In grade school teachers will tell you to start your stories at the beginning. Not to discount traditional teaching methods and conventional wisdom, but this is bullshit advice.
Some stories only make sense in hindsight. Some stories don’t have a beginning. These stories- the ones that don’t have a starting point or an ending still deserve to be hold. Sometimes, they are the ones that most need to be shared.
My story isn’t going to start at the beginning. It’s going to be told just as it occurred- fragmented. It won’t always make sense. It may seem contradictory. It may loop back around again and again. But it’s going to be told.
I’m not starting at the beginning; I’m starting with the seizures.
6 years-ago in October of 2012 I started having strange, uncontrollable muscle movements following a wisdom-tooth removal surgery. Usually, they were small: my jaw chattering, wrist twisting, arm spasming- strange, but rarely problematic. Occasionally I’d have a big “attack” in which I would convulse in the abdomen in an “Exorcist” like manner. I never lost consciousness, so we called them “spasms”. I saw several doctors and specialists, I had several tests run with “interesting, but irrelevant” results, but never got a full diagnosis. By December, the spasms had all but stopped. It was chalked up to an strange phenomena, and we thought nothing more of it- until it came back.
In December of 2015, the spasms returned. I was working at Macy’s at the time. Christmas was fast approaching- only days away. I had just broken things off with an on-again-off-again lover, who was leaving me for another girl for the 5th or 6th time (more on that unhealthy relationship later), and had just found out a guy who I had just started seeing had been lying to me about his divorce (not only was he married, but his wife was pregnant). These events in combination with work stress, and finals at school all piled up. I ended up in the ER on Christmas Night when the convulsions started constricting my diaphragm and caused me to involuntarily punch the stone-tile floor of my grandparents’ home. I took a month of FMLA to regain control of my body. By March, they were gone. Once again, the episodes played themselves out before we could get a formal diagnosis, but there were several working-diagnoses: dystonia, dyskinesia, PNKD… I have elements of several of these conditions, but none seemed to really fit my symptoms completely.
By now- I was starting to suspect that there wasn’t a physical or medical cause to the mysterious movement disorder. I had psychological issues that I suppressed to unhealthy levels, and I knew that these repressed emotions were likely behind the episodes- like monsters breaking down the closet door and an attempt to escape.
Now, it’s 2018. The spasms returned once again. As soon as I had my first major “episode” I called the doctor to get a recommendation for a neurologist. This time around, I was determined to get to the bottom of the issue. In the first meeting the neurologist explained that I was having seizures- partial focal seizures to be exact. I wasn’t losing consciousness because it was only one part of the brain being affected. The key was to figure out what part and why. I had a 5-day ambulatory EEG (I had 26 wires glued to by head and chest for 5 days)- in hopes that the results would shed further light on the issue. It took two weeks for the results to be analyzed- and before I even had a chance to hear the neurologist’s piece, I had my nervous breakdown.
It will be at least a few days before I’m ready to continue talking about the trigger that set of the chain reaction of the last week- but it was the final straw that sent me to the therapist’s office for a full diagnosis: Generalized Anxiety and Panic disorder, Severe Depression, and complex PTSD.
This combination is commonly seen together, but every presentation is unique. The psychiatrist is fairly certain that the PTSD in particular is the cause of my seizures, something he has seen before. My early suspicions about emotional suppression were likely correct- my fear and refusal to deal with my trauma and emotions in a healthy way caused by mind and body to act out. Now that I was acknowledging the problem- I would be able to fix it.
Monday I will see the neurologist again to discuss the results of the EEG. I expect that the results will confirm what both myself and the psychiatrist already suspect: there is not physical or medical cause for my seizures. If this is the case I’m already in the right place. If there is a physical or medical cause, like epilepsy or brain-damage, the therapy will still be necessary for my health anyway. I don’t know what this next month is going to bring- but I think I’m ready to move forward.
So, here we are. I’m mentally, emotionally, and physically drained from the triggering events of the last several weeks. I am six pounds lighter than I was at the start of the month from pure stress, and about a week and a half behind in homework for classes. I’m taking 5 weeks of FMLA from my current job at the University to focus on my physical and mental health, and will be going through intense EMDR therapy sessions once a week in an attempt to basically re-wire my brain to accept and move past trauma.
Can I do this? I hope so, and I think so.
Will I do this? I can, and I will.
Will it be easy? No, but it will be worth it.
Am I ready? Yes, I’ve accepted there is a problem and that’s the first step.