I derive weird pleasure from devising theories about the cause of my epilepsy, which is supposedly idiopathic. As someone who values order and reason above almost everything else, I like to remind myself that just because medical professionals say that I spontaneously developed a seizure disorder doesn’t mean that they’re right. The idea that doctors make mistakes is, in that sense, perversely comforting to me.
My latest hypothesis is that there is a connection between seizures and childhood addiction to rock tumbling. In retrospect, I can’t help but suspect that I was an under-stimulated child. Impelled by principles I will never forgive, and resulting in gaping holes in pop-culture literacy I will never fill, my parents kept our house TV-free. Since a kid can only do so much reading and tofu eating, the rock tumbler purchased by my parents at a yard sale provided me and my siblings with hours of welcome distraction. We soon became little tumbler enthusiasts, amateur rock hounds with growing collections of shiny stones we had collected at the beach and polished into lustrous gray orbs. The occasional trip to a store appropriately named The Rockhound to stock up on abrasive grit and chemicals and to buy, sometimes, semi-precious gemstones to add to the mix fed the rock tumbling craze that had swept over exactly one house in Greater Victoria: ours.
As I remember it, rock tumbling was an interesting and exciting hobby. Judging from the instruction manual I just read online (with great nostalgia, I might add), growing up has drastically altered my standards for what constitutes entertainment. The process is, in brief, as follows: put some rocks in a barrel, add water and grit, turn on the tumbler, wait a week. Rinse the rocks, add some different grit and fresh water, turn on the tumbler, wait a week. Rinse the rocks, add another kind of grit and more water, wait a week. Finally, rinse the rocks, add polish and water, wait ten days. In sum, approximately fifteen minutes of rock handling and 31 days of passive tumbler watching. And watch it I did—indeed, some of my clearest childhood memories involve staring at the startlingly ear-rending machine as it methodically churned. I realize how pathetic this might seem, and I admit that it was not an active pastime, but it was certainly one that I enjoyed. Some kids got to watch Mr. Rogers; I got to spend hours observing a black rubber cylinder hypnotically rotate, transforming worthless rough beach rocks into equally worthless, but now smooth, beach rocks.
A few weeks ago, I was randomly looking at a rock polishing supply store on the internet—old habits die hard, I guess—when it hit me: the auras I sometimes experience before seizures are suspiciously similar to the dizzy head rush I used to get from excessive tumbler viewing. Though I admit that there is probably no real causal relationship, I am willing to entertain the notion. As a bonus, “rock tumbling” is a pretty great euphemism for convulsive seizures, and I’m always looking for discreet ways to describe my condition.