My first encounter with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

Regardless of what generation, country, race or creed, an attitude the young have always possessed is that they’re invincible. Poor health is something reserved for our elderly years. Sure, injuries from reckless acts of adventure and pains amidst the trials of sporting glory aren’t uncommon, but there are random ills that can hit anybody at any time when they least suspect it.

That sounds pretty gloomy I know, like something Eeyore would say while Pooh is trying to enjoy his honey, but it’s a reality I discovered in my mid-twenties in which a condition that was furthest from my mind (no pun intended) came from out of nowhere.

Back in the New Zealand summer of 2006, I remember enjoying an afternoon with friends wandering the Auckland Museum, checking out suits of armour and that awesomness of a spitfire warplane that the staff somehow carried up a flight of stairs. Not the hippest sounding adventure I know, but as I walked back to my car I was visited by a slow sense of dread, followed by a lighting bolt of nostalgia so strong that it conjured up memories of an indescribable childhood cartoon or video game; very akin to the All Your Base Are Belong to Us video meme.

The imagery was so vivid and strange and I just couldn’t explain what was occurring. This was joined by every inch of my skin tingling with cold sweat and my stomach on the verge of emptying its contents. It all slowly washed away and I was naturally feeling a bit confused as to what had just happened. It was a hot summer’s day, and I was dressed as if in a Kings of Leon fashion shoot, so perhaps I didn’t drink enough water and this was my body requesting a top up. In a rather bizarre fashion.

A few weeks a later I was enjoying some other normalcy of life when exactly the same thing happened. Foreboding aura, crazy cartoon thoughts, sweat, and a nauseating grip on my gut. When it happened AGAIN after a few weeks I thought it might be a good idea to visit the doc who would give me the usual advice (get more sleep, drink water until you pee every 5 minutes etc.) As he let out a ‘hmmm’ following my tale, he declared I most likely had a form of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, should go see a neurologist to confirm this, and have an x-ray of my skull on the side. That x-ray I took the next day confirmed there was something inside my brain causing this craziness. The concerned neurologist sent a request for an MRI to glimpse whether it was a tumour, and the downside to free NZ state healthcare being I had nervously wait a while. I guess it didn’t cost an arm and a leg, alongside my brain, which it’s known to in the US.

The conclusion they came to was I had a benign angioma‘ in my brain, kind of like a jelly bean sized birthmark which would occasionally ooze blood into my sensitive temporal lobe. It’s akin to slowly dripping water onto a computer’s motherboard until it triggers your screen to show a scrambled intro to Robotech. The temporal lobe is where our memories and speech are focused, so my incredible deja vu was caused by a reaction in that exact location. My epilepsy became a lot more complicated down the track, but I’ll save this for more posts in the future. At least not the dream like past my brain kept wanting to visit.

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