My Brain Screams

manipulated detail photo of saguaro catus by wendy holcombe

For over a year now I’ve been hit with one thing after another. Last Fall my bipolar medication stopped working and I basically had a psychotic break with the mania/rage going way out of control and battling a lot of medication side effects before we finally got that under control. Then I had a severe UTI that caused hydronephrosis in both kidneys, I had a cyst removed from my scalp that got horribly infected and I had a reaction to the antibiotics. In April the severe intractable migraine started and has continually gotten worse; over the last couple of months I’ve been having an escalation of cluster headaches, at least one a week. and now my antidepressants have stopped working. All this while we have been looking for a house, in the worse housing market I have ever seen, and we have to move from our rental by the end of November.

It is any wonder my brain has decided to check out?

In 2016 I started having seizures during an extremely stressful time of my life. It was determined they were psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. You can read more about that in this post: Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures What Are They? Since that time I haven’t had many, only a few and only in times of great pain (like when I was in the ER for my migraine) or extreme stress (like after a vertigo attack that happened during the mania). Lately they have been coming regularly. It is increasing my pain levels dramatically. When I have a seizure it looks like a grand mal seizure. It starts with my right hand twitching, then the arm goes, and the whole right side twitches and curves back, my head draws back, my muscles are all tight and spasming. It is very painful, and my neck and shoulder on the right side still hurt so much. I feel tingly on that side, and I just feel so off. During the seizure I am mostly aware, but I can’t do anything. Sometimes I’m not as aware, sometimes I’m very confused when it’s over. I always cry when it’s over. I feel so exposed, vulnerable, scared, and unsafe.

Just a year ago I was doing so much better I bought a car. I was driving, cooking, shopping, painting, swimming…. I don’t understand what happened. I’m not asking “Why me?” or anything like that, I’m simply confused. I know we made a major move, but I was doing pretty good for the first few months we were here, so I really don’t think it was the stress of moving. But I guess one stress could possibly have snow balled into a bigger stress… into a bigger stress… into more illness…but who really knows. All this could have happened no matter what. It could have happened independently, but it just happened to happen one right after another I suppose.

Where does it leave me now?

Migraines – I’m still starting Aimovig on the 28th for my migraines, but I won’t know if it’s working for 3 months. I just finished a round of steroids hoping to get a break from the pain, it did lower the pain level, but they made me so sick I couldn’t enjoy it. (Oh boy was I sick, Meniere’s and steroids do not mesh well together, at least not with me). I may go to the pain clinic to get injections in my neck, I haven’t decided about that yet. Just a little scared about that one. Oh, the Migranal nasal spray is working as a rescue medication, thankfully. It doesn’t completely take it away, but it comes close, so I am having a little bit of relief twice a week. More than I was getting, but as I said, it doesn’t take it all away, it takes it from a 10 to a 7 or maybe, if I’m lucky a 6. Ah….a 6…but that is a rarity.

Mental Health – I started a new antidepressant, Trintellix, on Tuesday. I’m to try it for 2 weeks and if it doesn’t work we’re going to try Ketamine. I’ve tried everything else. This should be interesting. I’m working with both my psychiatrist and my psychologist about my seizures. I need to get my pain and stress under control. One step at a time. Just one moment at a time.

Home life – We’ll be moving into one of Stuart’s dad’s houses the beginning of November. The house Stuart grew up in. We aren’t sure if we’ll continue to look for a house to buy, or if we’ll stay there and renovate his house. The house is a bit further out than we planned to live, so we’re going to live there for a while to see how we like it. Kinda cool that we can do that. I’ve just been freaking out a little about not having a home, and needing to settle down. I’ve been feeling so lost and temporary ever since we moved from our house, six years ago, but it’s been so much worse since we moved here. When we moved here we basically got rid of everything. We have 2 chairs in our living room, and one is very uncomfortable. We have no dining room furniture. Our home is very sparse. We did not plan on renting for this long. It’s just so hard on me. This has just been so hard. I need stability. I NEED IT.

Right now I feel very alone, vulnerable, and scared. The only place I feel safe is in my husband’s arms. He literally saves my life every day. I told him that if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here any more. So much pain, both physically and mentally…it’s just so much. And my amazing husband told me that he loves me so much, he never wants to lose me, but it also makes him feel guilty because he knows how much I’m suffering. I don’t know how I ended up with such an amazing man. He’ll never know how much it helps me to know he hears me.

I have so much, a wonderful husband, a roof over my head, nice clothes, good food, access to quality health care, support…. and yet I’m so unhappy. I’m so very sad. It hurts so much. My thoughts are consumed with pain. I find no enjoyment in anything. A friend posted a question on her blog asking if you found out you were going to die what would you regret not doing more of….and I could not answer that question. First I thought, not helping others more, getting more involved…. But then I tried to think of something I enjoyed that I would wish I had done more of, and I had nothing. There are things I used to love to do, but now…..not so much. My art…nope. Cooking…too much work. Taking pictures…can’t see it. I can think of nothing. All I do is sit and color by number. And that’s not for enjoyment, it’s to take my mind off of the pain…the migraine, the chronic daily headache, the back pain, the neck pain, the hip pain, the bladder pain, the pelvic pain…so much pain every day.

life is suffering. life is pain. life is ever changing. life is impermanence.

Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures – What are they?

eye with monster

I want to tell you a little about something that is going on with me.  This is very difficult to talk about.  Admitting this is happening to me is difficult.  Talking about it is difficult.  It shouldn’t be this difficult, but it is.

You may remember back in February I was hospitalized for having seizures and it was then determined that I do not have epilepsy.  It was thought that a medication I was on may have caused the seizures but that isn’t the case, I’ve had more seizures since being off the medication.  (some people prefer to call these seizures events or episodes instead of seizures since the brain is not firing like it does during a true seizure.)   I do not have them regularly, and I haven’t had many, but I do still have them.

“A seizure is a temporary loss of control, often with abnormal movements, unconsciousness, or both. Epileptic seizures are caused by sudden abnormal electrical discharges in the brain. Psychogenic (non-epileptic) seizures are attacks that look like epileptic seizures, but are not caused by abnormal electrical discharges. They are stress-related or “emotional.” They are sometimes called pseudoseizures, but “psychogenic non-epileptic seizures” (PNES) is now the preferred term.” -1

The type of seizures I get are psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES).  By definition, PNES are a physical manifestation of a psychological disturbance and are a type of Somatoform Disorder called a conversion disorder.-1  “For some patients with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures, the seizures are a manifestation of trauma, which is also known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In order to treat patients with PTSD, the clinician has to take the seizure apart to see what the seizure represents in terms of emotions and memory as well as where this trauma is stored in the body.”(Kelley)-1

Since many people with epilepsy have normal reading with an EEG, PNES is diagnosed by an EEG with video monitoring which has to be read by a specialist in epilepsy.  Diagnosis this way is nearly 100% accurate.  There are about 10% of patients with epilepsy who also have PNES.

“PNES, unlike epileptic seizures, are not the result of a physical brain disease. Rather, they are emotional, stress-induced, and result from traumatic psychological experiences, sometimes from the forgotten past. It is well known that emotional or psychological stresses can produce physical reactions in people with no physical illness. For example, everyone has blushed in embarrassment or been nervous and anxious as part of a “stage fright” reaction. Today, we also know that more extreme emotional stresses can actually cause physical illnesses.”-1

As my psychiatrist said, my brain just gets to the point where it decides it can’t handle any more and says screw it.  I’m seeing a psychiatrist for medication to help with anxiety and my normal bipolar stuff, and whatever else comes up.  I’m seeing a psychologist for therapy to try to figure out what is causing this.  I’m not going to discuss what is causing my seizures because frankly we aren’t exactly sure yet.

Today I wanted to make people aware that psychogenic non-epileptic seizures are real.  People cannot control them.  People often refuse to accept the diagnosis because of the stigma related to it.  Family and often physicians do not understand that the patient cannot control what is happening to them.  I wanted you to know that you know someone who is going through this, and I have no control over it.  I also wanted people to know they are not as rare as you may think,  “in the general population the prevalence rate is 2-33 per 100, 000, making PNES nearly as prevalent as multiple sclerosis or trigeminal neuralgia”.-2

for more information please read

  1. Psychogenic (Non-Epileptic) Seizures by University of South Florida College of Medicine
  2. The Truth about Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures