A local woman is setting up a new epilepsy support group in Enniskillen with the aim of providing an opportunity for people affected by the condition to come together in an informal setting to support each other and share experiences.

Roseanna Clarke, 48, is setting up the group because of her own experience with epilepsy. She developed the condition when she was 21 and has focal seizures that are caused by a scar on the temporal lobe of her brain. Her seizures are mostly controlled by medication now, but she says that they caused her to have “15 really dark years”.

Roseanna shared: “The biggest burden of my epilepsy was losing my driving license. With that, I lost my independence. I also used to feel intimidated and nervous when I was out and about. It can be really embarrassing when you have seizures in public. More than all of that though, I used to really struggle with people’s attitude towards epilepsy. It can feel like people don’t want to know you when they find out you have epilepsy, or that they’re constantly questioning you. ‘Why aren’t you driving? Are you sure that this is safe?’ it really wears you down after a while."

Epilepsy affects around 20,000 people in Northern Ireland and 87 people are diagnosed every day. Each year Epilepsy Action, which incorporates Epilepsy Action Northern Ireland, directly helps over two million people through a range of services, including the Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050 and website, and network of local groups.

Explaining that it has taken her a long time to find the right combination of medicines, Roseanna added: "But fingers crossed, my seizures seem to be controlled at the moment. I can’t get overtired or stressed though, that’s a sure way to mean I’ll have another seizure."

She continued: “It hasn’t always been easy. In fact, sometimes, my epilepsy has made life really difficult. I had 15 really dark years of my life because of it. But I have reached the light at the end of the tunnel."

The coffee and chat group will be part of charity Epilepsy Action Northern Ireland and the first drop-in event will be held on Wednesday, January 22 from 11am to 12.30pm. The group will meet at Fermanagh House, Broadmeadow Place, Enniskillen.

After the first session, the group will continue to meet monthly on the third Wednesday of each month from 11am to 12.30pm at the same location. To find out more, email either Roseanna on roseannac1971@gmail.com or Carla Smyth on csmyth@epilepsy.org.uk.

"I know that it’s possible to lead a good and full life when you have epilepsy. With this group, I want to help others feel the same,” Roseanna concluded.