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Have You Felt Supported By Your Neurology Team?

Have You Felt Supported By Your Neurology Team?

Today I am asking an importing question, have you felt supported by your neurology team? From your diagnosis, through to the altering medications, the life changing moments, and even the highs and the lows that epilepsy brings.

As epilepsy is a life long condition, your neurologist becomes an important part of your life.

You would expect your neurology team to provide you with all the help and support you require regarding epilepsy, however not everyone receives it and I have been one of those people. Today I have decided to share my experiences with you.

This has taken a lot of consideration,  as I wanted to remain as positive as possible about epilepsy, but I realised that if I am open about my experiences I could potentially help other people, and this is what this blog is all about.

 

My Experience of Neurology Teams

Thankfully, I have great memories of my first neurologist. She provided me with all the advice and guidance I could need, in one situation, she even brought in one of the top UK paediatric neurologists to see me. I couldn’t fault the care.

I had a neurologist who asked if I was learning to drive when I was 17, this was his reply when I told him I was learning;

You shouldn’t be learning to drive, your epilepsy isn’t controlled! I demand that you hand your provisional licence into the DVLA at once!… (few minutes gap as no one was talking) I won’t be upset if I were you, I have to tell taxi drivers and bus drivers that they can no longer drive every day, and driving is their living, this is nothing to you!”

So as you can imagine I left that appointment upset. The moment I turned 16 healthcare professionals became obsessed with topics such as pregnancy while never discussing the subject of driving. (I wouldn’t have had lessons otherwise). But a decade later I have no children and I can legally drive 🙂

I will confess that I wasn’t exactly the perfect patient either, up to this point not one medication had worked for me. It’s frustrating when medications begin to alter your mood, increase your weight and damage other aspects of your health for little or no gain. So I decided to see how different my life would be like medication free.

I soon had a new consultant who was overly anxious when she discovered that I was medication free. I consider myself to have very mild epilepsy with perhaps one seizure a year, and although I appreciate that I was at risk without medication when I wasn’t taking medication I felt the same, perhaps better, because I had freedom from side-effects and saw no increase in seizures.

My neurologist would frequently discuss the seriousness of my condition even mentioning that I could die if I wasnt on medication.

I can remembering thinking that if someone has cancer and decides to decline treatment, the doctor respects their decision. But this situation felt pressured…

I was about 18, I was home alone, still medication free, and my support nurse called me. It was obvious that the intention of her call was to get me on medication again. I explained to her that I was doing well and was concentrating on a healthy lifestyle. She told me to stay away from ‘stupid’ ideas (which she apologised for) and later went on to explain to me that she has had ‘patients who have died from this’. I urged to her that my epilepsy is thankfully minor and always produces plenty of notice and auras. Her reply, ‘what if it doesn’t?’  Eventually, I pitifully agreed to begin medication again, hung up the phone and cried. I felt like a push over.

After two years of trying various medications, I found on that thankfully worked.

After my consultant were pleased that my medication was working, I received a letter signing me off from their care.

 

Why did I share this story?

I know I don’t have the most positive experience with some of my neurologists or support nurses, and I have not written this article to slam neurology departments. I fully appreciate that the hospital had to be realistic and had to provide the information related to my condition, and I am grateful for the work they do, but I sometimes wonder how different the outcome would have been if they had been slightly more tactful and resourceful.  There were times where I would leave appointments upset, reaching the car and beginning to sob, but thankfully my mum was there to give me the best encouragement, support…and hugs 🙂

If you have a child, relative or friend who is experiencing similar I think it’s important to place as many positive thoughts in their mind, telling them that you are always there to talk, and reminding them of all the amazing things that they can achieve.

 

How Supported Have You Felt By Your Neurology Team?

You might think that the neurology team are not supposed to be there to support you, just to give you medical and professional advice.

I however think that having a diagnosis of epilepsy is a life changing and lifelong one which requires support and positivity where possible.

I would be interested to know different people’s experiences and views of their neurology team and how supported they have felt.

Thanks for reading,

Becky 🙂

 

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Auras: Do They Help or Hinder?

Auras: Do They Help or Hinder?

When someone has epilepsy, they can also have auras.

What’s an Aura?

An aura is basically a warning that a seizure is about to happen. They can be different for everyone, meaning that the symptoms, the intensity and amount of auras can be different for each person, plus not everyone with epilepsy will suffer with auras.

What are Auras Like?

Here are some examples of what auras can be like. They can have varying symptoms. Some people might have just one symptom or a combination of symptoms:

  • Tingling or numbness
  • Feeling of déjà vu
  • Having a strange taste in their mouth
  • Hearing a strange sound or ringing
  • Smelling an odd smell (normally bad)
  • A tight feeling in the stomach or throat
  • Seeing flashing lights or colours

(You can look here for a more complex list of aura symptoms if you wish)

During my time with epilepsy auras have hindered my life more than seizures. When my epilepsy was uncontrolled I would perhaps have 2 tonic-clonic seizures per year at the most. This surprised many people, even my doctors. But I could suffer with auras daily, and as they are warnings for ‘seizures yet to come’, I was constantly worried.

I don’t know how common this is, but I have always had a rough pattern to my auras, the symptoms would initially begin light and build to a terrifying experience. The benefit of this? Observers know whats coming, next.

A description of a strong Aura I have experienced:

  • Starts with a sinking feeling, and then my stomach churns.
  • Déjà vu kicks in and I start staring at a point in the room considering the notion of familiarity during that moment in time, I also have a sense of panic as I don’t like what’s happening.
  • Next, although I don’t hallucinate or physically see anything, I feel as though a dream is replaying in my head really fast (this is something I hate), combined with that feeling of déjà vu.
  • Then, I feel as though I am just watching myself on automatic as I see myself go from one room to the next and I don’t feel as though I’m consciously doing it.
  • I’m usually very sick, so I watch myself run to the bathroom.
  • Witnesses have been afraid that I am no longer myself but I’ve always been fully aware of my surroundings, I’ve been afraid as I know what’s to come. It’s like falling down the rabbit hole (like my reference?*) knowing you can’t return after a certain point.
  • I try to resist the auras and communicate with others about what’s happening. But at this point the aura has become too intense and my speech and communication has begun to suffer, its infuriating as inside the information is clear and no matter what you try to do no one understands you.

 

It would be rare for auras to get that intense, and I would start to panic if  I’d begin feeling sick with them.

I found that looking after myself e.g. getting rest or removing myself from worry was all that I needed to stop the auras.

I once had a job which was extremely stressful. On a few occasions I was aware of my auras building, as I couldn’t remove the stress in work the auras continued to build. On one occasion, some visitors came into my office to find me clutching my bin on my lap as I felt so nauseous and disorientated. I instantly threw the bin on the floor when they entered, but that’s when I realised that my job was affecting my epilepsy too much, it was taking me to the most dangerous part of my auras. I had prioritised my job over my health because that’s what the company wanted me to do. The moment I left, my health  instantly improved.

Auras are a mixed blessing when it comes to epilepsy.  I personally feel they have been the hardest part for me to deal with. I have been known to have a bad aura in the morning and cancel a whole day of plans out of fear of what might happen.  But at the end of the day, although they have been traumatic to experience, whoever knows me can see that a seizure might happen and can look after me purely due to auras.

How do auras affect your epilepsy?  Do they help or hinder?

Feel free to leave a comment!

Thanks for reading!

Becky 🙂

* It’s suggested that Lewis Carroll author of Alice in Wonderland, had epilepsy considering the detailing in the book it is similar to what someone might experience during an aura etc.