My Seizure Diagnosis: Is there a Pony in this Shitpile?

My Seizure Diagnosis: Is there a Pony in this Shitpile? December 22, 2014

1003444725_3244de8b33_zI was sitting on the couch, working on an article on the morning of December 4th when the first one hit. I was consumed with a surreal sense of Deja Vu, followed by a dreadful sort of panic that insisted, in my mind, that whatever was in front of me at the moment was the source of all of the horrible things about to happen to me. Next, a tingling wave of heat swept up from my feet toward my neck, stopping at the base of my skull, then evoking a paralyzing sensation of nausea. And as the bizarre series of phenomena began to subside, a lingering chemical smell, like acetone or rubbing alcohol, overwhelmed by senses.

All of this took no more than a minute. It scared the hell out of me.

My first reaction was to search for the source of the chemical smell, assuming I was incidentally being poisoned by the fumes. Finding nothing, my second impulse was to withdraw. I sat back on the couch and tried to return to my writing. Don’t tell Amy, I thought to myself, palms sweating, hands trembling. She’ll only worry. 

The second episode hit a couple of hours later, while I was alone at a restaurant. Everything in the same excruciating order, though tis time, the people around me were the source of all the horribleness taking place inside my own brain. Cognitively, I knew none of this made sense. And yet it was happening. Though no one around me had any clue beyond, perhaps, thinking I was having a dizzy spell or a bad case of heartburn, it was very, very real.

I called my doctor, who insisted I go to the ER, but only with someone else driving me. Amy left work to take me, now moving quickly from worry into caretaker mode. I just sat there, helpless, hoping I wasn’t dying because, my God, what would Amy tell the kids?

Of course, nothing happened in the ER. It’s like when you take your car to a garage with a persistent issue, then it stops as soon as the mechanic lifts the hood. So after a couple of hours, they disconnected me from all of the machines and let me go.

Naturally, the next episode hit me like a semi truck on the way home. Back to the ER we go.

Eventually, the neurologist diagnosed these curious occurrences as Complex Partial Seizures. They put me on one medicine, then an other, both of which made me feel weird. They ran CAT scans, sleep-deprived EEGs and other tests that also made me feel weird. Long story short: they have a diagnosis but no cause. The anti-epileptic meds have reduced, but not yet eliminated the symptoms. I agreed to let my wife drive when we’re together, and not to drive the kids at all for at least three months.

In short, a series of massive but inexplicable brain farts changed my life in the course of one day, and no one seems to know why now, at age 43, this started happening.

“In some cultures, seizures would be a divine calling,” joked my friend Reba, who had recently spent a year practicing thirty different world religions. “Maybe you’re actually a shaman, and you’re just coming to terms with it.”

“For better or worse,” I said, “I don’t live in those cultures. I live with cars, airplanes, a career that requires me to travel and a society that sees all medical anomalies as a problem to be fixed rather than some curious, mystical spiritual gift.”

Do I think God did this to me to get my attention somehow? Of course not. Do I think it’s a divinely endowed gift I’ve yet to entirely unwrap? Let me jus say that, if it is, said “gift” could suck a lot less than this one.

The real question for me, at least from the spiritual/psychic perspective, is: can I use this? Can I find something good in the middle of the fear and messiness. Can I be like the hopelessly optimistic kid whose dad found him digging through the massive pile of crap behind their barn one day. When asked why he was digging through a mountain of shit, he replied expectantly, “There has to be a pony in here somewhere!”

I’m ready to find the pony. But maybe I have to dig through a little more shit first. As some of my less pastoral friends and family put it, it could be worse. I could be dead. So I’ve got that going for me.

In the meantime, I’ll keep making my way through the tests, the meds and the vertigo of unknowing, hopeful at some point I’ll trip over a stinkin’ pony.

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  • Melinda Arlette Pace-Padfield

    Idiopathic. What medical professionals call a disease when they’re clueless. Praying for your recovery from this, Christian. God is good and He is able.

    • I’ll pray to Joe Pesci like George Carlin does, and I bet we get the same results. Better stick with the doctors, even if they’re imperfect.

      The fact is, God never answers any prayers. The entire idea that “God answers prayers” is an illusion created by human imagination.

      How do we know that “answered prayers” are illusions? We simply perform scientific experiments. We ask a group of believers to pray for something and then we watch what happens. What we find, whenever we test the efficacy of prayer scientifically, is that prayer has zero effect:

      • It does not matter who prays.
      • It does not matter if we pray to God, Allah, Vishnu, Zeus, Ra or any other human god.
      • It does not matter what we pray about.

      • Melinda Arlette Pace-Padfield

        I’ve read several of your negative posts. You wasted key strokes here if you’re trying to influence me. I am firm in my faith and my love for you.

        • You just wasted keystrokes; I’m not here to change minds. I’m just here to see how narrow minds respond. Thanks.

          • Melinda Arlette Pace-Padfield

            But you already have all the answers and know how we will respond. If you need something to occupy your time surely you could find something more constructive to do. Be blessed!

          • Take your own advice.

  • charlesburchfield

    You have my attention!

  • It’s things like referring to seizures as “a series of massive but
    inexplicable brain farts” that keeps me coming back here. A while back, I went through something similar (not the seizures, the uncertainty) and it sucked. There are worse things than not knowing why this shit is happening to you, but the list is short. I hate that you’re going through it.

    As for the pony, yeah, it’s probably in there somewhere, but you’re going to shovel a lot of shit before you find it. And, the possibility exists that just as you’re about trip over it, someone will dump a new load in hole you’ve dug. But, here’s the thing, when you do find it, it’ll stink and be covered in some really disgusting stuff, but it will be the most amazing pony you’ve ever seen. In other words, it’s worth all the work.
    Feel better, friend. I’m praying for you.

  • Occupy Christianity

    So sorry to hear that you’re having to deal with this, Christian. That really, really sucks…no two ways about it. I hope you find the pony, but even more I hope that the shitpile subsides some…

  • Michael Mock

    Well, I for one am glad you’re not dead.

    Sorry the rest of it sucks so much, though.

  • John McCauslin

    To Isaac Edward Leibowitz, this is a moment which calls for compassion for Christian in his moment of terror and distress and all you see is an opportunity to push your anti-religious agenda. Don’t you have some thing better to do?

    Unfortunately Chris, we rarely find the pony until long after the fact, for now it appears that you’ll just have to walk though this personal house of horrors without knowing how it will all turn out. Just know that you are not alone. Many pray for you, for your peace of mind and for you to find the strength and resources to endure, and for your family to be lifted up at this time and held warmly and securely in God’s hands.

  • Greg Strong

    Please do take care of yourself. Peace and blessing to you and your family. Merry Christmas!

  • AnnvW

    Thank you so much Christian! This is a brilliantly written piece on human suffering. I know that’s small comfort to you right now, but it still needs to be said… At the risk of analogy-overkill: your pony was never in the shitpile; he’s trotting around for all the rest of us to see. And he’s beautiful.

    p.s. Thanks also for helping me finally diagnose a ‘simple partial seizure’ from about 7 years ago – a much milder version of what you’ve experienced.