November is a special month for me. It just so happens to be Epilepsy Awareness Month, and November 17 is National Epilepsy Day. Although I had epilepsy from birth, my parents didn’t know until I was three years old and had a grand mal seizure. I am glad I don’t have to worry about seizures anymore because I had a successful brain surgery when I was 11 years old, and we celebrate every year with pizza and dessert.
The surgery aftermath was a bit overwhelming for 11-year-old me because I was paralyzed on my left side, and I could not open or move my eyelids at all. As a result, I had to relearn how to talk and walk on my own. For the first few weeks, I used sign language to tell my parents when I needed something; however, my knowledge of signing was very limited then, so I made up some for them to understand my needs.
Did you know epilepsy is a neurological genetic disorder and not a mental illness? Greek philosopher Hippocrates was the first who thought that epilepsy starts in the brain. Seizures can be triggered not only by flashing lights, but also by contrast of colors, like those often found in video games. 65 million people worldwide have epilepsy, with about 3.4 million in America.
Not all epilepsies are the same, and they can be different for each person. Some wonder around, vacant and feeling confused during a seizure. Tonic seizure is when your body becomes stiff. Clonic seizure has sudden jerking movements. A Tonic-Clonic seizure, also called a grand mal seizure, is the most common seizure you will see with epilepsy. It involves a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contraction. Absence seizures are where you just zone out for a minute or two. Myoclonic seizure is a brief occurrence that results in the sudden jerking of muscles and is usually very minor and brief, almost like a muscle twitch.
The Bible makes many references to epilepsy. Some of the most well known ones are in Matthew 17:14-21, Mark 9:17-29, and Luke 9:38-43. Some people nowadays think that Paul and Ezekiel may actually have had epilepsy. Some of the evidence for Paul can be found when he talks about his physical ailments in his letters in 2 Corinthians 12:7 and Galations 4:13-14. Also there are some depictions of epilepsy in Acts 9:3-9 where it mentions some symptoms such as falling to the ground, hearing voices, and losing sight, which are common results of an epileptic seizure. This all goes to show that epilepsy has been around for a long time.
In addition to famous people in biblical times, other famous people who had seizures or battled epilepsy are Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Socrates, Julius Caesar, Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for epilepsy, other than brain surgery as in my case, but there are medications that can help reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. In addition to prescribed medications, I started taking fish oil, also known as Omega-3, when I was very young. Fish oil reduced my seizures from about once a month to only 3 or 4 times per year. Vitamin supplements can also help as well, such as B6, B3, vitamin E, magnesium, taurine, and manganese. There are also specialized glasses for epilepsy with color-tinted lens called Zee Blue. Zee Blue helps prevent seizures being triggered, as some studies show.
I hope this helps you understand epilepsy a little more. Want even more information? You can view this video on YouTube by clicking here for more information about seizures and epilepsy.