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Epilepsy Awareness Mouth

Epilepsy is hugely misunderstood, underfunded, and can easily go missed or untreated for many years.

When most people hear ‘epilepsy’ they think of convulsive (tonic clonic) seizures. This is actually just ONE TYPE of seizure, and there are around 40! Tonic clonic seizures are also not the most common type seizure in people with epilepsy, but they’re basically all you see/hear about in the media.

Here are some infographics on warning signs of seizures: 

There’s also a huge misconception that epilepsy is ‘just having seizures’, and other than that you’re fine…this is hugely false.

Most seizures involve a postictal phase (feeling different AFTER the seizure), and this can last minutes, hours, or days. Many people (including me) also experience auras BEFORE the seizure, which can include visual hallucinations, feeling spacey, numb, ‘dead’ or disconnected.

After long seizures (3+ minutes) or clusters of seizures (typically 8+ seizures in 25 minutes) I will be out of it for 1-2 hours, And even after that I may feel tired or have a migraine. By ‘out of it’ I mean my brain won’t be producing memories, I’ll be taking gibberish, confused, get lost even in places I know extremely well etc.

Finally there is the impact epilepsy has on your life. I have 10-30 seizures a day, and I can’t do many activities…I can’t cook without supervision, I can’t leave the house on my own, I can’t go to the toilet or shower alone, and when I have seizures in public people don’t understand as I’m not on the floor convulsing!! I’ve had people shout abuse at my partner before, as they thought I was drunk/on drugs due to the fact I couldn’t walk straight and was acting funny!!

Finally there is basically no funding for epilepsy research, no cure, and your average member of the public has no idea how to recognise seizures or respond appropriately (people with epilepsy have been arrested & beaten by the police because they were acting strange – ‘unco-operative’ – after seizures). Epilepsy kills more people than most types of cancer, yet there is no ‘war on epilepsy’…this needs to change.

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Nervous – my first BIG day in years!

Today my parents are up for a visit to belatedly celebrate my dad’s birthday, and we have a big day out planned.

We’re going to a zoo. Not just our teeny-but-lovely local zoo that’s a 15 minute drive away, but a BIG zoo a 50 minute drive away. That’s a huge journey for me (travel being my biggest trigger) and the zoo will most likely be packed with visitors, as it’s free admission until the end of this month.

After that, we’re hoping I’ll be well enough to look around a few shops and handle a meal out at a pub.

This is the sort of day out I haven’t been able to do in years, and so obviously I am nervous. I’m also aware that MANY people will stare at the zoo, due to my goggles. But I need them, so fuck ’em 😉

With my wide-brimmed hat and my polarized goggles, I’m hoping we can enjoy a really good day out with not too many seizures. Nervous but excited!

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Difficult days

Depression has been suffocating me for a few weeks now, and then yesterday I had one of the worst days for seizures I’ve had in a long time.

Things are pretty stressful atm and stress is one of my top 5 seizure triggers. Yesterday this really showed!

I had three big clusters of seizures, lasting over an hour each time. About 20 minutes of back-to-back seizures (each seizure lasting 2-3 minutes, with a 20 second break of me being somewhat lucid, then another rolling in), then 40-60 minutes afterwards where I act messed up…laughing spontaneously, shouting, repeating words for minutes on end, talking nonsense, swearing etc.

After each cluster I feel incredibly spacey and it takes me a long time to recover. So three of them in one day leaves me with little time to feel well, as I feel off before them too!

I finally came around late evening, so we were able to get the dogs out right at the end of the day and enjoy a takeaway. I hope today is better for seizures, although my depression is already making me feel terrible…better days had better be ahead!

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Don’t stop fighting!

If anyone had told me in the last 15 years that I could feel like I do now, I would have told them it was bullshit.

I spent 8 years trying to get help and trying to feel better through the NHS, and for 11 years I was varying levels of suicidal. From attempts and crying so much at night because I just didn’t want to live, to even when I was happy thinking if there was a magic button that would stop me existing, I would push it.

There wasn’t one point in the last almost decade where I would have chosen not to stop existing if I could. I just didn’t see the point in living; feeling okay / manic was followed by huge crushing depressive episodes, and I was never truly happy or stable, or enjoying life.

For years I was told the same old bullshit by neurotypicals who thought positivity was the answer to all my problems – “Oh just think positive! Don’t give up! Happiness is a choice! It will get better!”

Well, when you’ve felt so bad and feel fighting so long, you truly can’t believe that. And being told it repeatedly only makes you feel worse!

Then I started having seizures, dozens a day, and life got even harder. For 18 months I couldn’t go anywhere, and I was learning about myself all over again – what I could do (very little!!), and the list of things I couldn’t do anymore was endless – go out alone, read, photography, travel (bus, car or train), go into shops (supermarkets, vets, museums, bookshops), walk in forests, walks by rivers or the sea. I couldn’t even have the curtains open at home, EVER – I lived in darkness.

Then we began finding ways to manage.

My mental health had already improved tenfold just by dropping all medical appts. No meds, no psychiatrist, nothing. For me, this has been the thing that has helped me most. I am not recommending others take this route, but for me it’s been incredibly beneficial!

For 5 years I jumped through every hoop the NHS offered – I took all the meds they threw at me, and lived with devastating side effects. I saw bitchy social workers, incompetent social workers, abusive GPs and scary psychiatrists. I had A&E visits and calls / visits to crisis team were regular. I was a mess.

Then I stopped going to appts, and the pressure was off. Previously I was always terrified of my appts, and began stressing about the next as soon as one was over. I saw my SW every fortnight, I would tell her how suicidal I was and she would do nothing. I didn’t know how else to get help.

By not going to appts, we had to figure it out ourselves, and the constant stress of appts was gone. We banded together, discovered techniques that actually worked (as oppose to all the bullshit SWs suggestions!) and our communication improved. I still have some intense mood swings, but for the first time ever I have stable periods in between, and we muddle through supporting each other.

We even had to find our own way to manage seizures, because the NHS didn’t care – they’re not tonic clonic so obviously don’t affect me at all, right?! Most medical professionals I saw refused to even believe that there were other types of seizures.

And, of course,  most GPs blamed the ‘symptoms’ on my bipolar and wanted to soley talk about my MH…I would try explain that I have auras, identifiable triggers (including bright and flickering light), and EVERYTHING tallies up to focal seizures. But they wouldn’t even consider it.

They made me go through a completely uneccesary blood test before agreeing to put me on a waiting list to see a neurologist, which will be about 12 months. In the meantime they’re happy to leave me unattended with these seizures, which were (/are) ruining my life. No medication, no support, nothing.

So again, we banded together and figured out huge improvements ourselves.

My seizures are drastically reduced, I feel much more confident about having them in public (see previous post!) and they’re under control even if they’re not technically under control, because I’m still having about 15 a day 😛

So with all this shit, for the first time ever, life is good!

For any spoonies reading this, my message to you is: If you are struggling, fight for things to get better.

And no, I am not telling you to ‘think positive’ 😉 I’m just saying, don’t give up. Keep fighting for improvement, be it trying to eek some use out of the NHS, or finding things that work for yourself.

If you have a significant other, TALK!! Sound things off against each other, everything, and problem solve together. Be completely honest about your symptoms, your feelings, and what would help. Ask how they are doing, and what you can try do to support them too. Talk, talk, talk!

If you are disabled and can’t work, find little things to keep you busy and give you structure. I’ve found this really helps me.

Small hobbies that are easy to do include:

  • Adult colouring books
  • Collecting objects (I collect buttons and sea glass!)
  • Caring for pets
  • Hiking / walking (disability dependent)
  • Reading
  • Reviewing things (cider, movies, dog breeds, ANYTHING!)
  • Doodling

I’ve found hobbies that you can sink a lot of time into are super helpful. This could be…

  • Collecting sea glass
  • Volunteering at an animal rescue centre
  • Collecting litter
  • Traveling to beautiful places and taking photos
  • Video games
  • Blogging

Third important point: don’t EVER feel the need to push yourself past your limits.

You know your body and your conditions better than anybody else. If you need a full day lying in bed because your symptoms are crippling, do it. If all you can do in a day is one teeny dog walk, that is perfectly acceptable.

Listening to what your body needs is not  you being lazy!!

This is something I struggle hugely with. I come from a family where achievement is measured by grades or how ‘good’ your job is. From the time I was 12 there was a ton of pressure on what job I wanted when I was older, and by the time I was 16 this was suffocating. For an adult with disabilities, having that instilled in you is extremely stressful, and left me with constant shame and guilt.

But I’m slowly learning that my disabilities are NOT MY FAULT. I’m doing the best I can and I’m doing as much as I can.  If most people were given my chronic illnesses for one day it would floor them, so the fact I walk my dogs, care for my pets, and blog is phenomenal 🙂

I didn’t ask for this life. I would love to work. But I can’t, and  I refuse to feel guilty for being ill. My ‘job’ is to keep myself as healthy as possible!

I don’t really know where I’m going with this post anymore haha.

I basically wanted to say that life can get better. That you’re amazing for dealing with the shit as best you can, and  for knowing your limitations. That if you find help / things that work in unusual places, that’s AMAZING!

I had a GP appt a few weeks ago, and she was awful. She hinted heavily (and repeatedly) that I should get back in touch with MH services…and I was sitting there thinking “fuck you! Why would I *ever* do that?” 😛

Every living thing learns through positive reinforcement – we do what works. Keep doing it, and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for it ❤

 

 

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I smashed it yesterday :D

So I’m getting to a wonderful point with my seizures, and I just need to celebrate.

Yesterday I had a looong day out (5 hours) and I had a lot of seizures.

I had seizures out on cliffs / the beach, in front of dozens of dog walkers. I had seizures in a pub and in front of a friend’s mum I had never met before. I wore my ski goggles around SO MANY PEOPLE.

And I was not ashamed!!

I wasn’t uncomfortable, or embarrassed. I have seizures, I might act weird, I might get sad, I might be on the ground, yes I have to wear goggles…IT’S A FUCKING HEALTH CONDITION, and if you can’t deal with it that’s on you, not me!!

This was a seizure (with a beautiful view!) yesterday

seizures

(I was in zero danger of rolling off, and yes my partner was keeping a close eye on me. He’s been caring for me for years, and I have over a dozen seizures a day, so he’s pretty damn good at it 😛 )

And after I’d taken the time to recover, I was good to go again!

seizures1

I also took a risk yesterday and climbed up a cliff. Normally I avoid activities like this…because if I had a seizure, I could die XD

But we discussed it, and I’d be up and over within a minute AND my partner would be right there…I’m not living in bubble wrap, so I did it and it was fun 😀

I am DAMN PROUD of all of this.

For 18 months seizures took everything I had from me.

They ruined every hobby I had (didn’t have the mental capacity or memory to read, couldn’t enjoy photography as the PC screen and camera flash was a big trigger, couldn’t enjoy video games for the same reason, couldn’t hike due to lighting and seizures etc etc). For 18 months I didn’t leave our tiny village, I didn’t travel on transport, I didn’t go into shops. I didn’t LIVE!!

And with absolutely zero help from medical professionals (because they are awful, didn’t believe I was having seizures, and now it’s a 12 month wait to see a neurologist before they even think of meds) every day me and my partner are finding ways to manage and deal with both my seizures and my bipolar.

And we’re rocking it 🙂

Is life difficult? Of course. Am I still hugely limited? Well, yeah. Do I often feel out of it, ill, in pain and make an arse of myself? Of course! But I’m doing all I can to enjoy and make the most out of life, and I’m currently in a depressive episode!!

I’m really damn proud of both of us 🙂

And I am so, *so*, SO much happier with my new goggles!!

I was always uncomfortable and embarrassed in my old ones, because they were so huge and clunky and odd looking…I’m actually proud of my new goggles, I think they look badass 😀

mois8

And on the side there are glow in the dark patches to let people know they’re for seizures 😀

mois6

And some final photos of our new hobby, which we are REALLY enjoying!!

Seaglass hunting!

seaglass16

seaglass13

I might dedicate an entire post to seaglass hunting, seeing as this blog is becoming more of a personal blog than a ‘lets just talk about how shit things are’ blog XD

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Spoons, disability, stares

We had some friends stay recently, and boy did it take it’s toll on my body!!

I actually had a really fun time, and the friend who was here longest (four days) was so fantastically great about not putting pressure on us to do things, or on me to recover faster after seizures, but doing basically anything uses way too many of my spoons, so the trip was always gonna leave me knackered XD

Here are some photos of our adventures though!

On the final day I woke after five hours sleep to an awful migraine. I swallowed codeine and paracetamol throughout the day, whilst also trying to force my way through a drastically increased number of seizures…the first four hours of the day (walking our dogs, traveling into town and eating) were awful, but finally I started feeling better and was able to enjoy some museums 🙂

Our friend really was wonderful, and we noticed him doing several adorable things to help and put us at ease. This ranged from joking about brains being weird, to reminding us he could go off alone if we needed him to, and even catching me as I was falling during a seizure. Having that extra support was really appreciated!

I got a lot of stares one day, a really posh town where when I wore my goggles there last time (this was before we’d written EPILEPSY on the side) we got a lot of stares and rude comments. Well the same thing happened this time…wtf is it with that place?!?

The only comment came from kids, but there were plenty of people (generally older people) who gawked at me unapologetically. One man I stood in front of and stared back until he finally looked away, and my partner also told  a group of old woman that it was rude to stare.

We also had an old woman who, after I’d left my partner at the counter to pay, asked him “Are they those glasses for dyslexia? Do they have dyslexia?” UUUUGH, MIND YOUR OWN FUCKING BUSINESS!!

It gets exhausting -_-

Today my partner phoned up a helpline to try apply for a disabled person’s bus pass, as we realised we hadn’t tried since I started having seizures. We were told immediately that now I will qualify.

In order to prove that I would be refused a driving license (which is the bracket I fall under for all my disabilities – the others are legally blind, have no arms, can’t walk far, or have a severe learning disability), I first have to apply for a provisional driving license. So that I can be refused.

WHERE IS THE LOGIC THERE?!?

Haha!! So today we went into town and I got a passport-style photo ready to send off for my provisional. The owner of the photo shop was wonderful, we phoned in advance to ask if they could avoid using flash as I have epilepsy, and he said they don’t use flash but there are several lights / machines that are bright or flicker, so to send my partner in and notify him when we got there.

We did just that. When he saw me in my goggles he smiled and said “Wow, you really do have it bad don’t you?!” This wasn’t derisive at all, and made me feel understood. I do have it way worse than 98% of people with epilepsy in regards to how sensitive to lighting I am, and I’d rather that was acknowledged than he gave me some BS positivity!

He turned some things off and took the photos as quickly as possible, and I didn’t have any seizures! 🙂

I also tried to legally change my name for my bank account today, but the woman assisting us was an a-hole. She said that because our ‘witness’ wasn’t a solicitor it wouldn’t count for anything (this isn’t true, we checked when we were choosing our witness!), and when she got to my title of Mx, she turned to me and said “So you’ve just made that up, have you?”

No, Mx is a title just the same as Ms, Mr or Mrs. It is accepted to stand for Mix, so perfect for a non-binary person like me, and is legally accepted in the UK.

Ugh.

She sent off the forms regardless, but said head office may not approve it as “it has to be witnessed by a solicitor”. Bleh.

Also, my littlest turned one a few days ago! 😀

tollersbday6

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I am back in the world

After being a recluse for 18+ months due to seizures, being physically and mentally able to go places again feels absolutely phenomenal.

For over 18 months I only left the house for dog walks. I didn’t leave my village, I didn’t travel on public transport, go in supermarkets, or stay outside for long periods of time. I basically didn’t have a life.

Most of this period we were totally unaware I was having seizures, and were desperately trying to work out what was causing my odd behaviour, panic, zoning out etc. We were trying to manage it, live with it and understand it – my ex-social worker blamed my seizures on bipolar moods / psychosis, as dissociation, but otherwise left us alone to handle it ourselves. Shortly after we stopped going to appts, because we couldn’t manage and as ever they weren’t helping!!

Now that we’ve found ways to manage everything a bit better, and especially with the polarized goggles, I am actually able to get out and about in the world 😀

I’ve been able to go in shops!!! Actual well lit, big, supermarket shops! I can go on public transport. I can have longer periods of time out and enjoy things and just *be* a person with a life!!

One of the things I am now able to do is go and manage GP appts. We recently switched to a new GP surgery, as our previous surgery behaved disgustingly yet again…and the new surgery seems INCREDIBLE!

The Dr at the meet and greet was lovely; very friendly, polite, and the ‘negatives’ he listed about the surgery (that sometimes you might have to wait two days for an appt, or if you wanted one at a specific surgery the longest you might have to wait is six days) made us laugh…at our previous surgery we had to wait three weeks for an emergency appt!!!!

He asked if either of us were on any referrals, and I mentioned that I was waiting to be referred to a neurologist to investigate seizures, but needed a blood test first. He said as soon as my info had been swapped across we could get that done, and if the previous surgery dicked about and didn’t send it soon enough, we could phone them, ask what specific blood test it is, and get it done sooner 🙂

So I’m actually on the way to having my seizures looked at!

Overall a very positive post…and hopefully not because I’m manic hahaha!! No but really, having a life rocks. Of course days out the house still affect me more, with the result being exhaustion and increased seizures, but the fact I am able to do things just feels so incredibly wonderful 🙂