Seizures and bonus features

I was seizure-free for about 15 years. Now I’m definitely not anymore.

What’s strange is that even though I’m having them more frequently than in the past, they’ve been small ones. Simple partial seizures. I’ll see some random image in my head or be unable to put words together in a sentence because they get all scrambled up in my brain. Sometimes I just feel a surge that’s kinda like blood rushing into your ears. All very hard to explain, but all very minor compared to blackouts or full-blown grand mal seizures. In that sense, I’m extremely lucky.

After so many years, I finally needed to change my medication back in October, so the doctor and I decided to increase the dosage of one and leave the other. That hasn’t solved the problem: I had two more seizures over the weekend. Only the second one was noticeable because I was having a conversation and then all of the words kinda swirled away. Well, not all of the words—I was still able to sit there swearing under my breath.

So now it’s time for another change, but instead of only adjusting what I’m already taking, the doctor is prescribing Vimpat. I’d never heard of it before my last appointment, but… well, if the doc thinks it’ll work, I’m hoping he’s right. The part that’s a little bit concerning is that before starting this medication, I needed to get an EKG. (Regardless of what you may have heard from women in any of my prior relationships, I do in fact have a heart.)

I had the EKG done this morning and the doctor signed off on it, but the results showed an abnormality. No one elaborated, just said that I needed to make an appointment to come in later this week. Which thankfully means I’m probably not gonna drop dead from heart failure in the next few days.

More seizures and now possibly heart problems. But instead of panicking (which seems like a reasonable option at this point), I still feel very lucky. Things could be much worse. For one thing, I could drop dead from heart failure NOW! … Or maybe NOW! … How about NOW! Nope, still alive and still feeling very lucky.

Day 30: Giving thanks

Well, I started the month like a lion and I’m ending the month like a much smaller lion.

roar.

We’re not far past Thanksgiving, so for this last day of Epilepsy Awareness Month, I thought I’d focus on giving thanks. Focusing on the bad parts of having epilepsy pulls my attention away from all of the blessings I have in my life and there are a bunch. I’m thankful for…

… My friends and family. I have an amazing support system that is willing to help me out as much as they can. If I have to leave a gathering early because I don’t have my medications, they understand. If I lose my driver’s license due to seizures, there are people who can drive me where I need to be.

… My driver’s license. There are plenty of “one in 26” people who have uncontrolled seizures. If you have an involuntary loss of consciousness, your license gets suspended for a couple months (and the time restarts after each seizure, so you may not be able to drive for a loooooong time). The length of the suspension was six months when it was happening to me, which sucks when you’re in your mid-20’s.

… Epilepsy treatments (medication, surgery, etc). They don’t always work, but if they didn’t exist at all, I’d be one of many with uncontrolled seizures (both in frequency and severity).

… My blog. Sometimes it feels like I’m shouting into the void when writing in here, but if one person reads one post and feels better afterward, it’s been worth it.

… Electricity. My computer would look exceptionally weird sitting on my lap and not doing anything.

… Sunsets. A few days ago, the sun reached a certain point on the horizon and there were fluffy clouds in the sky, so it was lit up in pink and purple and all sorts of colors. At that point, nothing else mattered on this list. I wasn’t using electricity for my laptop, I wasn’t worried about epilepsy and seizures, I was just watching something beautiful.

Yes, I have epilepsy. Yes, it affects me in ways both good and bad. It has not stopped my life. It has not stopped beauty. It has not stopped my ability to be thankful for everything around me.

So thanks to you, fair reader(s). I hope you’ve had a good Epilepsy Awareness Month, but whether you’ve learned anything or not, I hope you remember to be thankful.

Day 21: Epilepsy and the Arts

I could have written this on Sunday afternoon, but I’ve kept myself busy enough to forget for a couple days.

November 19th was the Creative Arts Showcase hosted by the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota. Much like the onein26.org ad campaign, they asked me to take part and I said, “Okie dokie!” Maybe not in those words, but I agreed to participate nonetheless.

They had displays of paintings, photographs, someone had made a lot of quilts and shoulderbags… all very creative and all created by people with epilepsy. The same went for almost everyone who made some sort of presentation or performance during the showcase (the only exception was a poem written by the significant other of someone with epilepsy).

I first asked if they had a projector so I could show a few minutes of Arsenic and Old Lace. Alas, the venue was too small and they couldn’t have put a screen anywhere. “Curses! Foiled again!” … I guess this was really the first time I was foiled—my backup plan worked fine: I read Pre-Creation Creation for everyone. I made a few adjustments (things like changing the TV show from ER to NCIS and getting rid of the Budweiser frogs) and it worked out pretty well.

Aside from what I did, though, there were people who sang and gave short speeches (I think the youngest singer was 8 and backed up by her father on guitar), the final performer played a few songs on the piano… it was really kinda cool. The point of the showcase was to demonstrate that people with epilepsy are capable of developing and performing different kids of creative arts and that’s exactly what it did. I was glad I could be a part of it and I’m hoping I can do it again next year.

Day 17: “Do I know you?”

I’m hoping this blog entry is the result of a bad type of medication vs. having epilepsy overall (the first would mean it’s a lot less common). It’s likely something my doctor prescribed back in the early 2000’s when I was “medication hopping”, trying (and failing) to find a combination that would prevent my seizures. It wasn’t until I spent some time in the hospital with a bunch of wires glued to my head that they found where the problem area was in my brain and picked an effective pair of meds.

The result I’m referring to is having a really bad long-term memory. I remember very little from high school and college, which makes reunions extremely awkward:

“Hey, remember when we—”
“No. No, I don’t.”

As a result, I’ve only been to one of each: one for high school and one for college. I hate the idea of people reflecting on our good ol’ days and I don’t know what they’re talking about. I can usually recognize former classmates, but our history together? The classes we took, the events we attended, the games of D&D we played? Not likely. I hate it and it also scares me a little. I don’t like being in a room full of strangers in the first place, but a room of strangers who know me and I should know, but don’t? Even worse.

Day 15: Epilepsy on camera

Having epilepsy has made my life more difficult at times, but not unbearable. It didn’t stop me from going through all of the interviews, all of the tests and all of the paperwork to end up being on Beauty and the Geek back in 2005.

For making the final decision about who to put in front of the cameras, they flew a bunch of potential participants to L.A. and locked us in our hotel rooms. During that time, along with interviews with producers and doctors testing me for cooties, I got a visit from a psychiatrist.

One of the forms I sent them during an earlier part of the process was a big “YES or NO” test. “Are you single? Have you been in an adult film? Do you have cooties?” And so on. She wanted to ask me about all of the YES answers on my sheet and there was one that stuck out.

(You’ll have to forgive me for not remembering the exact wording, but things get fuzzy after close to 13 years.) The question was along the lines of “Have you ever experienced something odd or unusual?” You know, like seeing aliens or Bigfoot or the new Godzilla movie in the theater.

She asked me why I checked yes and I couldn’t remember. I had filled it out a few months prior, so… “Well, I mean, we all have different experiences, we all experience the world in different ways, right?” I felt a little ridiculous, but she was satisfied. We went through the rest of the interview without any problems.

It wasn’t until maybe an hour after she left that it occurred to me: “Experiencing unusual things… oh yeah, seizures.”

(In case you’re wondering, they were aware of my having epilepsy. I brought my medication and I was taking it twice a day on my usual schedule, so no seizures. Unfortunately, there was vomiting later in the season, but that wasn’t epilepsy-related.)

Day 13: Epilepsy =/= My life sucks

I was thinking about the posts from the last couple days and they had a pretty negative tone. Yes, having epilepsy is unfortunate and I’d be thrilled if there was an effective cure that would make it go away, but at this point? I’m still doing okay. I can still flourish. Epilepsy is an inconvenience. A big inconvenience, but an inconvenience nonetheless. And if the life of everyone who has epilepsy sucked, why would so many people be smiling in this picture?