Edward Snowden and Epilepsy: Managing His Condition

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Does Edward Snowden have epilepsy? How does he manage his epilepsy? What other health conditions does he have?

For Edward Snowden, epilepsy is a health condition he has dealt with for a long time. He also had mononucleosis when he was younger.

Read more about Edward Snowden, epilepsy, and other health issues.

Edward Snowden: Epilepsy Came After Mononucleosis

In sophomore year, Ed came down with mononucleosis. He was so tired he couldn’t go to school or even stay awake long enough to do more than play games on the computer. He eventually became too sick to even play on the computer and it was a dark time emotionally. He missed four months of school and then got a letter that told him he’d have to repeat the year. He absolutely did not want to do this and it kicked him out of his slump. He looked for a hack. 

Ed discovered you don’t actually need a high school diploma to get into college and got himself accepted at Anne Arundel Community College. He went to class two days a week, which was all he could handle as he was still recovering. It wasn’t a very social experience—the college didn’t have much of a campus life, but Ed didn’t mind. He was younger than anyone else, too sick to do much socializing anyway, and was fine with the anonymity. He liked his college classes better than his high school classes. (He did eventually get his GED.) For Edward Snowden, epilepsy would prove to be more of a challenge than mono.

Epilepsy Diagnosis After Basic Training

Edward Snowden’s epilepsy diagnosis came after an injury in basic traiing. During a land navigation movement drill—map and compass navigation—Ed fell and injured himself. He was diagnosed with bilateral tibial fractures. The only way to heal was to keep weight off his legs, so he was benched for a few days before he would be reassessed. Ed was worried—if you miss more than three or four days of training, you’re in danger of having to restart basic training or being sent home. He’d lose his spot in the 18 X-Ray program if he didn’t complete basic training on time. 

Ed was reassessed and the doctor said he couldn’t continue with basic training. Ed could try again later, outside of the X-Ray program, or, he could leave the army on “administrative separation.” The doctor explained to Ed that this was a quick, low-paperwork way to leave the army that didn’t involve either an honorable or dishonorable discharge. Ed liked the idea and agreed. Then he saw the paperwork. 

Ed had to sign a statement that said he was completely healed. It was a hack. The government was trying to get out of liability and paying him disability benefits. But Ed couldn’t get free without signing, so he did.

Epilepsy Presents in 2011

Edward Snowden’s epilepsy presented in 2011. Ed had his first epileptic seizure and struggled with his health for the last half of 2011. For Edward Snowden, epilepsy was a challenge to manage with work. His job was flexible and he could work from home, but he had to attend meetings, and because of his epilepsy, he wasn’t allowed to drive. He ended up taking short-term disability leave. He spent weeks on the couch, not feeling well enough to do much more than read, eat, or sleep.

In early 2012, Ed made some changes to his life. For Edward Snowden, epilepsy could be accommodated with these changes. He took a new, less stressful job as Dell contractor for the NSA that involved managing documents and who was allowed to access, edit, and read them. The job was in Hawaii and the state’s climate and relaxed culture were supposed to be good for Ed’s epilepsy. Additionally, he didn’t have to drive in Hawaii because he could commute by bicycle.

Edward Snowden and Epilepsy: Managing His Condition

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Edward Snowden's "Permanent Record" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Permanent Record summary:

  • What Ed Snowden discovered that caused him to completely lose faith in the government
  • How Snowden led the bombshell reports of US mass surveillance
  • How Snowden is coping with his treatment as both patriot and traitor

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