My name is Hafsa and I was first diagnosed with epilepsy when I was one year old. I was too young to notice exactly what was going on with me, but as I got older and went to school, I started to feel embarrassed about having seizures in front of my classmates. My classmates started to mock how I looked when I was having a seizure, which made me very uncomfortable. My embarrassment got to a point where I asked my parents not to tell my teachers about my seizures; little did I know the school already had it in my record.
I also remember how much I hated being in the hospital. Having epilepsy really prevented me from doing a lot of things growing up. For example, I loved sports, but my parents were afraid I had a seizure and hit my head while playing. I felt like my epilepsy held me back a lot.
When I told my parents that I wanted to go to a college away from St. Paul, where I grew up, they were so worried that they said they didn’t think I should go to college at all.
At that time, my biggest goal was to be the first person in my family to go to college, along with driving. Already growing up, I was always worried that I would not be able to drive in my life, and then suddenly, college seemed to be off the table too. I felt stuck, like I would have to depend on my parents for the rest of my life.
I am grateful that I had brain surgery and have not had any seizures since. Because of this, I was able to drive and I am currently in my last year of undergrad at Winona State University.
Being seizure free helps me stay calm while I’m in college, but I still worry sometimes when the area that I had surgery starts to hurt. Being the oldest of nine children and the first to go to college in my family is an honor and a big accomplishment for me. I am proud of myself for being the risk-taker and role model for my siblings.