Small Town Inertia

Documentary & Portraits by J A Mortram

Market Town : Simon : Living with Epilepsy : Not dictated nor ruled


A dazed, bloody and bruised Simon moments after an Atonic seizure.


Following Simon’s last visit to the gym where a Drop (Atonic) Seizure ended the session both prematurely and with injury it was of great importance to him that he get back there and face the challenge again. It was only nine days later I received the call to tell me he was heading back.

Simon’s seizures through the course of his life have been countered by an ever present strength of resolve to battle their repercussions.


Getting prepared.


Awaiting the Taxi.

Simon is a regular with the local Taxi firm, they all know him by name and after a phone call within five minutes a cab is at his door. Simon was eager for the driver to arrive.

“I’m not nervous. I know a seizure can happen anytime so why worry too much?. The last seizure I had at the gym was one of if not the worst I have ever had, espeically the injuries but what can I do? I worry sometimes for the injuries, I could have many injuries… I have done!… but I can’t worry for if I might have a fit as I can’t stop it. If it happens it happens. I know at the gym I have friends there. My instructor will help me if I have a seizure again. I just think to myself that I have to give it another try.”


Simon’s instructor explaining how to use the rowing machine.

The gym instructor was surprised to see Simon back so soon after the previous session and together it was decided that it would be safer to begin by using exercise machines with a lower centre of gravity, were Simon to have a seizure upon these he would have less distance to fall. There was a nervous energy in the room however Simon was solely focussed on the instructions of how to best use the equipment.

“It was my first time on the rowing machine and it was really hard work, hard on my back. I did that for ten minutes. You have to sit up straight, move forwards and backwards holding the bar. My instructor said I was doing really well, better than anyone else who’s first try it was.”


As Simon moved from apparatus to apparatus it was clear to see he was relaxed and enjoying himself.


“The bicycle you have to pedal really hard at the start. That hurts quite a bit. I just kept saying in my mind ‘Look, I can do this!’ like in the Olympics. I just kept saying ‘I can do this, I can do this.’ and I wanted to do it. I did not want to stop, I knew if I took it easy, slowly but kept going I could do it. I kept on going. Sometimes the bike gets harder as it feels like it’s going uphill so it’s harder to pedal and I thought I might stop but I was determined to keep on going.”


As Simon began to tire I could see him digging deep within himself, walking away now was not an option. The target times had been set by his instructor and he gave everything to meet them.

“I imagined I was in a bicycle race with other people and I was going to try and be first, be in the first 3 at the end. When I start something I never want to stop, never want to give up. Towards the end was the toughest part as it was like peddling up a really steep hill but I knew I could do it. I just kept telling myself ‘Keep on going… keep on going!”


“At the end of the workout the bicycle has a display upon it and it says ‘You have finished. Your exercise is over. I thought I came second in my race because I was struggling towards the end.”


“After the session the epilepsy just disappears from my mind as I’m sure it’s not going to happen during my workout. I had no seizures this time. I feel like I did well as I had never been on the rowing machine before and I cycled longer than ever.”

“My Mum and Dad were proud when I told them what I did at the gym. The next time I try I plan to come first. I know I can.”

Watching Simon’s return to the gym that had been the venue for such cruel punishment little over a week prior was amazing. The battle he is locked into is one of the everyday. The epilepsy is there at his shoulder always but he has never granted permission for either condition or the threat of seizure to become a burdon.

Simon is not his illness, is not dictated nor ruled by his epilepsy. Simons epilepsy and the challenges he has risen to have been the making of him.

If you require any further information regarding epilepsy Epilepsy Action is a great online resource.

Advice on how you should help if you’re witness to a person having an epileptic seizure.


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Market Town : Simon : Living with Epilepsy : Not dictated nor ruled