Thursday, December 14

My Catamenial Seizures

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I had my first seizure when I was in my first year in College.  After more than 20 years, I do not have any vivid recollection about that incident anymore.  However, I can still remember at that time that upon regaining consciousness, I asked what day it was, where I was then, what happened, what was I doing before the ‘attack’, and similar other questions.  People with seizures usually have disorientation and temporary amnesia immediately after an attack   Little did I know that this very first attack was only a prelude to many other seizures that would follow in the coming years of my life. 

Seizure disorder is an illness where the afflicted person has uncontrolled seizures which may be of known or unknown origins.  During my first few attacks during the 1980s, I was diagnosed by my neurologist as simply having seizure disorder.  What caused it, or what I could do to prevent it from happening again was uncertain.  The best thing he said he could do then was to prescribe a medicine, Dilantin or Phenytoin, for controlling the seizures, and ask me to avoid staying up late and taking alcohol.  The cause of it was still unknown, but probably a trauma somewhere in the brain, but that had to be tested yet since there were no MRIs yet during that time. 

My mom warned me then that I may be pressuring myself too much because I had just entered the state university.  What struck me then was she was very much worried, and she looked like she was crying every time I had my attacks.  She was correct to a certain point, but I was still confused as to how and why this was happening to me.  My study habits then were quite weird too because I was fond of waking up at dawn – around 1-2 am, studied for about 2 hours, took a short nap, then got ready for school.   

From three capsules a day, I had to take my medicines for at least a year, which burned a hole in our family’s budget.  I can still recall that my medicinal dosage was gradually reduced, until I was totally seizure free and drug free.  I thought that was the end of it then, but I was wrong.

After several years – my best guess would be 3 to 4 years, as far back as I can remember – I would have a seizure again, and I would have to be back on my medications once more.  The same cycle would recur every several years or so, and the longest period I did not have any attack was for around 5-6 years, but then again, as I said, I would have to consult my neurologist again and take another drug therapy for at least 2 years.

Now, it was not until these recent years that I somehow saw the trend in my seizures.  I noticed that most often than not, I would have a seizure near the due date of my monthly period.  If ever I have an attack prior to my period, most probably, I would have to stand up around an hour or so afterwards because I’d have to rush to the bathroom to put on a feminine pad.

After learning of this trend, I researched on this over the internet and got to learn some really valuable information.  Now I have adopted a sleeping pattern where I allot more sleeping time during the days immediately preceding the due date of my monthly period.  So far, it has been working well for me, and I haven’t had an attack in the last 4 months.  I’ve been drug free for the past 1 year and 7 months.  I also quit my previous job last March because I was able to deduce that it was one of the culprits for my being too stressed out, and thus unable to sleep well. 

Given the choice, I would prefer not to have any more seizures in the future.  The feeling which immediately succeeds an attack is one of the most horrible feelings I have experienced – which I have often suffered unwillingly, and perhaps, innocuously.  It’s like coming from a very deep sleep, and then waking up in a sweat because you are not familiar with anything around you.  It is scary just to be in an unfamiliar place, more so when the people around you are strangers.  Then after a while, the memories come back gradually, and then you realize that it was just a seizure, and the faces around you become more familiar. And then you feel that your body is aching all over, you have sore lips, perhaps a cut on your tongue and your crotch is wet because you have lost control over your other bodily functions as well.  You have a bad headache yet you have to get up so you can change your soiled clothes. 

The worst incident of my temporary amnesia happened when I could not even remember my youngest son.  My 4-year old son cried and embraced me, and at first I honestly did not recognize him.  Later on however, the memories came back and I am just glad that everything went back to normal.    

And then again, another scenario that is not so favorable is being admitted to a hospital where the doctor prescribes new medicines which are not auspicious to your specific seizure disorder.  I had this neurologist who prescribed Phenobarbital, where I was only made to sleep the whole three days I was in the hospital!  Of course I wouldn’t have any seizure recurrence then because I overslept!

The worst part of having seizures is losing memories.  It is said that one brain cell dies in every attack that happens to one who has a seizure, and the brain cells are the only cells in the body which do not regenerate.  I hate the feeling of not being able to make distinct connections to some memories or not being able to recall certain places, events and people.  In some way, this has affected my socializing behavior because I would not want to be left out in the conversation for not having some of my memories.  Hence, I have totally avoided reunions, school get-togethers and stuff.

In conclusion, having seizures is not really a good thing but somehow, one has to live with it.  I have since had my MRI and I am happy that no brain trauma or anything cancerous was found in my brain.  However, there is still that risk of my catamenial attacks, which are the reasons why I still have to take the necessary precautions. 

For those who also have the same illness, feel free to comment on my post.  I will try to read and write more about this topic in the future. 

Life will go on and so must we.  Acceptance is the key.         

Disclaimer:  The author is not a doctor, physician or specialist.  This article does not attempt to give medical advice since seizure disorder cases may vary for each affected individual.  It would still be best to consult your neurologist for the best treatment for your particular case, if any.  

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