In 2011, while Prince William and Kate Middleton were tying the knot in a wedding for the ages, 16-year-old Antonia Laviolette was having her first tonic-clonic seizure.
She almost didn’t live to see another day.
“I stopped breathing,” Laviolette says. “My mom shouted, ‘It’s not your time to go!’ That brought me back to life.”
Surviving changed Laviolette’s outlook forever.
“It made me think that I should be more open-minded,” she says. “It inspired me to look at epilepsy not as a disability, but as an advantage. The more you learn about something, the more you can use it to benefit yourself and others.”
Epilepsy Management at Home
Now 24, Laviolette carries herself like an old soul, wise beyond her years. Epilepsy made her grow up fast. The absence seizures began at age 9, two weeks after suffering a black widow spider bite at summer camp. A video EEG, used to identify seizure activity in the brain over several days, showed that Laviolette was having dozens of absence seizures a day.
Managing epilepsy well is important, but it isn’t always easy. Fifteen years later Antonia’s seizures have improved, but they’re still uncontrolled. During episodes, she loses awareness for several seconds, her muscles twitch, she’s unresponsive.
Observers of seizures often feel confused, scared, powerless to help. The fear can lead to misunderstanding, as it did among Laviolette’s elementary school classmates.
“When I first got my diagnosis, I was having seizures in school,” she says. “I would twitch and space out in class. My classmates were afraid they could catch epilepsy from me like you would catch a cold. The predominant reaction was to ignore me. I felt really alone.”
Finding Magic in New Opportunities
By now, Laviolette has a strong support system of family and friends that propels her forward. To fuel her passion and make a living, she launched Magical Bath and Body, where she sells bath bombs and soaps made from therapeutic herbs and essential oils (think: jasmine, lavender, frankincense).
Laviolette “grew up a Disney kid,” so she enjoys making Disney-themed bath bombs most. Customers can purchase three for $5; eight for $10; or 10 for $13 by messaging her on Instagram.
Intrigued by homeopathic management of epilepsy, Laviolette began exploring essential oils to relieve stress and improve well-being. She uses the oils as a complement to Keppra, an anticonvulsant she takes daily. Fragrances such as lavender and frankincense have reduced her nighttime seizures.
Combatting Stereotypes of Epilepsy, Dispelling Myths
“I want people to stop giving in to epilepsy stereotypes and open their minds,” Laviolette says. “There are many types of seizures. Research them. Get informed. Understand the impact of epilepsy medication. Sometimes I think people are content to let epilepsy remain a mystery. It’s too frightening, too painful. But isn’t it time we all understand what it means to live with this condition?”
Laviolette’s crusade is personal; the life-threatening tonic-clonic seizure she had at 16 was triggered when she was removed from anticonvulsants suddenly. The epilepsy education she so deeply craves for America would shatter the walls of public perception and land in the pages of medical journals, creating best practices that are well understood in hospitals nationwide.
“I feel compelled to bring awareness to people everywhere about epilepsy stereotypes,” she says. “It’s helped me to realize, you have to take one day at a time. There’s no guarantee of tomorrow. Live life to the fullest, push it as far as you can go, every day.”
To see more of Laviolette’s products and order some yourself follow Magical Bath and Body on Instagram.
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Please note: All photos courtesy of Antonia Laviolette.