Recent medical tests gave me “answers” that left me second-guessing almost everything—even my bipolar diagnosis. I shifted my mind-set, learned some new words, and decided to reconsider therapy—something I’ve avoided for years!
Ever since I was a child, I have been experiencing momentary lapses in consciousness, when I feel as though I lose control of my mind and body while somehow still being aware of what’s going on. These “spells” last for anywhere from a few seconds to a maybe a minute or two. They are usually defensive in nature—almost like I’m reacting to something. And they tend to be triggered by stress. Most of the time, my medication reduces the frequency of these depersonalization spells, but it does not eliminate them.
I first talked about this almost a year ago in my blog post “Living with Depersonalization.” Depersonalization was a term suggested by my psychiatrist at the time to describe these experiences. This past November was one of those very stressful months during which I was experiencing depersonalization more frequently than usual. These episodes were becoming not just more frequent but also harder to control. People around me were starting to notice; it appeared as though I was blanking out. That is why I only recently started addressing this issue.
After spending a majority of last year going through medical tests, I have answers that are just as confusing as they are reassuring.
In an effort to sort this out, I’ve gone through
two EEGs—including an uncomfortable ambulatory
EEG in the middle of a Georgia summer;
an MRI (Side
note: Weirdly, I actually enjoyed my MRI. Don’t know how or why, but it was
one of the most therapeutic experiences I had all year. Which says a lot about
how my year has been!);
and even a heart monitor.
They all came back clean.
These tests ruled out everything that I feared … but I was still
left with the question: What is wrong with me?
I’ve learned to request my paperwork from providers because
when I neglected to do so in the past, I would later find out that what I had
reported and what was recorded didn’t line up.
With that in mind, I saw on my neurology reports the word pseudoseizures.
Of course, I was like, “What the heck is a pseudoseizure?”
Apparently, it’s something psychological. The neurologist
explained that it could be a result of psychological trauma.
In some weird medical way, that actually made sense to me.
But it also confused me. Because I didn’t recall anything in my life that
could’ve caused psychological trauma—besides getting hit by a car back in the
80s and other experiences that I don’t discuss in public. Then realized that
it’s possible that things happened that I blocked out.
This finding confused me because I’d never heard of pseudoseizures
before. I was going into uncharted territory that had me second-guessing almost
everything—even my bipolar diagnosis.
But then I realized … What does it really matter?
Before, I didn’t know how to explain these spells. So even
if it’s not the “right” answer per se, at least I can finally start putting
together the puzzle that’s called Jacob Burrage.
As for having a definitive answer: Is anything about this really definitive? We’re all here seeking an answer to our problems, no matter how traumatic, that would make perfect sense to what we’re going through. But bipolar disorder, and the comorbid illnesses that come with it, never make perfect sense. There’s always something that contributes to it, and even the best of doctors have yet to figure out all the pieces.
One thing that I learned about myself is that there were
many times in my life when I felt defenseless. These feelings, and more,
probably triggered my pseudoseizures, which further fueled my bipolar disorder.
At least, that’s what I came up with.
And I came up with it without the help of a therapist. I
might be dead wrong, but it makes sense to me.
Back to Basics
This is what I will talk about at my next appointment with
my doctor, as I get ready to open myself up to therapy for the first time in a
For personal reasons, I resisted therapy for years. But I’ve
realized that it’s time that I get back to it. Therapy is the best way I can
figure out what triggers these depersonalization spells or pseudoseizures. I
have to go back to the basics. I got to figure out the root of the problem.
It’s the only way I can move forward.
JB Burrage is a writer living in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. A Meridian, Mississippi, native, he served in the US Army for over ten years. He started battling depression before he was a teenager. After years of receiving different diagnoses, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2011. For years, he was in self-denial before he finally accepted his diagnosis; he's slowly working to manage it, one day at a time. He’s the creator of The Diary of a Mad Writer, a blog that he uses to discuss various topics, especially mental health. He's a publisher of his own stories and is working on creating online courses. You can learn more about him, follow his blog, and contact him at jbburrage.com.
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