A Menu of Epilepsy Auras

This is something I get asked often, when doing presentations, and experienced possibly at least once.This is for your information.


Memory and epilepsy

This is a topic that has been in my thoughts, and I admit my concerns for a few months now. I have long noticed, or became more conscious of  my inability to remember a person’s name,and often forget them eventually.In recent months, I have now been doing general knowledge quiz books and using dictionaries, always enjoyed certain non fiction books, to keep my brain active.Information and facts are retrieved, forgotten, or may pop into my subconscious later.I have for a long time got into the habit of writing things down, on my calendar,my phone etc, which helps.

Memory is the brain’s ability to store information and find it later.This involves learning the information, storing it, then recalling it again. The recalling it is the difficult bit. However there are other factors that affect memory, such as:

  • Mood and concentration:confidence and happiness affects the way the brain works and increases your ability to concentrate and take in information.Anxiety or stress will make it more difficult at learning stage, and worrying to recall information will make it harder to recall the correct information.
  • Lack of sleep:Tiredness, lack of sleep or feeling unwell affect memory and concentration, not getting enough sleep can contribute to memory problems.
  • Age:As we get older, storing and retrieving information is more difficult process.
  • Surgery:Memory problems for those who have epilepsy, has been known, for those who have surgery in the temporal lobe.

Epilepsy as a brain activity occurs on a specific region of the brain, such as the medial temporal lobe. However such repeated epilepsy seizures can affect the brain tissues in the most important areas of the brain eg the Hippocampus, this is important to the processing of information and memory. If damage occurs on the left side of the brain, they will find it difficult to remember words-spoken or written. If damage is on the right side of the brain, visual memory is affected. If damage is found on the frontal lobes, it can lead to short-term memory loss, let’s not despair just yet.

Memory loss is either a short-term or long-term problem.Short term memory loss is common for those who experience Complex Partial Seizures or Tonic Clonic seizures just before and during a seizure, and there are people who experience disruptions regarding long-term loss.Long term memory comes in 4 ways:

  • Procedural memory-A memory for skills that can be carried out without consciously thinking eg riding your bike, swimming, tie your shoelace
  • Semantic memory-A memory for facts and knowledge eg high school and college classes
  • Episodic memory-memories from personal experiences such as weddings,vacations,conversations,childhood memories
  • Prospective memory-remembering to do things in the future eg appointments, birthday cards

Memory problems can happen due to the side affects of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). Drowsiness and attention problems can affect short-term memory, and make it more difficult to learn and store new information.Always check with your doctor, if you have any concerns. I did such tests about 3 years ago on memory, during a stay in hospital.

My future articles, will be about getting into the habit of using memory aids, and methods to improve on this.

Living with epilepsy from your family, partners or friends perspective!

Yes, It’s not something you think about, oblivious to how other people feel. Since having epileptic seizures from the age of 13, you don’t tend to think  or consider,just how your condition affects your family, friends or loved ones until adulthood anyway.

The anxiety, worry and concerns  they will have if  receive a phone call from school or work , that your son or daughter, husband or wife,etc has had a seizure and is on their way to hospital. I hope he/she is OK, and not  injured they anxiously think as they make their way to the hospital, and possibly not for the first time.It has happened to me on a few occasions, and unfortunately at my wedding, as we were about to leave for our hotel. My parents,naturally were upset as were others, as they didn’t want my seizure to overshadow what was a perfect day.But feeling groggy,sore,injured and tired  afterwards, and being surrounded, comforted by family and guests afterwards at the hotel. It was embarrassing for me…still I have to smile looking back though, you have to.

To put that particular seizure into some perspective, I had been recently perscribed a new drug, on a low dose, combined with what was a stressful day.So it was possibility. My wife came out with a comment a couple of years ago that really hit home, that it can upsetting for everybody or difficult for all concerned to be around a person with epilepsy or for that matter any condition or disease. It’s not something you tend to think about, their emotions and how everybody else is feeling. The first indication that I’m having a seizure, is my head suddenly turns to the right, I spin round, fall over, leading to a full Tonic Clonic seizure. You can then understand it then, if you suddenly turn and look up in one direction for some reason, and get asked, are you OK? It would make anybody anxious and on edge!

Therefore to all families,partners and friends who know a person with epilepsy, I am sure I can speak for everybody that we appreciate the support, and realize it can be as difficult for you.

The Emotions and Frustrations of Job Search, made harder with the epilepsy condition!

I imagine most people have had to go through this as some stage.However if you are unemployed and a person with epilepsy, it can be a demoralizing, frustrating experience, and even an exasperating.  Especially when you hear of people who decided to leave a job, because they didn’t like it , BUT get reemployed within weeks (let alone getting interviews). Examples of people getting jobs at the first attempt, or even deciding to relocate to other cities or countries encounter problems. You start to wonder! WHY?? Yes you have updated your resume (had it checked) , cover letter (also had it checked), found agencies, online job boards, job fairs…but still nothing. Here’s what you may of come across in your job search experience:

  1. Unemployed for over 6 months-questions! and a skeptical response as nothing seems satisfactory(you dare not mention epilepsy)
  2.  You are overqualified or you  have reached a certain age: so you start applying  for junior positions eg High School Diploma needed, so you might get a chance.
  3. Find employment in positions, out of desperation, that could be dangerous as a person with epilepsy eg factories
  4. The stages and hurdles you have to overcome: online application, initial phone call interview, online tests, interview or two, job offer! (an emotional roller coaster)
  5. Temporary agencies ,who never call or seem disinterested, or  you can’t speak to someone in authority directly: leave your resume with us .If they do contact you, indirectly via resume posting  job sites – provide inadequate information of the job details, that takes days to process
  6. If not selected, you aren’t told why or if you do,your personality doesn’t fit their profile!
  7. Keeping track of the many applications you apply for, and they employer give the impression you were the only one you applied for
  8. Phone interview only job vacancies…noticed this one
  9. Position requires clean driving license (yes we know that one)…or in difficult locations that required many buses or train
  10. Online application only, can’t speak to a HR person even if you know the name of contact, or if you do, get told online applications only.
  11. Wonder if they ever read your application, in the first place, as the applications increase, BUT still hear nothing
  12. Employment is taking from within  the organization rather than from the outside applications
  13. Jobs already taken, before they advertise
  14. Doing something like voluntary work is considered good, yet you feel, even that is not enough to convince the employer
  15. Interviewers  disrespectful…playing with their phones or dismissive…seems a whole waste of time
  16. Is it any wonder, people with epilepsy try to make it professionally by being self employed or if they don’t, are lucky to have a great employer, who knows of your condition and provides support
  17. Finally, to end on a positive note: keep persevering, stay positive,  motivated, even when you you see don’t the light at the end of the tunnel ,  you could be employed in the most unlikely of situations! It happens.

A Brief Cultual History of Epilepsy-How Society Perceived us, and still do!

I like history, always have, but when you look deeper into how epilepsy was perceived (and still do)…we have along way to go, as regards to changing the perceptions of society as a whole.

Some historical/’public figures as Alexander the Great, Frederick Handel, Vincent Van Gogh, Alfred Nobel, Lewis Carroll, and the US sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner (1988 Olympics) had epilepsy.

The Egyptians referred to epilepsy as the ‘falling sickness’ and the earliest recorded writings about epilepsy are dated from 2000 B.C. The code of Hammurabi (Babylonian Law Code) stated that anyone who has a slave can be returned, within one month of purchase, if they have a seizure. This was also the practice of slave owners in the 18/19th centuries in the US.

The ancient Greek leader,Hippocrates, stated in the text, that epilepsy was a physical possession and was considered demonic. The Greek gods of epilepsy Pan, were associated with fertility rites, known for suddenness of appearances, swiftness of attack,fear. Hecate, was associated with the underworld and a dog headed appearance, he was also associated with the fear and anxiety of epilepsy. Seizures are thus associated with an apprehension of evil and connected to the supernatural.

This view lasted into the middle ages when the church preached the view that persons with epilepsy were possessed. The order of Jesus refused since 1540, entry for anyone with epilepsy into the Jesuit religious order. The Salem witch trials of 1692, the chief accuser, 9 year old Elizabeth Parris, had seizures. The infamous  Bedlam,psychiatric hospital in the 19th century.located in London over a third of the inmates had epilepsy. Hence the coining of the term, Bedlam, for an uproar or confusion. The choices then were Bedlam or castration.

The same can be said for other cultures. Traditional healers in Zimbabwe,Africa  believed epilepsy was caused by an angry or disturbed ancestor, as did the Youba tribe in Nigeria. The Navajo tribe in Arizona, believed that seizures were caused by incest , witchcraft or hand trembling.

In fact it wasn’t until the late 1800’s did medical doctors begin to recognize that epilepsy was a neurological condition. One of the first anti epileptic drugs were Paraldehyde (1882) and Phenobarbital (1912). Still society even now in recent times are mystified about the epilepsy condition. It wasn’t until 1965, that  people with the epilepsy condition were denied access of entry to the US. Many states discouraged marriage and having children, when at least one partner had epilepsy, as it could be inherited, this was  finally repealed in the 1980’s. They also  enacted involuntary sterilization laws.

We have come along way in the last 100years…but there is still along way to go.