Newly Diagnosed With Epilepsy, and Not Sure What It Means

May 6, 2014

I've had moments where I woke up alone and bruised on the floor. This time, though, I had witnesses.

Want to know how to scare your co-workers? Fall to the ground and have a seizure in front of everyone.

About two weeks ago, that’s what happened to me. I don’t remember what happened, and I only remember scattered moments from the rest of the day. The wire to my headphones snapped and my face was noticeably battered.

I’ve had other moments like this. I’ve had moments where I woke up alone and bruised on the floor. This time, though, I had witnesses. 

My co-workers saw me convulsing and they got me to the hospital. Since others saw what happened, and it wasn’t the first time, the doctors diagnosed me with epilepsy.

“Epilepsy. That’s a thing now,” one doctor said.

I’m only two weeks into this new diagnosis. Does it totally throw my life upside down? No. I’ll take the medicine twice a day for the rest of my life and I’ll check the box for epilepsy on medical history forms.

This scene from the film "Garden State" resonates with me even more now:

If epilepsy is good enough for a Natalie Portman character, it’s good enough for me, right?

I got married less than a year ago, and I’m pretty sure this is not what my wife, Jillian, signed up for. Over the weekend, I recorded a conversation with her, because this has taken more of a toll on her than it has on me. I’m fortunate enough to not remember much.

We both feel bad for my wonderful coworkers. "It's traumatizing to see someone you love," she said, "to have a seizure and then not really be cognizant of anything, and not be able to talk after."

"That's something I never want to see," she added. "But at the same time, of course I want to be there for you if it does happen."

Hear more from Jillian:

Allison Gamber from the Epilepsy Foundation of Connecticut explained how much uncertainty exists when treating epilepsy. On WNPR's Where We Live, she said that what works for one patient may have no effect on the next.

I can’t say enough good things about Jillian throughout all of this. She really got thrown into the deep end and she swam like a champ. Speaking of swimming, maybe I’ll stay in the shallow end this summer.