“Don’t forget your sunglasses.”

My iPhone calendar reminds me of my appointments. It also reminds me of specific needs related to my life with epilepsy and a damaged brain.

I wrote about trips to the dentist office as an uncomfortable place for many people – especially those prone to have seizures when under stress and around bright lights – in chapter 19, “Suggestions,” in my book Underwater:

Interesting timing. I visited the dentist this morning while I’m writing a book about life with epilepsy. And dentist offices are not always the most enjoyable encounters for people—especially those of us prone to have seizures. 

The lighting, the stress, the closed atmosphere, the be-still-and-don’t-dare-move facial expressions were never friendly to me after my illness.

Before that, I was okay having my teeth worked on. But post-encephalitis, my visits to the dentist included these odd encounters—what I later learned were certain types of seizures. I’m much more aware now of my triggers.

I’m also grateful to be in a better environment—the small town feeling where the workers speak to you and show true care. I stay calm, listening to the music. If I feel something strange, I choose to change where I keep my mental focus. I know the potential danger of certain lights, and I always have my sunglasses with me.

The workers know to only use the bright lights when necessary. They’ve shown me so much kindness—unlike how my concerns were ignored in another office.

How can others learn from them? One thing they’ve done is to learn from patients like me. They’ve asked for advice. They’ve noticed my tendencies, my fears, my struggles. They’ve chosen to not hurry.

For more information about life with epilepsy and honest thoughts about time at the dentist’s office, pick up a copy of Underwater.