About six and a half years ago, on the morning of my second wedding anniversary, I awoke in the back of an ambulance having no idea how I got there, and yesterday around noon, it happened again. Three others in our office have gone down prior – dead flowers lady semi-recently fainted in our ladies room, another woman several years back ate a slice of kiwi at one of our holiday parties and, as a result, went into anaphylactic shock, and a temporary accountant experienced a spontaneous seizure and was taken out on a stretcher.
After said temporary accountant’s episode, I told AB and JVB, “Don’t laugh – something similar will probably happen to me someday.”
After my spontaneous seizure over six years ago, doctors found a cavernoma in my brain… A cavernoma is a group of improperly formed blood vessels that resembles a raspberry. It’s different, and far less serious, than an aneurysm, as it’s on the slow-flow (venous?) side. A cavernoma has the ability to seep and reabsorb blood, and sometimes the small amount of blood it leaves on the brain can cause a seizure.
I get brain MRI’s every so often to see if it’s changed, and it hasn’t. Mostly it’s just another awesome thing for me to have monitored for the rest of my life, unless it grows, in which case I’ll need brain surgery. Oh, and I have to take a low-dose seizure medication until the day I die too. (Though I’m lucky it controls my seizures, because it has minimal side effects and is safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding.)
When I was pregnant with Matthew, I was considered high risk because of my cavernoma and history of seizures. It didn’t help Matthew, because even standard, high-risk care doesn’t include looking at the umbilical cord on ultrasound. Mostly, my high-risk doctor confused my cavernoma for an aneurysm and tried to bully me into getting multiple brain MRI’s while pregnant (despite my neurologist’s protests), telling me things like, “I had a patient stroke out on the operating table last week. Her husband’s been left to raise their child alone – you don’t want this to be your family here in a few months, now do you?” And I’d cry all the way home. And then, when Matthew actually died, I never heard from this asshole-with-a-God-complex ever again, not even so much as an, “I’m sorry for your loss.” (Fucker.)
So yesterday, around 11:00am, I texted our nanny to ask about Joel, and at 11:22am, she responded like, “He just ate – we’re going on a walk soon!” And I was trying to text her back when I started to feel my head pull to one side and thought, “Shit – I’m having a mini-seizure.” But then, the sensation didn’t go away, and within seconds I found I couldn’t speak, and I also didn’t have any control over my body, and then the room started spinning, and I remember thinking, “I’m going to fall. I’m going to hit my head. No one is going to find me. (My office door was shut.) I might be injured. I might die.” And then everything went black. And, the next thing I knew, I was in the back of an ambulance (with JVB) asking, “Am I going to die?” (It’s my favorite question in the midst of my medical events. Just cut to the chase, damn it.)
So apparently, the woman who sits outside my office heard me hit the floor and was the one who called for help. Mark says my boss called him, and his heart sank when he heard, “Mark, this is Not Christine.” He says I talked to him before I was taken out of the building on a stretcher, but I don’t remember any of this.
Upon arriving to the hospital, I met with several neurologists, and they ordered a standard battery of tests for when patients come in after seizures – a CT scan, a chest x-ray, an EKG, etc. Of course, all of these things triggered some of my medical post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I was completely terrified that, although we thought we knew what had triggered the seizure, doctors might actually find something new on my CT scan or with one of my other tests. I started contemplating what it might feel like if I were to be diagnosed with a brain tumor, asking Mark, “This morning I read about the girl who moved to Oregon to end her life after her brain tumor diagnosis – did I read this because this is going to be me?” (As ridiculous as this sounds, sometimes I think Matthew died because I knew it could happen. I’d read about stillbirth and infant loss, even cord accidents before. Though intellectually I know we don’t self-inflict what happens to us based on things we read.)
I was in the hospital for at least five hours, which is pretty standard for an emergency room visit. Nothing ominous was found – my cavernoma remains unchanged. I just have a lump on my head the size of a golf ball, perhaps a mild concussion, and some bruises on my shoulders. I’ll also have to take a break from carrying Joel significant distances around the house and from being by myself and from driving (until further notice).
It was determined that my epileptic episode was likely caused by the Zoloft (I’d been taking it for four days) dampening the effects of my seizure medication. Cue additional (unneeded) distrust of the medical community – I’d read that Zoloft might not be ideal for individuals with a history of seizures, so, before I started taking it, I asked my doctor to verify that it was okay for me. Her response? “Oh – it’s fine! No problem!”
So I’m officially no longer taking Zoloft… I’m beyond frustrated that, just days ago, I made what, to me, felt like a monumental decision with regard to my mental health – to go ahead and take this drug. And, so quickly, it’s been determined that this particular medication isn’t an option for me. I was in such a place of desperation when I made my decision, as I was regularly losing half days (and sometimes full days) to anxiety. I can’t afford to keep losing days, especially now that I’m back to work. Also, I want to be the best mother I can to Joel, in which case I need to get this under control. So I don’t know whether the answer for me is to make an even more concerted effort to try to either write or exercise each day or whether I should try another SSRI. (Though, I have a renewed fear of medications.) Currently, I just feel so freaking defeated as to how I might combat my thoughts/feelings that can be so debilitating. So we’ll see what happens…
But yesterday brought to light some other interesting thoughts/feelings too, primarily, a sense of gratitude – not only for all the kind people who helped me, but also for how the situation transpired. (JVB had a friend who experienced a seizure while driving, drove off of a cliff and into a lake, killing herself and her child.) I’m lucky I wasn’t driving. I’m lucky I wasn’t holding Joel. I’m lucky someone found me. I’m lucky my hospital testing came back clean.
And it’s almost surprising how intensely I felt said gratitude, mostly because there have been so many days over this past year plus when, though I’ve been in no real danger of harming myself, I’ve wished something like the Nightlock berries from the Hunger Games were a real thing. (I mean, it would be so much easier than living this what-so-often-seems-impossible life without Matthew.)
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve certainly had days since Matthew died when I’ve felt gratitude (Joel’s birthday being the most noteworthy), but there are many days when the sadness and the anxiety are so overwhelming, it could make anyone want to (and wish there were an easy, pain-free way to) give up.
But yesterday, on a very normal Tuesday, after a not-so-normal event, I found myself really wanting to live for Joel, and for Mark, and for some other people/reasons, and this felt good, and I’m going to try to hold onto this memory, carrying it with me when I enter my inevitable periods of darkness, hoping it can help light my way through to the other side.