Anxiety and My Seizure Disorder

The world today is a much busier, fast-paced place to live and work in.  People all around us may have to cope with varying amounts of stress and anxiety almost daily.  Stress and anxiety can be found in most places and situations—you or your co-workers discuss stress and anxiety that is a result of your job, or maybe a situation in your personal life is causing you to be stressed out, or maybe a health concern is causing you or a loved one excessive worry and stress.  Whatever the situation may be, we all need to learn what the effects of living with too much stress, anxiety, or worry can do to our health—both mentally and physically.  I have had to learn this lesson the hard way.

I had my first grand mal seizure when I was 17 years old.  I had gone through a stressful situation the night before,  I was still upset over the situation, but thought no more of it until the following afternoon when my brother and I had an argument (albeit a playful one) about whose turn it was to feed the dog.  During this argument, I started seeing black dots before my eyes.  I remember grasping the bridge of my nose with my right index finger and thumb…and the next thing I remember is hearing my mom screaming my name hysterically while shaking my left arm.  It took me a few minutes to realize that I was lying on the floor.  I was totally drained…I was so weak that I could not even open my eyes at first.  I had no idea what had happened, but my whole family thought that I was dead.  After I regained consciousness and got enough strength back to open my eyes and ask what had happened, my mom told me that I had fallen to the floor with my eyes rolled into my  head and began convulsing and gasping for breath.  She said that at one point I arched my back and stopped breathing altogether.  I stopped breathing until I turned blue, and then suddenly relaxed my back, gasped for breath, and got very still.  I had what is known as a grand mal seizure.

My mother took me to the ER to be examined.  I was admitted to the hospital, and spent a week in the stroke unit undergoing every test imaginable.  The results of all these tests?  No definitive reason about why I had the seizure.  Although I found out I was not epileptic, the doctors could not find a reason for my sudden seizure.  The only thing that they thought could have caused it was the stressful night I had the night before the seizure, combined with the argument I was having with my brother at the time.  They said that even though the argument was playful in nature, it combined with the stress of the night before could have triggered the grand mal event.  I believe their diagnosis, because every time I have had a seizure, it has been after a particularly stressful event in my life.

Long story short—I tried different seizure medicines, but had side effects such as rashes, severe dizziness and nausea, distorted vision, etc.  In the end, the doctor told me to practice stress reducing techniques in order to lessen the chance of having a seizure.  I have used techniques such as breathing exercises, stretching, and meditation to help me lower my stress levels.  I often “turn the other cheek” in order to avoid drama and stress. The doctor gave me that advice 28 years ago, and up until 2 years ago, I had been seizure free.  Within the past 2 years I have dealt with lingering illnesses and deaths in the family, and I began to have seizures again.  My doctor prescribed me anxiety medication to help me better deal with the stress of losing loved ones.  It has been a tremendous help to me, and I finally have control over my seizures.  They no longer control me.

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