EFGA recently wrapped up the 2015 session of Camp Carpe Diem. Jill, a member of both the Georgia affiliate’s Youth Advisory Council and the Georgia Board of Directors, served as a cabin counselor at this year’s camp. Here she shares her perspective of the camp program, both as a counselor and a person with epilepsy.
Camp Carpe Diem provides an unforgettable experience for people with epilepsy, as you realize you are not alone in dealing with the disorder. At the age of fifteen I was diagnosed with epilepsy, and at that time I would have done anything to meet another person my age dealing with the same challenges and struggles as me. This year I was a counselor in the teen girls cabin. I loved having the opportunity to share my story with the girls, and without Camp Carpe Diem I never would have been able to do that.
It can be hard with epilepsy to participate in any activities involving water. Doctors drill into your head that you should never swim because of the risk of having a seizure. At the pool there were six nurses and three lifeguards, so the girls were able to swim without any fear. For many of the girls that will be the only time this summer that they will be able to swim, and the joy on their faces cannot be put into words. This is just one example of the freedom the girls were able to feel in different activities throughout the week.
One of the girls in my cabin pulled me aside one day and asked me “Miss Jill, how did you do it?” She was referring to how I was able to graduate from college without epilepsy holding me back. This was the hardest part of the week for me and required the most strength in me to answer. I told her that even though we have epilepsy, we choose if we let epilepsy have us. We talked about all the different activities we had done over the week, and we decided to compare our epilepsy to climbing the rock wall. For many of the campers, this was the most challenging, but favorite activity of the week. It was not easy, but they had to remember to take it one step at a time. They did not all make to the top, but with practice and confidence we knew everyone could have made it. Just like with epilepsy, not every medication or treatment may work the first time, but the goal is to never give up and keep trying.
Saying “goodbye” to the girls at the end of the work was very hard. Camp allowed us to work together as a team in dealing with the challenges of epilepsy. We all wished camp could go on forever! Epilepsy is a very challenging disorder, but Camp Carpe Diem brings together people with epilepsy of all ages, races and backgrounds and reminds us that we are not alone. I can’t wait for next year!
Check out photos from this year’s Camp Carpe Diem!