By Deron Hamel
Angélique Erry recalls how when she was diagnosed with epilepsy at 13, she felt the condition would be a barrier that would prevent her from living life to its fullest.
She remembers her doctor giving her a list of activities she needed to avoid, telling her how many hours of sleep she needed each night and advising her to not partake in activities people her age enjoyed – like school trips and sleepovers.
“It seemed like my disorder was in control of my entire life,” Angélique says. “I felt hopeless, withdrawn and fearful.”
However, as time passed, Angélique says she found the strength to view epilepsy as a challenge she could overcome.
She educated herself and those around her about epilepsy and this allowed her to feel more comfortable around friends and family. She also adjusted her schedule to ensure she would get to sleep earlier and found ways to work around the activities she couldn’t do.
“I found solutions to every restriction I was given and didn’t let epilepsy stop me from doing what I love,” Angélique says.
“Epilepsy helped me strengthen my resilience and perseverance. I’ve applied this to my everyday life – in and out of academics as well. I take on challenges with determination and an open mind without immediately feeling helpless.”
By tapping into her inner strength, Angélique has accomplished the goals she has set for herself. She graduated high school with a 94 per cent average, was active in her school band and has been recognized for her volunteer work. Today, she is enrolled in the life sciences program at the University of Toronto.
Angélique is one of six recipients of Epilepsy Ontario’s 2023 annual scholarship. For more than 15 years, Epilepsy Ontario has been providing scholarships to exceptional students who have confronted and overcome remarkable barriers in their academic and personal lives due to their epilepsy.
Asked what message she has for others living with epilepsy, Angélique says it’s to urge people to share their experiences with epilepsy and how they have overcome obstacles. These stories, she says, can provide a road map to help others living with epilepsy manage the condition.
What’s important for everyone living with epilepsy to realize is that the condition does not define who they are, she says.
“(Epilepsy) will always be an obstacle, but I came to realize that life doesn’t end the day you get diagnosed with epilepsy; it just gets reformed,” she says.
“It becomes a challenge you need to learn and grow from. I am still pursuing my dreams, as I remain resilient and maintain a growth mindset.”