In his paper “Effects of Chronic Temporal Lobe Epilepsy on Memory Function,” Dr. Christoph Helmstaedter Ph.D. writes:
Declarative memory processing, that is the acquisition of and the later access to newly acquired information, is one of the most essential human cognitive functions. Declarative memory establishes continuity in a steadily changing world and thus provides the basic of the individuals biography, its identity, and its cognitive behavioral development. In temporal lobe epilepsy, this type of memory is characteristically impaired when mesiotemporal and associated neocortical structures are affected by lesions, ongoing epileptic activity, or undesired treatment effects [e.g. operative treatment].
Memory is a basic function we all take advantage of; however, for the epileptic plagued with temporal lobe epilepsy, memory is an unreliable factor in an already unstable world.
Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) is a seizure disorder with a unique symptomatology. Unlike the classic grand mal seizures – which can and do occur with this form of epilepsy, TLE seizures are likely to be simple partial and complex partial. A TLE sufferer can experience visual, sensory, auditory or olfactory auras prior to (or in lieu of) a complex seizure.
During a complex partial seizure, a person may stare off into space, make incoherent noises, smack their lips or make repetitive movements with their hands, feet or eye, yet is not aware of what is going on around them. During a simple partial seizure, a person may make flapping gestures, repetitive movements, face twitches or experience, sensory, olfactory, visual or auditory hallucinations but remain aware of his environment. He can interact with those around him. Those with TLE can even experience extreme moments of deja vu and jema vu. TLE can lead to tonic clonic — or grand mal – seizures.
With time, TLE patients with hippocampal sclerosis (damage to the hippocampus) can experience a steady decline in their cognitive ability. This can take various forms. Short term wise, I find myself forgetting I took my medicine three minutes after I have taken it. Or forgetting when the last time I ate (not good when I’m on a medication that reduces my appetite).
Unfortunately, to reduce my olfactory auras and absence seizures, I’m on various medications — which is the norm. The first really slams my grammar and spelling scores. This is a common side effect, and there is nothing that can be done about it.
Years ago, I was working at a newspaper and was put on this medication. I had absolutely no warning what this medication would do. There I was, a 4.0 writing student out in the journalism world. It started out great and turned south as soon as my dose hit a therapeutic level. Editors returned copies riddled with marks. What had suddenly changed? After a few months I was healthy and jobless. I left that newspaper with a sour taste for journalism, which unfortunately still follows me. And despite later working for a different, larger paper, (which treated its employees great!), I still don’t care to work at another paper.
When you have seizures, every day can be a struggle. Exhaustion and stress increase your auras, and eventually, your seizures. You can lose your ability to drive. Family and friends, even ex-co-workers begin treating you differently. I, personally, rely on everybody to escort me around, unless I want to be housebound. And this makes me feel isolated. And it is all exhausting.
That, people, is life with epilepsy.
I know this blog is Endometriosis: The Silent Life Sentence, but any invisible illness is a silent life sentence. Isn’t it?
*FYI: I revisited this post after 2 days and found numerous errors. They are now fixed (or so I believe). Just proves my point. Even with 4 pass overs, I can’t see all of them without setting it aside and coming back.