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.
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.
As an epileptic Waldo should not be taking a bath, but you try typing in the shower.
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.
Thought I was writing a lot. Lots of tweets, really well written tweeted miniature essays. Plus viciously smartassed snarks to make the Trump supporters cry. One really long email that came out of nowhere remembering stuff I hadn’t thought of in years. Messaging. Lots of words. A froth of words. Ideas in Brownian motion. Stuff not getting done but lots of words. Like this.
Then a brain twinge, zing, like a plinked piano wire. Another. Recognition. I’d missed a dose of spazz meds. Funny how that works.
I’ve been on cold meds on and off for a few days, mostly on. This morning in the LA Times I came across an unusually lyrical passage for a newspaper and I read it aloud to my wife. It was about oil pumps and mechanical giraffes and I just dug it to death. She nodded, pretending to listen. The passage flowed nicely as I spoke it instead of coming out word salad. It was the first thing I’d been able to read aloud in a year at least. I tried it again later with another paragraph in the Times, reading aloud to myself. I got through the whole paragraph coherently. Then another. Then I tried an essay (“Citizen Kahn”) I wrote yesterday. The words flowed mostly, stumbling just a little, not enough to annoy a listener. I read the whole thing aloud in my big silverback dulcet tone, no stops or umms or repeated words repeated or missing verbs or cursing and confusion and stopping and giving up. No stuttering on their and they’re but not there. By the end I could feel the spazzy electric buzz in my jaw so didn’t push it any further. But still—there’s must be something in cold meds that suppresses some of my epileptic symptoms. Not all of them. It doesn’t stop hypergraphia (hence this) but it did let me read aloud. Groovy. I can swill cold meds and go to beatnik coffee houses and read my weirdest shit to wide eyed college coeds. Or I can read aloud and nod off in front of the television in an antihistamine stupor. Sounds like weed, actually, except NyQuil doesn’t make you hungry. Or horny. Or giggling at the stupidest things.
Dig that crazy long paragraph. Time to stop writing.
So I just spazzsplained a memory lapse to someone. It was a long windy paragraph and she listened, too polite to interrupt. I finished and there was a long second, then another, even longer, and then she asked if I meant that it was on the tip of her tongue? Um, yeah, I said, that’s what I meant. OK, she said, just wondering, and as she turned round I caught her rolling her eyes in the mirror.
Sometimes when I try to say pharmacy I stutter. If I say farm I don’t stutter. My wife asks if I can say pharmacy if it’s spelled with an F. Farmacy I say. And if it’s spelled with a Ph? I stammered. So you don’t have a problem if it’s misspelled with an F? Apparently not. I can say farm no problem, but if I use a Ph I can feel an electric current buzzing in my jaw. You’re such a big spazz she says.
I can’t read aloud anymore. A sentence, maybe another with brief stammers, then bam, word salad. That’s new, the word salad. Rather puts a damper on my plans of readings. Visions of readings, really, of muscular prose in dulcet radio tones, the phonemes like individual notes, words like chords, narratives as melody, rhythms rhythm, syncopating punctuation. Language is music and music is language. They run audibly through my head, these words, but stumble in the mouth. The jaw goes out of whack, electrons buzz like faulty wiring, the synapses synapsing all wrong, I can feel their confusion like low current electricity for an hour afterward, can feel it now, in fact, the jaw twitching. An epileptic’s life is an endless series of surprises at random times. new symptoms appearing instantly, new disabilities. All we can do is shrug them off. So I read these words knowing they’ll never be uttered aloud, not by me. I shrug. Whatever. Oh well. Damn.