What Are Seizures?

This is an opinion article, my opinion, and in no way as a medical authority/expert/anything.


According to Google-based medical definitions, seizures are:


  • “A sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain”
  • “Sudden, abnormal activity in the brain”
  • “Certain nerve cells in the brain misfiring”


(Please note, these are not guaranteed to be from actual medical professionals)


Historically, seizures are:


  • The voice of a God speaking through a person (a “sacred disease” in Ancient Greece)
  • Demonic possession or divine punishment
  • A sign of madness and required institutionalization


(Degree in Ancient History = Random knowledge although I can’t cite it off hand)


Seizures have been around for awhile. The definitions currently seem to be pretty consistent with each other, but given the evolution from being a good thing to being a sign of demons, who knows where we will be in another 200 (or 2000) years?


Seizures are not specific to epilepsy. There are lots of other circumstances where individuals who have seizures experience them as a result of another medical condition. There are circumstances where individuals have one seizure completely out of the blue and never have one again. They can be the result of brain surgery (or ceased in the same manner). Seizures can be happening for years before any kind of condition is recognized or diagnosed because there are so many types of seizures. Individuals may have one type of seizure, or they might have all types of seizures. There can be specific triggers (either to start the condition in the first place, or to start each episode) or there can be no triggers.


So what are seizures? Are they indicative of epilepsy as a sacred disease? Are they divine punishment? Are they a surge of electrical activity? Do we actually know?


The answer is: No. I’m sure there are lots of doctors and neurologists who would disagree with me and say that we totally know what seizures and epilepsy are, but the Ancient Greeks totally knew what they were too. All any definition (for anything) is, is based on time.


What we do know, is that seizures are different for everyone. No matter what the medical or historical definitions are or have been, seizures are a personal experience for each and every single individual. Each and every single time. Seizures may be traumatic, both/either physically and mentally to one person and may be minor to another person. Seizures may be frequent and unremarkable in one condition, or uncommon and terrifying. I could never speak for another person with any kind of seizure condition because I do not know what it means to them and I do not know what their history is with it. Some people are born with it and have always known it. Some people develop it as adults and have a longer memory of the time without it. I don’t know either of those circumstances and I cannot visualize what those experiences would be like. I may be able to relate to experiences, whether that’s been physical, emotional, social or medical, but I cannot know what a person’s life has been like with seizures (just as I cannot know what it has been like without it or with a different condition). I don’t understand how seizures affect other people, but I can always always always respect them.


Seizures have changed who I am and have built me into who I am. As a teenager, I had to become (somewhat) responsible because I suddenly had a medical condition. There are things I could not do, and things I was told that I could not do. Seizures dictated my decision making, whether I respected them and considered the impact, or decided things just to be contrary.


What are seizures? Seizures are a part of life. Seizures are a part of my life. Seizures are a part of the lives of the people around me. It is not just when the seizures happen, or immediately following an episode. It’s all the rest of the time, when all of the purses I purchase have to have space for me to bring medication. It’s all the rest of the time, when I am constantly aware of my surroundings. When I have to ensure someone knows where I’m going when I’m running alone. When I run more than regularly, because I don’t know when I might be out for a few days. When I am constantly caught up on studying or work for the same reason. I worried on the days I graduated, on the day of my wedding, and any day that I travel. Seizures are a part of my life whether the seizure occurs or not.


What are seizures? Seizures are a catalyst to change. Seizures are a foundation stone, or maybe the keystone. Seizures are an avalanche. Seizures are a short-circuit or an electrical surge. Seizures are something that happens in my brain that I don’t completely understand. Seizures are part of my life experience, but they are not my only life experience. No matter what seizures are, what they are not is the definition of who I am or what I can do. And in my opinion, that applies to everyone.


As a side point, I also particularly like the definition as a sacred disease, if for no other reason than it gives me some use to that degree in Ancient History.

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