Speedbumps: Living Life With Epilepsy by Jonathan B. Dodson

★★★★    Speedbumps: Living Life With Epilepsy by Jonathan B. Dodson tells the story of the author’s journey toward first being diagnosed with, and eventually learning to manage, his epilepsy. Before Jonathan was two years old, his mother had started to notice small facial movements and gaps in speech that seemed to suggest something was happening inside her young son’s brain. It would take quite a while for the family to get a firm diagnosis from their physician, but even once that had been accomplished, it would only mark the beginning of a lifelong process of medication, blood tests, and maternal monitoring. Jonathan describes how his childhood seizures—absence seizures, once called petit mal seizures—eventually gave way to tonic-clonic seizures once he reached high school. Though Jonathan had been seizure-free for quite some time leading up to that, this confirmed the family’s fears that he would not outgrow the condition during puberty, as some children do. From there, the author charts his path to adulthood, chronicling the numerous “speedbumps” that epilepsy put in his way—and how he ultimately overcame them.

As Dodson notes in his book, some medical conditions like ALS and Parkinson’s disease receive more celebrity attention and research donations than others. Epilepsy research often goes unnoticed and underfunded because it is, primarily, an invisible illness. Dodson writes about how so much of his adolescence was spent under the guise of being “normal,” and how terrified he was for people to learn that he had been living with epilepsy this whole time. While the author’s story (and lessons learned) can certainly be applied toward any hardship in life, the strongest takeaways here are in realizing how little we actually know about this medical condition, and how sorely lacking we are in analyzing the economic and social effects that managing this medical condition has on the family unit.

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