When The Seizures Began
About 15 years ago I had a series of blackouts. At the time I was living in Stockton, California, which is about 80 miles east of San Francisco. From my viewpoint the blackouts weren’t so bad. I would blackout suddenly and then come out of it suddenly. It would seem like hours had passed and I’d be light headed, but I was all right. Despite how it felt, the amount of time I’d actually been out was seconds, not hours. One day I had a couple of friends over and it happened. It was the first time one of these short blackouts occurred while anyone else was around. When I opened my eyes they were looking at me with their mouths wide open. It was only through them I found out that my eyes had rolled back in my head and I shook violently. I was having seizures.
I went to my physician who became gravely concerned and immediately rushed me through an MRI and an EEG. He said he was most concerned that it may be from a brain tumor. The tests were inconclusive and the seizures disappeared and the doctor said there was nothing we could do. If I wasn’t having the seizures, there was no way to say where they’d come from. There was nothing to measure.
It was during this time I went through an extremely difficult period mentally. I was depressed and received anti-depressants from my doctor. I also had manic episodes, though, I did not know that’s what they were at the time. I just thought they were uplifting times I wasn’t depressed.
I’m not going to say I have epilepsy. That just seems over-dramatic to me. I’ve never been diagnosed with epilepsy, however, looking at numerous websites, including the Mayo Clinic’s, I fit most of the symptoms.
They Came Back With a Vengeance
Approximately 5 years later I was living in Los Angeles and it started all over again. This time the seizures were different, though. I not only was having seizures, but would experience pain in my head afterwards and I also was suffering from severe vertigo. I brushed them off at first, assuming they’d go away again, but it didn’t end that quickly.
Two events occurred that made me concerned enough to finally see a doctor. The first event was that I stayed lucid. My body and my arms started flailing wildly, and, though my eyes rolled into the back of my head, I had just enough eyesight to see the look of horror on Maurice’s face. I stayed conscious and it was scary. The second event was that I had one seizure and immediately afterwards had another. Two in a row is what scared me the most. This set of seizures began just around the time I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I began wondering if they were related.
Over the years there’s been much conjecture as to whether there is a connection between bipolar disorder and seizures. I read many articles stating it seemed likely that the two were related, but none mentioned any studies to show that relation. But now, a study conducted by the University of Maiduguri, Nigeria sheds at least a little bit of light on the subject.
On 5/18/14, medwireNews reported a study in which, 60 first-degree relatives of epilepsy patients were asked to complete a Mood Disorder Questionnaire. Based on the responses, 14.5% had bipolar disorder, compared with just 2.1% of 50 control hospital visitors who did not have a first-degree relative with bipolar disorder or epilepsy.
In addition, 15.2% of 40 first-degree relatives of bipolar disorder patients had epilepsy, assessed by applying International League Against Epilepsy criteria to the participants’ responses to a predesigned questionnaire. By contrast, just 2.0% of the control group were judged to have epilepsy.
This implies “genetic or/and environmental relationships between the two disorders”, say study author Mohammed Jidda and co-workers in the Journal of Affective Disorders. The researchers concluded “Large family studies of multiple first-degree relatives of bipolar disorder and epilepsy (prelude to twin or/and gene studies) should be conducted to confirm the etiological overlap between the two disorders, resulting from a shared genetic susceptibility.”
The researchers caution that, although the findings are in line with other studies, their research was preliminary and hospital-based, and did not account for many potentially confounding environmental factors and behaviors.
In line with other studies? What other studies? I’ve been looking for years and haven’t found any. They must be top secret, only to be viewed by other researchers.
The Conclusion Is There Is No Conclusion
Regarding the seizures I was having here in L.A., I was transferred from doctor to doctor, including two separate neurologists. I had 3 MRI’s and 3 EEG’s and a CT scan. The results? Inconclusive again. No matter how hard the doctors tried to induce seizures, it never happened while I was being monitored. Once again the seizures went away and I was told that there was no way to give a diagnoses. On my last visit with my neurologist I was frustrated and asked, “So what the hell was happening? What was causing the seizures?” Her response to me was there was no way to know, and that it was a probably a chemical imbalance or something.
I left her office angry, still wondering if there was a connection between seizures and bipolar disorder. I did mull over the fact that she said it was probably a chemical imbalance. After all, the general consensus among doctors is that bipolar disorder is caused by a chemical imbalance. Could they be the same? I can’t say, but I know what I believe.
Those of you that have bipolar, or have family members with bipolar, have you experienced anything similar?