Epilepsy

Seizures And Memory: Life Flashing Before Your Eyes

“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.” ― Haruki Murakami

The human brain is the most fascinating, marvelous, intricate and yet most understood organ of the human body.  There is so much that is known of the brain, however more has yet to be discovered. Reflect a moment on all of the things that our brains are capable of. Capable of memorizing numbers, painting a masterpiece, solving puzzles, building structures, the list goes on and on.

The human brain is capable of storing memories. Hundreds of thousands of memories throughout your lifetime. Memories that you can easily recall and memories that require perhaps a trigger in order to recall certain details or aspects. For instance, putting up a tent on a camping trip with your child and remembering an instance of your own childhood. Or perhaps, visiting a place from years past and recalling a particular person you stood there with that you haven’t thought of in years.

Yesterday, within the middle of my shift at work, a seizure made a brazen attempt to break though. My vision slipped away from me almost completely. I could see very little but was masked with blurred and double vision. Patches of pastel color and white spots. As I have before, I made attempts to will my brain to fight off the oncoming seizure activity. I grabbed a notepad and began to sketch what was before me. A stuffed animal penguin. I willed my brain to recall details of the penguin and sketch it identically on paper, detail for detail. This action, is one that I thought up on my own. Distraction. Distracting myself and my brain from what is happening in attempts to get my brain back on track. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work. In my attempts to regain control, the seizure was putting up a good fight to try and break through. As I continued to sketch the penguin and verbally encourage myself that everything would be okay, I began to smell and taste a distinct metallic sensation. The metallic sensation is a very common sensation that can precede a seizure. The metallic sensation then turned to what appeared to be that of burning wires. Simply terrible. I thought to myself in that moment, “Well, this is going to happen and I must prepare.” Note, there was no one around. No customers, no employees. Yes I was certainly worried but confident that I could find a way through this. As I prepared to take a seat on the floor to ensure that I would not fall and injure myself during what I was sure was going to develop into a grand mal seizure, my distorted vision suddenly turned into a fast-forward flash back of memories. Memories ranging from childhood to teenage years, to even most recent memories. Memories of faces, places, moments of joy, heartache, excitement and devastation. Memories so real, I swore I could reach out and grasp them. Embrace them.

But how? How could this be? How could it be possible? Can seizures dig up memories? This wasn’t the first occurrence of this happening but never had it felt so realistic until this day. Within the fast-forward flash back, I saw people I hadn’t thought of in years. I recalled childhood memories as if I were reliving it detail for detail. I felt the warmth of days from years long ago. I felt the heartbreak of relationships I never wanted to revisit again. What felt like a long drawn out span of time viewing these memories was in reality only about a minute or so. I felt tears welling up in my eyes. Not as a result of the potential seizure, but the memories that were being recalled. Thank God, when the flashback came to an end, the seizure never successfully broke through. No grand-mal seizure. I was going to be okay. The attempt left me with a searing migraine and a nauseous stomach.

Astonishing how our brains work. Incredible how electrical activity in the brain, could potentially awaken memories stored within our brains that we think we may have lost forever. Memories that we think were never there at all. How many experience this phenomenon? At first, I thought I was the only one. I thought perhaps, the things that I recalled simply could not be true. Indeed they were true memories from my lifetime. However, in speaking with a great friend of mine Angie, she revealed that her son experiences the same phenomenon!

I truly believe this is something that neurologists and scientists should have a deeper look into. Can the brain really do this? I know that it can. I experienced it first hand on more than one occasion. One new way revealing how intricate our brains truly are.

blowing-a-dandelion

I am a happily-ever-after wife, an Epilepsy Diagnosee, Advocate for Epilepsy Awareness (The Epilepsy Network), life lover & Christ inspired! Life is a journey and I'm loving every moment of it. Even the bumps in the road!

4 Comments

    • Tiffany

      The smell and memory thing is funny that I am reading this tonight. My worse seizure ever from what I have been told was this past Sunday. Which I believe a trigger was possibly a man at Church smelled just like my deceased Dad. But before that I was so drunk feeling and twitching. However, since my seizures so many past memorys that I have choose to lock away in my mind have began to come up.

  • Kerry

    This exact same thing just happened to me too it was actually quite scary. What does this all mean? Or how does our brain connect connect things like that and how does it happen?

  • Christopher Grissom

    I have struggled with my memory triggered epilepsy for about 9 years diagnosed now. Tiffany your post “Christ Inspired” drew me to read your writings on my search for “memory triggered” as I too have been blessed with an aura that lets me be aware that the potential is there for a seizure. Although I have never experienced anything more than a momentary bought, I am extremely fortunate to know that my Desha-vu feeling of a memory can trigger the seizure. I also smell and taste the metallic and often compare it to the same smell that is had from cleaning a post on a car battery. Or the taste associated from when my brother and I were kids and would dare each other to stick your tongue on a 9 volt battery. If it was real bad, I am often ready to nap after only sometimes do I get the headaches. The other thing that has occurred to me on occasion after an event are the cold sweats, and a flush or pale skin. Not sure if that is something anyone else has dealt with?

    I have found too that by knowing this warning sign if I dwell on the thought it usually gets worse, or I have often been able to redirect my thoughts and avoid the seizures as well. It works most times, but not all times, so it is important to respect the feeling and stop everything that you may be doing to avoid physical hurt to your self or others. It also seems as if same memories of that time or event have triggered more than once an event so I am certain that area in that part of my brain has something to do with it, although I am just a guy trying to control it. Full brain scans done over the years show nothing wrong and my neurologist continues to work with me to understand the electrical mishaps of my brain.

    I have not spent enough time learning more about the causes of this, and yesterday had an event during a church service which was the first in close to a year. My minister is aware of the situation, stopped the service briefly to make sure I was ok, I assured him I was and that I was, and so on we went only to be prayed for at the end of service. He is also a educated psychologist and is always intrigued by my self taught way of as you say “distract” myself which has worked for me in the past, but also – no always. I will be vacationing later this month with my dad, brother, and cousin to Montana and will likely take that time to try and get back into educating myself more.

    God bless you and all others fighting like us. It’s not so much an embarrassment to me any longer as it is a frustration that I can’t always control it. If you have read any books or can suggest any articles you’ve enjoyed or learned from, I will make the time to read them.

    Thanks Chris

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