After a dozen hours of sleep the brain has settled down nicely. Realized I hadn’t been outta the house for a couple days and went to take down some bags to the bins and get the mail and I had this inexplicable trepidation. When I went outside it was like I’d never done it before. All these synapses reconnecting and remembering. All kinds of things are like that, each task a little adventure. I emerge from these epileptic interludes and the brain is reconnecting so many memories of even basic tasks. When I do them it’s exciting because it feels brand new. So these next couple days I’ll be doing stuff as if for the first time, reconnecting with the world again. It’s kind of wonderful, actually, if a little intimidating. It’ll pass in a day or two. More of the stuff they don’t teach you in epilepsy school because I suppose only epileptics experience it. I suppose if didn’t write these things down I wouldn’t remember them at all because the experience is so ephemeral. By next week I won’t be able to imagine this sensation at all. Then at some point will some another week or two of an epileptic interlude, after which I’ll go through this again, and it will all seem brand new, and I’ll walk down the stairs again as if it were the very first time.
Category Archives: epilepsy
I’ve noted over my lifetime that after a long bout of a surge in epilepsy, as the brain settles down and its plasticity begins repairing and reconnecting things, that new memories well up, in scattered bits and small pieces of past times. They pop up in anecdotes, unconnected, details I’d forgotten or entire events, people I hadn’t thought of in years, memories of sensations long past. It’s always disconcerting but it’s fun too. When you lose long term memories you don’t really notice. They’re just not there anymore. If it happens a lot over your entire adult life it doesn’t bother you much at all. You don’t miss what you no longer know you had. It’s not like you suddenly can’t remember something. You don’t know you ever remembered it at all. It’s only when you’re around people talking old times and you have no clue what they’re talking about that it gets disconcerting. Otherwise you’d never notice at all. Memory loss is a lot more disturbing to those who do remember than to those who can’t.
Which is what makes these sudden refound memories so oddly disconcerting. Things that were no longer there are instantly there again, bits and pieces of your past existence so vivid, so real, in full color. You can hear the voices, feel the feelings. You can almost reach out and touch them. They’re all non-sequitors, of course, it’s not like you’ve recovered complete files on your hard drive. These are just almost randomly placed memories that have been reconnected by a newly repaired or rerouted neural connection. Memories are “stored” in different places all over the brain, and any neural rewiring is bound to uncover a few, though not in any organized or systematic patterns I’ve ever noticed. They’re just random remembrances, like finding a drawer full of old post cards and Polaroids. Just anecdotes. I’ll bring them up a couple at a time in conversation so they don’t throw anybody—if you suddenly begin remembering too much stuff at once people get weirded out (people are very easily weirded out), or they spring up in vividly detailed emails or Facebook posts or blog entries. If I write them down the memory hardens, if I merely talk about them they can blow away, though sometimes I’m not sure how much that I’m writing is what I actually remember and how much is me fleshing out the details to make the writing prettier. In the end it comes down to what makes a good story, I suppose, and none of you readers will know any better or care if the writing is good enough, and the refound memory hardens into the usual mortar of fact and fiction that binds human memory together anyway.
The crime of epilepsy
I see that the cops in Fresno worked over, cuffed and arrested a kid having a seizure. Resisting arrest. Have a seizure in public and you risk being taken down hard by the cops. Your flailing will be seen as resisting, your failure to respond will compound it. Sometimes they drop the charges. Sometimes they haul you into court. If it gets into the press it will have a news cycle for a few hours and then disappear, as epilepsy is not one of the socially acceptable disabilities. In the twenty years I’ve been following these incidents this has never changed. Same police ignorance and cruelty, same media inattention, same public indifference. A uniquely American phenomenon, I might add. We’re notorious for it. The last developed country that can’t shake its fear of our demonic possession. Progressives are just as weirded out by seizures as white extremists, though progressives at least have given up on euthanasia as the solution. We’re even allowed to marry now.
Last night words kept me up
[This is from 2010, and I just found it buried on BrickWahl.com. This reads so epileptic to me now.]
Last night words kept me up, some piece coming together that I couldn’t shake. It developed paragraph by unwritten paragraph inside my skull till finally it completed itself and let me sleep after two in the fucking morning. That happens a lot. When my med levels are off it happens more. I dreamed another story, dreamed I was writing it, till it woke me around 5 am. I laid there sleepy with this fucking story going through my head. A ridiculous 5 am story…I never use 5 am stories. Men are crazy at 5 am. Maybe you’ve noticed.
No writing today, nothing. No emails today, but this one. Hopefully no stories tonite. I wish I knew why that happens, but it’s always happened. Just words, man. It’s like I’m practicing. Working things out. Well, not me practicing, but it, the language. It sits up there in our brain, an actual thing, and it sometimes make us do things that not to our advantage. This isn’t LSD talking…it’s actually neuro-linguistic theory, one rather difficult to grasp. It’s just too weird. Anyway, this language thing gets stirred all up in there round that hole in my brain in the Broca’s region and doesn’t give a flying fuck about what the rest of the body needs, or wants. Namely sleep. But tonite I sleep. I promise.
I’ve heard of musicians tormented by the music in their heads. It’s the same thing, I bet. The music being created incessantly and the poor bastard whose brain contauins it wishes it wasn’t there. Creativity, it’s wildly overrated.
Anyway I have more to do before I go home. Then I watch a hockey game and we order a pizza and drink beer and talk and I go to sleep.
Hypergraphically discussing hypergraphia
Not going to delete the blogs, tho’ I’d love to. It’s not the solution, tho’ it seemed like a great terrible idea at the time. Seriously, I was all ready to get rid of 90% of everything I’d ever written to reduce clutter. How’s that for a revolutionary act? The Pol Pol approach to website management. It would have been so easy too….
The problem for me is that what’s left of my epileptic brain must have everything as spare and orderly and uncluttered as possible or it gets thoroughly discombobulated, and dealing with one blog, let alone six, is as discombobulating and un-uncluttered as anything. Sort of like that sentence. There’s just too much there on a blog, too many options, too many zillions of words a link away. Too much past thinking sparked to life again. Stuff that didn’t bother me just a couple years ago is a problem now. I was planning to deal with my own hypergraphic literary output like I’ve dealt with the rest of my life, by minimizing everything. Part of my excruciatingly dull mellow epileptic lifestyle therapy. Which works, actually. Destroying all that writing would have been quite epileptically therapeutic. Nor would it have bothered me much. Things would be much simpler, and I can always just write more. After all, it’s not about the writing, it’s about writing. What’s written doesn’t matter, but writing it does. That’s hypergraphia in a nutshell, a phrase I can’t stand, but it is.
It also shows that I see all this writing as a symptom of my epilepsy. For instance, I’ve had a mild bug these past couple days. A very mild bug, one of those things I’d never notice except that, as bugs will, it’s kept the liver busy dealing with it and interferes in the metabolization of my seizure meds, reducing their effectiveness, which leads to an increase in synaptic overstimulation which invariably increases symptoms of hypergraphia. Thus lots of posts on Facebook and a sudden increase in blog activity. When I look though my blog I can see the epilepsy. I can see it in the long paragraphs, in the sharing of absurdly detailed personal discussions, in the self obsession, and in words like un-uncluttered. Neurologists have asked me questions about my writing because it is such a classic symptom.
When the bug departs the posts will slow, the blogs will see me only occasionally, my mind will not be awash in language. And over a lifetime I’ve learned not to give in to epileptic whims. So no purging of the blog. It was fun to think about, but I’ll have to think up something else.
As part of my excruciatingly dull mellow epileptic lifestyle I had to cut off contact with some people who, through no fault of their own, were really bad for my epilepsy. Just too intense, too volatile. I never told them. I just sort of slipped away. Now I’m having to do the same on Facebook, where a few people are too intense and volatile, too aggro, too competitive and too serious for my epileptic brain. So I just quietly unfriend them. It’s a creepy way to go about it, but I have to avoid confrontation. It’s not that my ego or feelings or anything like that were hurt. I have such a limited emotional range left after decades of epileptic damage that it’s pretty hard to hurt anything. But it does cause epilepsy problems. It’s just that it’s really not a good idea to go off on an epileptic. It causes us brain damage. Synapses fry, memories are lost, we get confused. Let’s just say it heightens the epileptic experience.
Anyway, I just had to unfriend a couple friends. What can I say.
In the epilepsy ward
Me in the epilepsy ward at Kaiser in 1994 getting ready to have the biggest seizure they’d ever seen. Apparently I was quite awesome, and seven or eight doctors, nurses, techs and some orderlies big as football players were unable to restrain me. I sat up and they fell off me, my neurologist told me, like ants. Just as security was called the seizure ended and fell back asleep. I made a mess of the place, yanked out all the leads and there was blood and destruction. Not that I had any idea. I was unconscious. But that was still nearly a week away. My main concerns here were boredom, itchy scalp, inedible food and especially the camera recording me 24/7 which would faithfully record for posterity any erections I had while asleep to the delight of an army of UCLA med school interns tasked with monitoring me. Somehow that seemed infinitely more embarrassing than any seizure….
I’ve been taking seizure meds three times a day for nearly forty years and I have all these ways to keep track of taking them to make sure I don’t miss a dose or stupidly take two doses and I have to try really hard to double dose myself. Really hard. Which is what makes the fact that I double dosed myself this morning all the more impressive. Last time I did this was in South Dakota. We’d driven hours and hours the day before, circumambulated Devil’s Tower which is even more manly in real life than in Close Encounters, visited Mount Rushmore, which was nothing like North By Northwest at all. We pulled into Rapid City very late, managed to stay at the only motel in town with actual prostitutes and had Sonic take out for dinner because it was either that or McDonalds. Fell asleep to the sound of a truck driver having an orgasm next door. Left my morning pills out on the nightstand, gulped them down first thing upon waking, showered, ate the free breakfast and then took pills again without thinking about it. It was crazy hot and humid for so early in the morning but we stopped at Dinosaur Park right there in Rapid City, which is full of the huge crazy dinosaur sculptures and was built at the same time as Mount Rushmore was carved and is the coolest hokiest thing. Mandatory stop for dinosaur obsessives. Then we split eastward. Those plains are something, they just swallow you up, and we were in the middle of fucking nowhere when I realized I’d double dosed. The Tegretol comes down like a blanket, soft and sleepy, while the Lamictal is like steroids for the frontal lobe, you think and think and think (or write and write and write) with a testosterone surge. Add half a dozen cups of coffee to that and suddenly I was sleepy, wired, brilliant and very manly. Now there’s a rush. But the sleepiness was winning. Finally had to stop at Wall Drug where I passed out in the car in the blazing Great Plains heat while Fyl wandered through the endless maze of shops. Lots of socks, she said. She watched the dinosaur twice. Bought me some socks. Then revived somewhat we headed into Badlands National Park where I managed to dump a mini cooler full of ice water into my lap, never losing control of the car but freezing my balls solid. That’ll wake you up. It’s an idea, but I’ll probably just nap this time.
One of the coolest things about “Laura” is that the utterly loathsome writer Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb at his Clifton Webbiest) is an epileptic. I hope you forgive my wee touch of epilepsy, he says to the beautiful Laura (Gene Tierney at her most luscious) creeping even me out, tho’ I’ve said the exact same thing.
A succession of Bricks
Being epileptic means that the world is divided into normal people and epileptics. Even the weirdest of you normal people are normal. The only people I’ve ever met who aren’t normal are other epileptics. They seem normal, not your kind of normal, but epileptic normal. I think what makes you all the same is all those emotions. You have an incredible range of emotions. You get upset all the time and feel intensely about things that I have no idea it’s even possible to feel intensely about. It’s like you all feel in vivid colors and I feel in black and white, and I can see only a fraction of what you all get so worked up about. As I age my brain gets more steadily fried from all the loose wiring and zaps and my emotional range gets narrower and narrower till you all become virtually incomprehensible at times, colors that I not only can’t see but have no idea even exist. I just watch you all emote, bemused, and try not to get involved.
I tried to write fiction for years. Some of the writing could be very pretty, but the characters were ludicrous, utterly unreal. A couple decades later it finally dawned on me that I hadn’t a clue what people felt, no idea at all. I couldn’t write about anybody else but me and if I was going to write about me why bother with fiction at all? How Dostoevsky wrote those vast character rich novels bewilders me, because he was one fucked up spazz who drove everyone he knew nuts. But somehow he made normal people think he was writing about them. Completely mystifies me. Maybe my bewilderment is why I don’t read fiction anymore. I have a huge stack of novels here to read, but I haven’t read one in decades. I used to love them. I remember some of the last fiction I read was the Alexandria Quartet twice in a year or so and having my mind blown. My whole writing style changed. How it changed I don’t know. I wish I’d written how. Now it’s just part of another life many seizures ago. A life that doesn’t even seem like my own. The brain changes, identity with it. Memories vanish. Emotions slip away. I think about myself then in the third person, in various third persons even. A succession of Bricks.
Anyway, time for my pills.