What If Somebody’s Watching? What If Nobody’s Watching?

There are two seizures I remember having in my first year away from home: one partial, one generalized. (Here’s a quick explanation of what that means.) Both were scary, for opposite reasons; both depressing.

I don’t remember any more which one came first. Probably the bigger one. It was first semester parent-teacher conference-time, mid-October. I had a whole series of appointments during weekday evenings, and I was ready to spend 30 minutes with each of the parents, talking about how their kids were doing. Did the parents know I had epilepsy? You know, I don’t even remember now. My boss knew—though that’s another story. So I’m not sure whether the mom and dad I was with actually knew what was going on or not. I don’t remember their names any more, but I know they were nice people. Friendly, and their son (I remember it was their son I was evaluating) was doing well.

We had just started talking when all of a sudden I couldn’t any more. I knew what was coming, but I couldn’t do anything about it. Couldn’t say anything. I felt myself slipping out of the chair, under the table; I felt my left arm jerking. And that was all.

I don’t really remember afterwards. I think some of the other parish staff were there, making sure I could get up, getting me home. All I could think about was how embarrassed I was, how I had been so weak in front of the parents, how I had experienced something I never wanted to experience again in front of the people I least wanted to appear vulnerable near.

The other seizure was a partial seizure. This must have happened later, actually; after I had that seizure I couldn’t drive for a year. So I was walking home from Fred Meyer with a bag of groceries when all of a sudden I got That Feeling. I stopped. A quarter mile from home. Nobody to call. Was I going to go full-on generalized seizure on the sidewalk there? Hit my head against the concrete. Roll down the slope into the chain link fence? Or maybe out into the road, into traffic. DAMN was I scared. I knew if I was going to generalize I probably had five minutes to get home; of course, home was probably 8 minutes away. I did my best, pushing myself along as fast as I thought I could trust my legs to go.

Finally I got home and popped a double dose of my Depakote. I had another partial seizure a minute or two later, not as bad. And that was it; the medication helped my brain stay in control over its rogue neurons.

Sometimes I feel my life revolves around pills

Both of these were really scary. With the first, I was scared of having people around, because they might misunderstand. They might look down on me. They could, I don’t know, think I was as broken and malformed as I thought I was. But then again. A seizure, even the partial one, with no one around removed any possibility that anybody might be able to understand, or help, or sympathize. I didn’t know which was worse.

I don’t see myself, anymore, as broken and malformed. I don’t feel so embarrassed and upset at the possibility of having a seizure in public. I want people to know, to be able to care; because when it comes down to it, I need people.

None of us, and certainly none of us with epilepsy, can get through this life alone. But with understanding, we can support each other. We all have a part to play in owning epilepsy.

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