Seizure Diaries: What’s Your Type?

By Charlie Hooper

What is all this talk about Epilepsy? No one cares about that condition anymore. Besides it is so confusing with all those different types of seizures. Not even the best doctors can keep them all straight. How do I know? Because of the roughly forty types of seizures, I have five of them:

  1. Tonic Clonics (Gran Mals)
  2. Absence Seizures
  3. Complex Partials
  4. Focal Seizures
  5. Aura Seizures

Person Experiencing a Seizure at Home

No one knows why or how one person has all these different types, nor which type will occur next. It is a constant guessing game as to which one will occur in the next hour or the next week. Even the smartest neurologist can’t figure it out.

According to Johns Hopkins Hospital the most common types of epilepsy syndromes include:

Idiopathic localization-related epilepsies (ILRE)

People in the general public truly don’t understand what Epilepsy is! No, it is not a contagious disease. You can’t contract it by standing near someone who seizes. But, yes, it can be lethal. There are some epilepsies that follow patterns, however. Most seizures are the direct result of a head injury. Person A falls down, hits his head and has brain trauma. Person A soon experiences a seizure — that’s the classic case.

Seizure at Work

Other cases of epilepsy arise because Person B has chemical imbalances, many times due to a high fever, or Person C has physical abnormalities that are genetic. I am Person D: mine are the result of an unusual deformity in my brain.

Cases of death after seizures may seem dramatic, because they are. Known as sudden unexplained death from epilepsy, or SUDEP for short, it is a major cause of epileptics dying.

Cultures around the world have assigned stigmas to people with Epilepsy for thousands of years. People believed that a person experiencing a seizure was possessed by demons. Shaman or priests were called in to exorcise the devil from the victim. It wasn’t until the 1970’s, when the view of epileptics became clear. They were not possessed by demons, they were not responsible for the attacks, they were finally regarded as victims of a dreaded syndrome.

Priests Exorcising Demons, woodcut circa 1598

Fear of the unknown is a major impediment to many medical conditions and epilepsy has been shrouded in secrecy. People are often afraid to be with epileptics. What if they were seen by others as having been with that person, when they had a seizure. What if you were alone with them and you did not know what to do when the symptoms arose? What if a family member or friend were with a person and they died from the attack? Would the bye-stander somehow be held responsible?

There have even been family doctors who have been afraid of what might happen. My wife, Steph, told me about the doctor freaking out when I was having a gran mal in the waiting room. The staff person persuaded the doctor to stick around and help. The doctor was headed out the door, but quickly ran back when he witnessed my seizure.

If you look at bye-standers, the general public is rarely willing to help someone having a seizure. Once you are an epileptic, things change and you are the one advocate the next person can depend upon. Steph and I have assisted in many a seizure.

It is also difficult for seizure sufferers to regain a normal life, because they must be seizure-free for 6 months before they can drive a car or mow the lawn on a tractor. Doctors advise them not to walk alone, swim, ride a bike, cook or perform other “normal” household chores, for fear of injury to themselves or the general public.

Imagine what happens to those who are shut off from walking, driving, biking, swimming, and other leisure activities. If the seizures are frequent and debilitating, that person cannot hold a job and quickly slide into depression.

It is not only tough on the person with epilepsy, it is also very hard on the caregivers. Most caregivers are family and friends. They become invaluable assistants to the survival and coping of the epilepsy sufferer. They learn the symptoms of the type most common in their patients. It is a challenge, no matter what type of epilepsy presents itself.


RESOURCES to discover your type…

Interesting websites that dig into the details of epilepsy and the facts and fiction surrounding the disease are found below: