I would hate being epileptic if my seizures weren’t so hilarious. I have myoclonic seizures, which are basically twitches with flair, and absence seizures. I can’t remember having absence seizures, so I don’t know what those are like.
After I was diagnosed in 2005, I went through medications like other teenagers went through relationships. First was Keppra, which lasted two violently mind-altering months. I thought I found a kindred drug in Topamax (no seizures! No mood swings! Just some loss of appetite!). But alas, it could not withstand my messed-up nervous system, and we were forced to part ways. Around the time I started college in 2007, my doctor started prescribing Lamictal. For a month or so, things went brilliantly. It didn’t screw around with my moods and kept my limbs in check.
Then one night in late September, I stayed up until one in the morning, which would not have been a big deal if my alarm weren’t set for half past six, and if lack of proper sleep weren’t one of my triggers.
I woke up the next morning with a dull headache and the feeling that sparks were flying in my head. This was normal – just an aura warning me that I had better start popping my pills.
I took my medication with some difficulty because my hands kept shaking, and expected that to be the end of it. But not today, oh no, not today, because I was stupid and deprived myself of sleep. In fairness, I really expected the seizures to stop by the time I got out of my first class.
This did not happen, of course. I had a few small seizures during English class, but kept fidgeting so people wouldn’t notice. They’re going to stop soon, I kept thinking. Just keep calm and stay focused on something. When I got out of my seat as class ended, my knees buckled. I caught the table just before I fell, and nobody had seen it happen.
That’s when I started to realize that my seizures weren’t screwing around.
Because I was too stubborn to admit that something was horribly wrong with my head, I went to the cafeteria to finish some math homework. There were three hours until my next class and I figured that this would all be over by then. There was just one problem. I couldn’t do my math homework because my hands kept shaking. I was literally unable to form a legible letter or number. I could handle falling out of chairs, but not being able to carry out a task that basic terrified me.
After a few more pathetic attempts at writing, I gave up and did the only thing I could do. I stared at my math homework and willed it to finish itself. I tried this for a couple minutes before my best friend Kassy walked up. I must have looked like I was about to burst out crying (which was true) because she asked what was wrong.
“I can’t do my homework because I keep having seizures…”
Kassy stared at me for a moment. “What?”
So I explained what had been happening. When Kassy asked me why I was even at school, I used the sad excuse that, “I thought they would go away!” We called my mom, who said that if the seizures didn’t stop within fifteen minutes, then I had to go to the emergency room.
My brain seemed to take that as a challenge. Instead of “Cut it out,” it heard, “I wonder how many times I can spaz out in a minute!” When I started having a seizure every two seconds – literally – we figured that it was time to go to the emergency room.
Kassy found her cousin to drive us there, seeing as someone needed to keep an eye on me in case I had a grand mal seizure. It should have taken us twenty minutes to get to Bronson’s emergency room. With Danielle, it took us fifteen, and that was only because none of us were that familiar with the maze of one-way streets.
When we found the emergency room, Danielle dropped Kassy and me off at the door while she parked. I stumbled in and found that I didn’t really know what to say to the nurse at the front desk except, “I keep having seizures.”
It was admirable how the nurse managed to look so bored. “OK. Can I get your name and information?” she asked. After we had gone through the ER niceties, they put me in a wheelchair and had us wait for ten minutes or so. I started to relax because I wasn’t having seizures every few seconds, and because it was obvious that I was not going to make it to math class.
Another nurse came to wheel me to one of the rooms. He asked me some general questions about the seizures as we weaved through the hallways before we stopped at one room in the boonies of the ER. The bed was set up with side rails to keep me from falling. As I started to get out of the wheelchair, my knees buckled again, but I caught myself on the bed. After the nurses made sure I wasn’t dead, they told me to change into one of those horrible hospital gowns.
Those things are tricky. There is no indication which side is the front, and you have to tie it shut. It’s even worse when you have next to no control over your arms and legs. The whole time I tried to figure it out, I wondered why they didn’t just make one that you could slip over your head. It would make much more sense.
My parents showed up after I had been there for a half hour or so. They tried their best to act like the whole thing wasn’t freaking them out. Kassy and Danielle left to get food, and Kassy promised to get me a donut. Donuts are good.
I was still having seizures too frequently for their liking, so they decided that the best thing to do was to give me a shot of Ativan. Like most rational people, I hate shots. When they said that it was also a pill, I had to protest.
“Why can’t I have the pill?”
But they wouldn’t let me have the pill because “Pills don’t work as quickly.” I was ready to call shenanigans on the whole thing, except that made sense.
The needle required for the Ativan was roughly the size of the Empire State Building. I could be exaggerating here. When I saw it, I asked if they were sure that they couldn’t give me the pill. They were sure.
I relaxed the best I could. Needles are always worse if you’re expecting them to kill you. In spite of that, it still felt like a descent into the seventh circle of Hell. I wept like a small child.
They were right, though. The Ativan worked very quickly. Within an hour, the seizures had completely stopped and I was about ready to fall asleep. I’d had an exhausting day of brain malfunctioning. By 7 PM, I was back home dreaming of happier things, like how I wouldn’t have to deal with math for two days.
And really, what more could a person ask for?