In Control: Cynthia Carrillo’s journey with epilepsy

Cynthia Carillo


Woman with grey blouse, black hair, and brown skin outdoors.
Cynthia Carrillo, 21. Credit: Cynthia Carrillo.

Cynthia Carrillo, MSJC student and Child Development major, shares her transformative experience living with epilepsy.

Hello! My name is Cynthia and I have been battling epilepsy for 10 years now. There are many ups and downs I have faced with being epileptic, but each situation has helped me become a stronger person.  This is a story about what it is like to have epilepsy and the challenges that I have faced.  

My story

Before I was 21, I did not take my disability seriously. In February of 2015, doctors decided to put me on a medication which I had taken in the past. Unfortunately, I ended up having an allergic reaction and suffered from hyperammonemia, a dangerous metabolic condition that affects the brain and nearly caused ended in death. My brain began to swell, and I was put in a coma. It affected me so terribly; I had an unknown liquid in my brain, hallucinations, and nonstop seizures among other symptoms. As a result, I had to go to speech & physical therapy to help fix the damage that was done to my brain. 

Woman in bandages and pajamas looking at something off-camera while on her phone sitting in a hospital bed.
In the hospital after a traumatic incident. Credit: Cynthia Carrillo.

It has been hard not knowing what triggers seizures. When I do have a seizure, however, my family comforts me until I come back and realize then realize what happened and where I am. My mom will give me water and ask me, “Are you okay? Were you feeling funny before the seizure? What were you doing before? Did you take all of your medication beforehand?”  I will admit I have forgotten in the past. It has happened recently too.

The seizure type that I have are called absence seizures, which causes me to suffer short-term memory loss. For example, I will be talking to someone, look away for a second, and then 30 seconds later I forget everything that happened. I also have grand mal seizures where I lose consciousness and make jerking movements. The best thing for others to do to help me in this situation is to roll me on my side until I regain consciousness.

If you have epilepsy or are with anyone who does, always keep yourself and others around you calm. Help them by placing something soft under their head, comfort them and look for a medical bracelet to call someone. You can also look on Apple Watches or other smart devices if the person has one set up. NEVER put anything in their mouth or hold them down. As soon as they are alert, you can talk to them and help them through regaining consciousness. Remember: it takes time to regain consciousness, so do not expect them to be back in just a matter of seconds.

Three girls smiling at the camera on the beach at sunset.
Friends, family, and happiness. Credit: Cynthia Carrillo

Online Learning, DSPS, The pandemic

I prefer online learning because it is what I am used to. Before college, I was put into a charter school that had online learning which has helped me here at MSJC during the pandemic. I am currently enrolled in three classes and four clubs. I tend to keep myself busy and, even with all these classes and clubs, I feel like I’m never doing enough. I receive benefits from DSPS like extra time on tests, but I rarely use it. As far as having epilepsy in the middle of the pandemic, it has mainly affected me due to my weaker immune system. If I get sick, I will not be able to take medicine for it.

Two girls smiling and hugging each other in a backyard at night.
Very thankful for the love that surrounds me. Credit: Cynthia Carrillo.

     For the new year, I started a study group for my Astronomy class and became close with one of the girls in the group. We were constantly talking, she asked me if I wanted to join her at a bible study. I decided to try something new and since then it has completely changed my life. I have met new faces and got to know almost everyone at the study. They are all so sweet. I was also invited to a College Ministry which made me feel so welcomed. College Ministry is a nice event where we drink coffee and play fun games like four square. These events bring us all together.

Living life to the fullest

Overall, I am truly grateful to be here surrounded by all the people that love and care for me. Thank you to my family for everything they have done for me, I will always respect what they think is best for me. Thank you to my sisters for being my best friend especially, when I need you the most. I am also grateful for all the wonderful friends who have welcomed me into their lives. After 10 years, I am finally not upset to have been diagnosed with epilepsy. It is a side of me that might never go away, so I must stay positive, happy, and never let it control me. Day by day, I am going to live my life to the fullest because, if I do not, I have not truly lived. I will have fun in my life with not a single regret.

 Epilepsy does not control me. I control it.