riah's story

My name is Riah Kitchin and I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was 19. I started having

grand mal seizures my freshman year of college. My seizures were pretty debilitating and I was

all the way across the country from family. It was a very hard and difficult time. I was doing my

best to be a normal college student while trying out new medications with bad side effects and

managing crippling anxiety from the seizures.

I encountered three major problems when trying to comprehend my diagnosis and control my

epilepsy. The first is that it is very unpredictable. I can take all my medication, sleep the perfect

amount, control all my triggers and still have a seizure. The second is that most people don’t

fully understand what I was going through. I often feel as though I am carrying an invisible

weight. Just because I look healthy and fine from the outside doesn’t mean I don’t carry this

burden. Finally, it’s hard to talk about. I still dread situations where I have to tell people I have

epilepsy. I was scared to tell my employer I had seizures, or to acknowledge it on my grad

school applications. So many people have epilepsy or seizures it is absolutely absurd that I

have to be concerned about a bad reaction or backlash.

In the five years since my diagnosis I have studied abroad, graduated from the University of

Michigan, worked for two years in Washington D.C. and am starting law school in just a few

weeks. Epilepsy does not define my day to day life. My diagnosis was scary and lonely, but now

I know it doesn’t have to be that way. We need more people to be talking about epilepsy,

sharing their stories, spreading information and breaking the stigma. I hope by sharing my story

I can help someone else in a small way.