Growing Up With Absence Seizures

The first seizure I remember having was when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I was sitting in the backseat of the car talking with my family. We were in a parking lot waiting for my dad to finish his errands. As a chatty kid (and now adult), I was in the middle of telling my mom and older brother about something probably very important, like my thoughts on She-Ra and He-Man. Suddenly, I noticed my mom and brother had blank stares on their faces. My first thought was, where did I just go??

I felt so disoriented! I asked my mom what the heck just happened. She told me I was in the middle of my sentence when I began saying gibberish while my eyes were fluttering. Well, that sounds like fuuunnnn. Luckily (?), my brother had been diagnosed with absence seizures, then called petit mal seizures, about a year or two before so my parents were familiar with the signs.

An absence seizure causes a short period of “blanking out” or staring into space. It happens relatively quickly, so if you don’t know what to look for it might appear like daydreaming.

Soon after this incident, we went to a neurologist who gave me all kinds of tests. He gave me an EEG, which checks the electrical activity in the brain for patterns usually seen in absence seizures. The next round of tests involved a lot of heavy breathing, remembering items in lists, strobe lighting, and walking heel-to-toe in a straight line — much of this not unlike a night of clubbing and a sobriety test. I came home with a diagnosis and a prescription for two new medications.

Every morning and night, my mom would line up my brother’s and my seizure medications. Because we were so little and weren’t quite keen on swallowing pills yet, she would break open the capsules into a spoonful of slightly melted ice cream. I was shocked later when I found out none of my friends ever put medicine in their ice cream.

After a couple years of this routine (and seizures, in general, to be honest), I got tired of the gross medicine-y granules ruining my ice cream. Again, didn’t really realize at this point I could just swallow the pills. In an idiotic fit of rebellion, I started secretly spitting out all of my seizure medication in the bathroom sink. Yeah, not my finest moment.

For a while, I thought I was so smart — I knew more than my doctors! That thought quickly faded as I began having seizures again since I was off the medication (duh). One morning, I took my dog out for a quick walk. I was standing on the grass in front of our house watching my dog graze around all the flowers. I blacked out for a moment and all of a sudden I’m in the middle of the street and I don’t know how I got there. It was scary for sure, but I justified not telling my parents about it because our house was at the end of a cul-de-sac and I wasn’t hurt. As an adult looking back, I’m cringing while writing this because it was just so stupid.

Eventually, I was forced to tell my parents I had been spitting out my medicine. I had had another seizure and this time they were present. We were all leaving a restaurant, heading into the big mall parking lot. One minute we were walking back to the car, and the next minute I hear my mom screaming my name. As I regained my senses, I saw a pickup truck headed straight toward me. My dad sprinted to me and I felt his arm yank me out of the way. Apparently, I had a seizure while walking, headed in the opposite direction of my family and straight into traffic. Not great.

I cried and apologized for everything. We made a few more trips to the neurologist to get my medications back to normal. I promised I would never do anything like that again.

When I was in seventh grade, the doctor determined I no longer had seizures and I was finally ready to come off my medication. Whew, what a relief.

Having seizures wasn’t always so serious, mostly because we would always joke about whatever gibberish came out of my mouth for a few seconds. It made for an interesting childhood and I can appreciate how scared I made my parents for a little bit.

But hey, they should be happy to know that I’m still very apprehensive when it comes to strobe lighting and try to be cautious in parking lots.

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