Having a seizure in public is one of the most common things that people with epilepsy feel anxious about. So, if you’re returning to work after a seizure that might have been witnessed by your colleagues, then it’s totally normal to be apprehensive.
Everyone’s seizures are different, as are their workplaces - not to mention how you feel about discussing epilepsy. Still, the following tips can be helpful in many situations.
Different scenarios, different plans
If you’re returning to work after a seizure, a combination of the following six scenarios is likely to apply:
- You’ve had seizures before, understand what’s happening, and maybe even have a seizure action plan
- This was your first ever seizure and you’ve only just been diagnosed with epilepsy
- Your employer already knows you have epilepsy - you have disclosed it to them in the past
- Your employer didn’t know you had epilepsy, as you had chosen not to disclose the information
- You find you can recover quite quickly from seizures, and carry on working the same day
- You often need several hours - or longer - to recover, so would typically have to go home from work and take sick leave
Depending on which of these scenarios apply to you, it’s worth taking the time to plan out how you will navigate your return to work after your seizure. You could plan out the conversations you are likely to have with your colleagues, your manager, and human resources (HR).
Suggested: 5 tips for telling people about your epilepsy
Tips for returning to work after a seizure
There are so many different jobs and individual scenarios, so there’s no single strategy to take when returning to work after a seizure.
Some people’s jobs require driving or dealing with customers, others might have office jobs that even allow remote working. Some might feel comfortable talking about their epilepsy, while others find it a tough subject to discuss. Some people work for companies that are very understanding, others work in high-paced environments that might be less sensitive.
All the same, when thinking about your own strategy for returning to work after a seizure, consider the following tips:
- Book in a meeting with your manager: If this was your first seizure at work, it’s important to talk about your needs, your health and your expectations with your manager. You are under no legal obligation to disclose that you have epilepsy, but it’s probably now obvious, so talking about it might be the most straightforward option.
Related: Facts to counter epilepsy myths
- Seizure action plan: If you don’t have one already, it’s a good idea to draw up a seizure action plan with your company’s HR department. If you wish, share this with immediate colleagues so they know what to do in case you have another seizure in future.
- Think about adjustments: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you have a legal right to request ‘reasonable adjustments’ to your workplace. Read more about that here.
- Give coworkers an epilepsy 101: If your seizures are highly visible, then it’s likely that some of your coworkers will be curious. You might find it helpful to give them an ‘epilepsy 101’ to dispel any fears, answer basic questions, and inform them about simple first aid.
Use this: 10 facts about epilepsy to share
If you are comfortable talking aloud in front of a group of people, you could give a five-minute presentation and Q&A when you return to work. Or, you could send out an email with some links and a little information about your seizures (feel free to share relevant articles in our blog!). It’s also reasonable to ask your manager to do this - or a close friend at work.
- Contact your local epilepsy organization: There are many epilepsy support organizations in towns and cities across the US. Contact them for help and support if you have doubts about returning to work after a seizure.
- Dealing with discrimination: Sadly, there are still companies where employers and coworkers are not understanding about their coworkers’ health conditions. If your employer refuses to let you come back to work, if you experience unpleasant remarks from coworkers, or HR rejects your requests for reasonable accommodations, know that you have the ADA on your side.
Always begin by communicating these problems internally with your superiors (preferably by email - so you have written evidence). But if problems cannot be resolved this way, then contact epilepsy or disability charities for support and advice.
Work problems: Guide to discrimination and jobs for people with epilepsy
You’ve got this
It is totally normal to feel anxious about returning to work after a seizure. Many people with epilepsy dread having to explain themselves and their condition. However, by taking some time to plan it out before returning to work, you might just feel a little more confident and prepared.