Here’s a question for you: How many of you wear medical identification (ID) bracelets? Or, do you know someone who wears one? How long did it take you to finally put one on? For me, it took quite a few years.
Medical ID Bracelet
My parents knew the importance of having (and wearing) a medical ID that stated my information in case of emergency. This was explained to me, of course, but to a child who is trying to navigate peer relationships and keep a low profile on the Epilepsy diagnosis, wearing a medical ID seemed like a horrible idea. My ID, at the time, was a silver chain that hung around my neck with a silver and red ID tag. It didn’t blend in with my clothes and certainly wasn’t going to get me any best dressed award.
I thought that if people saw me wearing one, they would automatically think I was sick. My peers would assume that I had something wrong with me and be repelled. My teachers would view me differently; maybe they would coddle me or think I wasn’t capable of functioning. To me, the medical ID served as a label– a negative label. The good news: Any time I had a medical event, someone who knew me and my background was around to inform others. The bad news: this only reinforced my lack of desire to wear the ID.
Safety with Style
At some point, the medical ID community began developing more stylish bracelets. MedicAlert provided me with my first unique bracelet, just in time for middle school: a blue, braided, yarn-like bracelet that blended with most of my outfits and hid the ID on the underside of my wrist. Eventually, my family discovered even more stylish bracelets. Lauren’s Hope is my current favorite site for ID bracelets. Since my mom discovered this company, I have not stopped wearing my bracelets.
Making A Statement
Once I had a new bracelet, the stigma seemed to be gone. I started wearing my ID because I believed I could now be viewed as a “normal” human being. I was a person that didn’t draw attention to myself through a disability, but rather through my abilities. It was (and still is) an empowering experience. What has also happened, is a discussion about my medical ID. When I was growing up, there wasn’t much attention drawn to it. The ID was a bracelet I wore; my peers weren’t that interested in it. Now, I have a few more interchangeable bracelets and I use them to match with outfits, making them a statement piece on my arm. I receive compliments on them and people ask me where I got them. I am proud to say that they are a medical ID, because a conversation is then started. A medical bracelet is no longer a label, but it is a statement: that I am an individual, I am unique, I have likes and dislikes, and I happen to have Epilepsy. So, if you don’t wear a medical ID or are unsure about it, I encourage you to wear it. You are not your diagnosis, but your diagnosis is a part of you. You have the power to affect how that impacts your life.
*All opinions expressed about companies mentioned in this blog are completely my own. I received no reimbursement or compensation for my writing or opinion. I just really like sharing good ideas!
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Leila shares stories on stigma and epilepsy based on her experiences and what she hears from others. She was diagnosed with Epilepsy at age 8 and is based in Pennsylvania.