Good morning my friends. I hope you will bear with me and listen for a minute or two. A joke about seizures caught my eye this morning, and it touched a sensitive place inside me. I have a seizure disorder. Please do not pity me. It is a diagnosis and sometimes a grim one; however, it sure as hell is not a death sentence. To be honest, those of us with epilepsy do have shorter life spans but while alive, I LIVE.
I do not sit around worrying when the next grand mal is going to hit. I cram as much living as I can into my life. I swim, just not alone in the ocean. I run marathons–nine, soon to be ten. I bore three beautiful children, despite the risks, and they arrived without the genetic defects that anti-seizure drugs sometimes cause; indeed, my daughter survived the two grand mal seizures I suffered while pregnant without sustaining any damage.
I drive . . . but not at night. And I write. It is true that I lost my vocabulary bank when one grand mal lit up my temporal lobe, but I rebuilt most of it. And while I never regained my map section, I navigate with a laugh and a lot of circular reasoning.
When I read stuff that equates a seizure to an emotional reaction, or uses the analogy of having a seizure to tell a joke, it upsets me. Hearing bad news does not cause seizures. An epileptic is not a spaz; she does not wig out and then convulse on the floor when she gets over-excited or emotional.
In a normal brain, millions of specialized nerve cells, called neurons, transmit electrical impulses. These impulses communicate with other areas of the brain and help us function. When these impulses misfire, a seizure occurs. Or as I explained to my children, sometimes an electrical storm goes off in my brain. Lightning flashes. Thunder rolls. Usually, the seizures last for a few minutes. If a seizure goes on for more than five minutes, I am in Status epilepticus (SE). This is a life-threatening condition in which the brain is in a state of persistent seizure. Watch the clock. Pick up the phone. Call 911. And pray. At that point, the brain is destroying itself and Mom might die.
Friends, there is nothing funny about having a seizure. When I hear seizure jokes, it reminds me of my own mortality, which I can handle most days. Hell, I remember it each night when I say my prayers and thank God for watching over me while I sleep. What I cannot handle is feeling that you think I somehow can corral these neurons that zip around inside my brain. I take my meds every day, try to get enough sleep, avoid bright flashing lights and alcohol, but beyond that, I cannot reduce the chance that another seizure will strike. It is not within my volition.
Don’t feel sorry for me. But please don’t make fun of me either. And if you would like to learn more about seizures, please visit: http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/.
What words upset you? What jokes hit a nerve?