Maria: Hi Jackson, thank you for having a phone chat today. I see that you are really heavily into music and kung fu. Two really hard disciplines to follow. Please tell me about them and how they have helped you on your epilepsy journey.
Jackson: I grew up with epilepsy from the age of 6 years old. I was the one who sat at the back of the classroom getting into trouble from not paying attention. Apparently, I was always off in my own little world before I was diagnosed with absence seizures, and medicated for them. When I was about 8 years old, I then developed tonic clonic seizures.
I found school hard, especially as a teenager because I was trying to plan for my future, but I had to discover my own path in life and at my own pace. Between the ages of 18-20 years, I felt a bit lost but I decided that epilepsy wasn’t going to be the excuse for me not being the best that I can be and I went looking for a way forward.
It was at that time that I discovered singing and kung fu.
Music is now my passion in life. I absolutely love singing. More than anything in the world in fact, and the more I sing, the more satisfaction I have from doing it. I have now found the courage to get out into the community and brighten the lives of the people I sing to, and I am trying to build up a future for myself by performing music. I will sing to anyone such as in resthomes, at weddings, and children’s parties, and I will enjoy every minute of it too.
Maria: How has kung fu helped you?
Jackson: When I discovered kung fu it helped me to mature and I developed a positive outlook towards my epilepsy. It taught me the discipline that I needed to stay safe. Today I follow a strict routine of sleeping eight hours a day, not drinking alcohol, eating healthily, taking my medications regularly 12 hours apart, and maintaining a positive attitude.
Maria: Kung fu, as a martial art, has taught you more than sparring and discipline though.
Jackson: Yes! The breathing techniques that I use are fantastic for reducing stress. Everyone should learn breathing techniques as it helps to relax people, even for those who do not have epilepsy. Kung fu has also helped me to focus on things that are positive and to push through any negative thoughts that I might have. I now hold a black belt in kung fu and I am very proud of that achievement. I can also proudly tell you that I am now teaching others in the art of kung fu. Giving back to others is really important to me.
Maria: I know that you have two very important, and wise, messages to tell.
Firstly, for those young people who feel bogged down by their epilepsy, I want them to find their passion in life and to work hard at it. Epilepsy won’t define who they are.
My second message is to the parents of children with epilepsy. It is okay if you don’t hold all the answers in understanding epilepsy. It is your journey, as much as your child’s, but let them grow up strong and to be the people that they want to become. Give them the skills and confidence to live well because at some point in their lives they will be old enough to evaluate things for themselves.
Maria: Thank you for sharing your story and wise words. As parents we don’t want our children coming to any harm but it is true what you say. It is important that our children are able to grow up to be themselves since having epilepsy doesn’t define who they are.