Mark McAllister tells his story of living with epilepsy

This blog was published in conjunction with The Canadian Journalism Project and Mark McAllister’s full blog can be found on the foundation’s website.

As journalists, we’re the ones asking the questions, not answering them. It’s easier to do the research and dig to find out more. Reporters can take information and proudly provide something to others they wouldn’t have otherwise known. Telling someone else’s story is the ideal scenario. When you have to tell your own tale, that confidence can be shaken and finding the words sometimes isn’t as easy.

In March, 2011, I had an epileptic seizure live during a Global newscast and couldn’t speak properly. I was the story all of a sudden. Others wanted to show the world what happened to me, for better or worse. The video went viral and comments ranged from supportive to abusive.

My story is one that I had never intended on sharing with anyone other than friends and family. In our business, personal experience and opinions aren’t supposed to be a part of what we do.

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Thirty-five seconds of my life changed all that.

Leading up to that point, I knew something wasn’t right with my health, but I hoped it wouldn’t affect my ability to do my job. Communication in this line of work is key, whether it is written or verbal.

Before that moment in March, I had moments when I’d lose my train of thought while doing an interview or sitting in front a computer writing a script. Doing a voice over and editing a story were occasionally a little more challenging as a result. All it took was waiting it out and that moment of confusion would be gone. I was in the process of setting up appointments with doctors and getting checked out when the on-air “episode” occurred.

Ongoing deadlines throughout the day and the stress associated with that are a big part of being a journalist. Your heart’s pumping, your mind’s racing and there’s no time for delay. There’s not supposed to be any room to deal with a medical condition.

I didn’t have the choice but to try and continue on working once diagnosed with epilepsy.

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