Let's Use Our Brains To End Epilepsy

Let's Use Our Brains To End Epilepsy

Epilepsy affects millions of people, including my loved ones.

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I'll never forget the first time I saw my sister have a grand mal seizure. We were on vacation so my sister and I were sharing a room. I was sleeping on a couch, she was in a sleeping bag on the floor, and our parents were in another room. I had recently gone through lifeguard training in order to be able to start working that summer. I was half-awake on the couch and everyone else was sleeping. My sister was asleep but I heard her make a noise. I thought she was trying to talk to me, so I looked over and said, "What?". She sat up, made another sound, and then started convulsing.

I knew immediately what was happening and got up from the couch and ran into the room my parents were sleeping in. I shook them awake and told them my sister was having a seizure. But when my parents ran into the room, my sister was back asleep, laying down peacefully. Even though I kept insisting I knew what I had seen, my parents were doubtful because they had nothing to go off of. For a period of time, that was the end of that.

A few weeks later, my sister had another seizure while using the bathroom. I was home in my bedroom and I heard my parents shouting at each other. I came out of my room and my dad confirmed she was having a seizure. "I think you were right," he told me.

Thus began the series of testing and medications being tried out. Unfortunately, during this process, I did witness her have a few seizures, including one afternoon while we were playing a game together on our PS2. I've always wondered if the graphics of the game triggered it. Eventually, she was diagnosed with epilepsy and we learned that she had had seizures all throughout her life up until that point. There are many different kinds of seizure events and the grand mal, or tonic-clonic, that most people associate with seizures is just one of them.

We discovered that prior to the onset of the grand mals, she had experienced absence (or petit-mal) seizures. These are nonconvulsive, however, a person may become unaware of his or her surroundings and may stare off in space or freeze, lasting only 5-30 seconds. When the doctor confirmed this, we felt frustrated having never noticed it before. I had seen her in the past "zone-out", where her eyes would slide out of focus for a few moments. We had always associated this with her other disabilities and never thought it was a sign of another problem.

Even though her epilepsy has proven to be quite treatable with a daily pill, there are many people who have yet to find a treatment that helps them. My sister has other issues that prevent her from being able to work or drive, but many people who live with epilepsy live in fear of experiencing an event while driving, working, or while with family. Watching someone you love have a seizure can be a heart-wrenching experience because there's often not much more you can do but watch and wait for it to end. I've seen my mom have to inject my sister during a really awful one. I don't live with her anymore, but when I visit with her I often worry if she's remembering to take her daily pill.

One in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy, but it doesn't just affect humans. My dog is also epileptic. The first time I ever saw him have a seizure, I thought he had injured his leg because it happened right after he had jumped off the bed. I thought he had broken his legs by his scared, spastic movements. Again, after the episode, I didn't think much of it because he was back to his normal self after a few moments. Until it happened again. My dog is my best friend and it's really difficult to watch him experience a seizure. I am still looking for the best treatment option for him.

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, there are 3.4 million people in the U.S. living with active epilepsy - that's more than Autism Spectrum Disorders, Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis and Cerebral Palsy combined. Yet, Epilepsy receives one-tenth the research funding than any one of those neurological disorders. November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month so consider doing something to help the cause this month. Find out some things you can do to help on the Epilepsy Foundation's website!

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Everything You Will Miss If You Commit Suicide

The world needs you.
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You won’t see the sunrise or have your favorite breakfast in the morning.

Instead, your family will mourn the sunrise because it means another day without you.

You will never stay up late talking to your friends or have a bonfire on a summer night.

You won’t laugh until you cry again, or dance around and be silly.

You won’t go on another adventure. You won't drive around under the moonlight and stars.

They’ll miss you. They’ll cry.

You won’t fight with your siblings only to make up minutes later and laugh about it.

You won’t get to interrogate your sister's fiancé when the time comes.

You won’t be there to wipe away your mother’s tears when she finds out that you’re gone.

You won’t be able to hug the ones that love you while they’re waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had become their reality.

You won’t be at your grandparents funeral, speaking about the good things they did in their life.

Instead, they will be at yours.

You won’t find your purpose in life, the love of your life, get married or raise a family.

You won’t celebrate another Christmas, Easter or birthday.

You won’t turn another year older.

You will never see the places you’ve always dreamed of seeing.

You will not allow yourself the opportunity to get help.

This will be the last sunset you see.

You’ll never see the sky change from a bright blue to purples, pinks, oranges and yellows meshing together over the landscape again.

If the light has left your eyes and all you see is the darkness, know that it can get better. Let yourself get better.

This is what you will miss if you leave the world today.

This is who will care about you when you are gone.

You can change lives. But I hope it’s not at the expense of yours.

We care. People care.

Don’t let today be the end.

You don’t have to live forever sad. You can be happy. It’s not wrong to ask for help.

Thank you for staying. Thank you for fighting.

Suicide is a real problem that no one wants to talk about. I’m sure you’re no different. But we need to talk about it. There is no difference between being suicidal and committing suicide. If someone tells you they want to kill themselves, do not think they won’t do it. Do not just tell them, “Oh you’ll be fine.” Because when they aren’t, you will wonder what you could have done to help. Sit with them however long you need to and tell them it will get better. Talk to them about their problems and tell them there is help. Be the help. Get them assistance. Remind them of all the things they will miss in life.

For help, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Cover Image Credit: Brittani Norman

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Floating In A Sensory Deprivation Tank Was What I Needed To Finally Find Calmness Again

"Alone in the dark naked in warm water," I thought, "like I'm back in the womb I guess."

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I'm not the type of person to fall for what I used to call "hippie-shit." Growing up in a household where mental illness was basically a myth and emotional vulnerability was seen as a weakness, practices such as meditation and therapy were avoided and ridiculed at all costs. I'd solve my mental issues by telling myself "mama ain't raised no bitch" or go back to one quote from the movie "Bitter Melon" that actually came out last year, which stated, "depression is for white people." And while it kept me on my feet for so long, it was simply just avoidance.

That is until it all built up and my life went spiraling out of control one semester and I figured it was time for me to finally confront these feelings. Vented to my parents for the first time, dropped out of college, found a therapist, mediated, dropped toxic people, and after four grueling months of self-care and self-realization and my brother nagging me to try it, I found myself in the dark naked in a tub of salt-water.

To be more specific I was actually in what is known as a sensory deprivation tank. For those who are not familiar with it, to put it simply it is an enclosed tub of skin-temperature water that has nearly 1000 pounds of Epsom salt dissolved into it, which then gives off a high buoyancy that makes you feel weightless. Combine that feeling of weightlessness with earplugs and complete darkness and that is what I experienced for 60 minutes.

That being said, before trying it out I was terrified. The whole drive to the sensory deprivation tank, I looked like I was fine but my mind was going apeshit. "Alone in the dark naked in warm water," I thought, "like I'm back in the womb I guess." My brother, who was driving me to the place, had no idea what was going on inside my mind within that 30-minute drive: it was a lot. However, after my anxiety-driven trot into the business, I was met with assorted teas and like-minded people, and it put me in a fairly comfortable sense of ease.

While waiting for my tub to be prepared, I found this journal laying on top of the coffee table in the waiting room. I didn't expect much from it until I opened it and saw these beautiful messages and drawings from the people who experienced the tank. In it were detailed colored pencil drawings of people submerged in pools of water and extremely heartfelt/personal stories of individuals who found inner-peace and self-realization through the tank. One anonymous person wrote that one must "let all their anxieties sink to the bottom."

And I didn't touch upon it well enough, but the months before deciding to try the sensory deprivation tank were one of the hardest and most mentally draining months of my entire life. And while it did come with a lot of hardship, it resulted in me developing a much deeper appreciation in the process of healing and learning to understand yourself. As someone who used to hate "hippie-shit," I was there sitting in the waiting room, sipping green tea, reading soppy stories and waiting for my sensory deprivation tank to be prepared: it was great.

Now everyone says their first experience in the tank is different. My first few minutes in the tank were more humorous than most because that I had no idea what I was doing. You'd think after reading those stories I'd lay down in the tub and disappear into complete transformative bliss, but that was not the case at first. I wasn't nearly prepared for the buoyancy the salt created in the water that I slid across the tub due to how easy it was to float. Add to that my intense fear of the dark. The man who worked there recommended to turn off the music and the lights inside the tank after you're acclimated for the full effect and once I had turned off the light my heart jumped and I turned it right back on. Think of it as "Birdbox" and "A Quiet Place" combined. However, once I eased my nerves a bit and laid still, that's when the magic happened.

I'd say the sensory deprivation tank was like an intense form of mediation. After being acclimated to tank, a lot of thoughts raced through my mind, which is normal when doing something similar to meditation. The trick is to acknowledge these thoughts, then simply let them go. And once my mind was clear, I heard nothing but my own heartbeat. When I breathed in the water rose up and when I breathed out the water went down with me. As cheesy as it sounds, I felt like ripples of water. And once you're in that state, you kind of just disappear.

I greatly appreciate forms of mediation because I see it as an escape. In my opinion, it is the purest form of self-help because no matter how cluttered your mind is or how horrible the world seems around you, you're giving yourself that period of time to think of absolutely nothing and to allow your body and soul to just breathe. The night after experiencing the sensory deprivation tank I was in such a calm state. Much like what the person in the journal stated, it was like my anxieties fell to the bottom of the water. I fell for the "hippie-shit" and in turn, I've never been happier. And with that and the words from the movie It, I hope that maybe "you'll float too."

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