Raising awareness Your stories Imogen's Story My life changed when I was 17 years-old and in the middle of my A-levels. I wasn’t particularly a sickly person, but in the summer of 2011 I had really bad flu. When I suffered tonic-clonic seizures in the middle of the night, I was rushed to hospital. My condition was a bit of a mystery to the medical team until they finally diagnosed me with Limbic Encephalitis. I was in hospital for a few weeks. Every day, I realised there was something else that I couldn’t do or couldn’t remember. Spells of anxiety, depression and paranoia followed during those first years of recovery. I lost what should have been my key social years. It’s very difficult not to feel this way at the age of 19 when your social group are at university, meeting new people and partying. You feel left out and old in a strange kind of way. Taking medication. Not drinking as much. Taking longer for information to sink in, especially in busy situations. To cope, I had to stop overthinking and trying too hard to fit in and comparing myself to others. I predict it will take around a decade for me to fully get over encephalitis. That means learning who the “new me” is. It means having strategies for the way I learn and deal with things. It means keeping my poor memory at bay - whether this is by having notepads in every room and keeping a diary. It means that I don’t overdo things as I get tired very easily. This period also includes learning how to build friendships again, as my social skills have taken a hit from encephalitis. After going through so much, I think I need to understand myself again before others do. I feel when you’ve had such a serious illness as encephalitis, you reflect a lot on your life. In the last few years, I have met an amazing boyfriend who couldn’t be more supportive and caring and my relationship with my family has never been stronger. I have had so much fun in the last couple of years: meeting new people, going out to different places and travelling to countries which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was at university. I’ve got to look on the positive side. I now know what jobs I can’t do and I have to thank the company I work for who have been very supportive and given me so much experience for the future. Although there are blips, I couldn’t be more positive about the future - more travelling, getting a job that is a better fit for me and taking on a range of new hobbies. For those of you like me who’ve gone through this isolating illness, I would say keep picking yourself up and think ‘this is my journey, look at how far I’ve come and I’ve got so much more to give!’ Yes, it has taken a while. Yes, it may take a little longer than others. But you have been strong enough to come this far already - you can go that bit further.