Woman who thought she was just ‘daydreaming’ was actually suffering epileptic seizures

(Picture: PA Real Life)

A woman whose ‘daydreaming’ was actually epileptic seizures was so full of anxiety over her diagnosis that she kept it a secret for five years.

While teachers thought she was not paying attention in class, Jasmine Banovic, now 21, was actually having absent seizures, where people become unconscious for a few seconds but do not fall over, so they look like they have just switched off.

At her worst, Jasmin experienced up to 30 seizures a day, lasting from 10 seconds to five minutes. The graphic design student from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, was eventually diagnosed with epilepsy aged 11 – but could not talk about the condition for years.

She said: ‘At that age, you just want to be like everyone else. I didn’t want this to be happening, and saying it out loud felt like accepting it, which I wasn’t ready to do.

‘For the first five years after my diagnosis, I didn’t tell anyone other than my best friend and family.

‘I think some of my other friends and teachers knew, as my parents had told them, but I never spoke to them about it. How could I explain this to others when I didn’t understand it myself?’

Speaking out on Purple Day, an international day of awareness for epilepsy which falls on 26 March this year, Jasmine remembers her absent seizures beginning when she was around nine years old and still in primary school.

She continued: ‘It wasn’t the sort of fit you stereotypically imagine when you think of epilepsy. Instead, I would lose all focus and stop responding.

‘People just thought I was daydreaming.’

(Picture: PA Real Life)

Jasmine’s mum took her to see her GP, where her hearing was tested in case it was faulty.

But when the results came back fine, she was referred to a neurologist, leading to a string of tests and investigations and, eventually, a diagnosis of epilepsy – a neurological condition causing seizures due to a sudden burst of intense electrical activity in the brain.

Speaking of the life-changing news, Jasmine, whose diagnosis came after she had an absent seizure in front of the doctor, aged 11, said: ‘I had never heard of epilepsy then, so was really confused about what was happening.

‘I felt incredibly isolated, like the only child in the world this was happening to. I wish I’d known back then about all the support that’s out there, like the charity Epilepsy Action.

‘It would have been a lifeline for me to be able to talk to others in my position.’

In the years that followed, Jasmine found herself overwhelmed by anxiety, terrified of going out in public, or even to school, in case she had a seizure.

With stress being a major trigger, she found herself trapped in a miserable catch 22.

Her education suffered and she ended up feeling left behind, before eventually leaving to become home-schooled aged 15.

She explained: ‘I was having to miss school where my anxiety and seizures were really bad. The times I did go in, I felt ignored and misunderstood, as I had missed so much.

(Picture: PA Real Life)

‘At that age, all you want is to fit in – but I felt so different. I ended up closing myself off from the world, not ready to face up to or talk about what was happening.’

Finding home-schooling a massive help, as it allowed her to catch up on her learning, Jasmine eventually felt ready to open up to a therapist aged 16.

She was able to talk openly and honestly about how she felt, which encouraged her to go on to talk about her condition with her family, and eventually friends, too.

Her seizures were brought under better control by medication and she slowly started to feel stronger.

‘Speaking to a therapist had a knock on effect and showed me it was okay to open up to my loved ones too,’ she said.

‘When you get such a huge thing thrown at you so young, it is incredibly daunting, but talking was a turning point for me, and has allowed others to have a better understanding of what life with epilepsy is like.’

Now, Jasmine is feeling mentally stronger than ever, although, sadly, she still suffers with side-effects of her medication, such as fatigue, headaches and nausea.

She is speaking out as a report, published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, has found that almost 90% of health boards and trusts do not offer any mental health support within epilepsy clinics.

(Picture: PA Real Life)

This is despite the fact that children and young adults with epilepsy in the UK are four times more vulnerable to mental health problems, according to Epilepsy Action.

Now Jasmine hopes her story will encourage other epilepsy sufferers to be more open, as well as challenging common misconceptions about the condition.

She said: ‘Because I am no longer having seizures, people assume I’m fine, which isn’t the case, as I still suffer with side effects.

‘I have no idea how well I’ll feel from one day to the next. As a result, I’ve lost friends over this, as they assume I’m cancelling plans as I don’t care when, in fact, it’s because I’m not well.

‘I’d like to see more education in schools, too, so teachers are better equipped to help children like me. If the right support is there, you can absolutely go on to have a happy, normal life.’

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