There’s a great deal we agree on when it comes to our epilepsy. We need to get regular sleep. Taking meds on schedule is a must. It’s better for us to be open with others about our condition. Back up. Open with others? Here’s where the arguments begin. There are some people who have been traumatized by others’ reactions to their letting people without epilepsy know about their troubles and argue unequivocally for keeping silent. Others, such as I, fight to be open.
A more complex situation arises, however, when thinking about whether or not to tell prospective employers about one’s epilepsy during the interview. It’s a tricky one.
On the one hand, we know that employers legally can’t let a disability such as epilepsy influence their hiring decisions. The only point they can consider is whether or not possible seizures will get in the way of performing assigned duties.
But it’s not a perfect world with managers and HR professionals bringing completely dispassionate thinking to the hiring process. In the back of their minds, they may have questions about what it will be like for your coworkers if you have seizures. They may wonder if they’ll be able to take care of you if you need them. You may seem like “the other,” and they have a difficult time getting themselves to relate to you. Then, again, they may not. Is there any way to tell which kind of person is interviewing you?
If you’ve never met them before, then you probably can’t. The question then comes down to whether or not you’re leading with your ideals…
“I always should be honest about having epilepsy; it’s their problem if they don’t like it; I don’t want to work for people who don’t fully accept my epilepsy.”
Or are you seeing this as more of a practical transaction…
“ I don’t know them and what they think of epilepsy; I know I ‘m able to do the job, so I won’t mention it until after I’ve started working; I need this job desperately and am not going to risk discrimination, no matter what.”
I wish I could tell you that there’s a right and a wrong, but there’s not. Personally, if I really want a job and know I’m up for it, I wait until after I’ve been hired to tell my manager, preparing him/her for what to do if I have a seizure. My meds control my epilepsy, and episodes are rare. On the other hand, people I greatly admire, ones who are guided fully by their ideals, wouldn’t think of remaining silent about their epilepsy during initial interviews. They think it’s only fair to be open right from the start and are willing to take the consequences of its possibly standing in their way of getting the job (even on a subconscious level influencing the interviewer).
Which kind of person are you? What are your circumstances? Can you afford to live by your ideals? Do you have enough fortitude to withstand potential discrimination? Everyone is different and is approaching the job search from a different perspective and level of need to get the job. Alas, there truly is no right and wrong. There’s only you.
Be your own compass.