Friday 29 March 2013

Who do you think you are?

Identity is a funny thing. It seems we're endlessly judged on it, but the way we look, in particular what we are wearing can be extremely powerful. Because common visual identity gives us a strong sense of belonging, be it in the colours of our favourite sports team, our national dress, or even more common similarities like gender or age, it's rare that people with epilepsy get to experience this strong visual sense of belonging to a group, especially in a crowd.

Sitting on the train on Tuesday, I found myself analysing the clothing of those around me... not something I'd normally do, but it was Purple Day, or International Epilepsy Awareness Day. The only time I ever proudly wear clothing is when it signifies I belong to a group I'm proud to be a part of and I was proudly wearing my purple scarf and medical ID bracelet on Tuesday.

As I sat on the underground train I wondered if the people around me wearing purple knew the significance of the colour they chose to put on their back that morning?

One of the reasons for the colour purple, is it signifies the isolated flower, lavender. I guess there's a slight irony in choosing a colour of isolation to make people feel less isolated through raising awareness. But quietly and slowly the presence of purple on the 26th of March has been growing since the inception of Purple Day in 2008.
Unfortunately, the colour being worn on the date isn't as well known as some of it's similar charity counterparts like the pink of breast cancer awareness, but it's building in momentum.

Epilepsy still remains isolating for the people who suffer it and I couldn't help wondering about the people wearing purple just happened to be wearing their favourite purple coat, or in fact, if they had worn that coat amongst a number of other options deliberately on Tuesday, because they were part of a group of people who were associated with epilepsy? I kept wondering if they were individuals themselves who were taking a day to feel less isolated with their condition a bit like me.

There was no real way to know for sure, but for the people who knew what it meant, I wondered if it mattered?
I wonder if actually seeing the colour being worn on that day made them feel, even for a very short period, that they weren't alone...

...and regardless of it was intended or not, it had the desired effect anyway?