At the age of 26, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. A PhD student at the time, I relied heavily on the cognitive skills that are compromised in the aftermath of seizures. I’m not sure how, but I somewhat miraculously managed to navigate the challenges posed by my sudden disability and finished, and defended, my dissertation, becoming a doctor (!?!?!?!). However, my condition remains uncontrolled and has thus significantly altered the way I’ve had to approach post-academia life.
Most significantly, I had neurosurgery in January to see if my doctors could pinpoint the source of my seizures (they couldn’t). Now, I continue to adjust to a new set of limitations in order to deal with the unpredictability and disruption caused by both my “episodes” and the after-effects of my surgery and what they’ve meant for me: a brain injury, concussions, broken bones, lost opportunities, etc. etc. etc. These are things I’m doing my best to accept. It’s hard. Baby steps.
What many of my friends, family members, and former colleagues don’t fully understand, and what I didn’t understand before experiencing it for myself, is the extent to which epilepsy is a human, gritty disorder. That it has its origins in a malfunctioning brain and not a supernatural curse was recognized in a text often attributed to Hippocrates, from which this blog takes its name: “Men think epilepsy divine, merely because they do not understand it. But if they called everything divine which they do not understand, why, there would be no end to divine things.”
The author goes on to suggest that it is caused by excess phlegm, but I’ll ignore that part.