologist, as other options may be available.
Epilepsy affects the everyday life of a couple in various ways, from worries about immediate safety to the aforementioned shifting roles, and the potential need to adjust short- and long-term plans. While it is understandable that new or potential partners of people with epilepsy have some worries, which they need to tackle head-on, it's also important to make sure that epilepsy doesn't take the relationship over.