What You Need to Know About Epilepsy

A few days ago marks one-month seizure-free, and so I thought I would talk a little bit about seizures, and epilepsy in general! I would first like to say that while I am putting a lot of work into this research, I am not a medical professional, and if you are concerned for yourself or a loved one, please reach out to a doctor! 

Because everyone's brain chemistry is different, and a seizure is abnormal electrical activity caused by chemical changes in the brain, they can present themselves in many different ways. Seizures can be uncontrollable laughter, a loss of awareness without loss of consciousness, or the full-on “grand-mal '' (now called Tonic-Clonic) seizures like we see on TV. Focal Seizures often involve one part of the body losing control, confusion and then side effects like a migraine afterward. Generalized Seizures are very common in children, and Tonic-Clonic seizures belong to this category. 

Many people, myself included, experience both kinds of seizures. My focal seizures affect my right eye, and it blinks uncontrollably for about a minute before subsiding. It’s like very intense winking. Tonic-Clonic seizures are much harder to describe. The best way I can explain it is by saying that it starts with a horrible gut feeling, it gets hard to breathe and my ears start ringing. I usually start to panic at this point, although fighting to stay conscious doesn’t necessarily help. My right-hand starts shaking and curling in towards me as if it’s breaking, and as soon as it hits my chest, I’m on the ground. It almost feels like a World War II movie, where the ringing is slowly getting louder and the world is slowly getting whiter until I can see or hear nothing except the ringing and the white. It takes me a little over an hour to come back to the real world even after the seizure, I often don’t even realize that I had a seizure and sometimes make fun of people for running around for no reason. On one occasion, I fully forgot that my dad was in New York and was shocked to hear my roommate suggest to have him come over even though he was staying with us. 

What I hope to show with this is that everyone’s experience is unique, and for those who don’t have illnesses like this, they should do the work to educate themselves so that they’re prepared when a stranger or loved one suffers from an attack like this. Here’s a head start! 

 

When someone experiences a seizure : 

DO 

  • Keep objects and as many people out of the way as possible 

  • Call a family member or close friend of the person (if you are familiar with them) 

  • Place them on their side 

  • Cushion their head if possible

 

DON’T 

  • Put a wallet (or anything) in their mouth. That’s not a thing. 

  • Try to hold them down or attempt to “wake them up” 

  • Leave them alone

 

When Do I Call 911? 

  • If the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes

  • If a second seizure begins immediately after the first 

  • If there’s a medical condition that may be affected by this seizure 

  • If someone is injured by the seizure (the most common cause)