Epilepsy as explained by MG

Disclaimer: This tongue-in-cheek explanation of epilepsy is done by someone recently diagnosed with epilepsy so it is by no means accurate. For an accurate description, please consult your doctor!

I noticed that when I mentioned Epilepsy some of my readers commented as follows: “I’m sorry I don’t know what to comment because I don’t know much about epilepsy.” So I’m going to try to explain in my own laymen’s term what it is.

First, I think that the most accurate way to describe epilepsy is to call it a condition or a disorder. It is inaccurate to call it a desease or a sickness or illness because those who have it can be very healthy individuals. What they have is a condition that makes them more susceptible to seizures than others.

According to my doctor, everyone can have a seizure when the condition is right. Someone with epilepsy just has a lowered treshhold for a seizure that is all.

Just what exactly is a seizure then? Well we all have electrical waves in our brains at all times, whether we’re sleeping or awake. A seizure happens when there is a sudden, abnormal electric activity in the brain. This means that I am a very electrifying person! (when my brain merajuk) Geddit?

Many people are afraid of the word Epilepsy because they do not understand it. When I was in primary school I had a classmate with epilepsy and whenever she had a seizure, the teachers would do the wrong thing (I’m going to explain what is the wrong thing in a while) and we all thought she was possessed! That is the social stigma attached to it due to lack of misunderstanding.

There are so many types of seizures that I can’t mention it all here without boring my readers. Did you know that there is even one that makes a person sing, dance, laugh or cry and remove their clothes in public without knowing it afterwards? It depends on which part of the brain is affected. It can be rather embarrassing which is why it is easy to get depressed, be afraid (of not knowing when you will have the next seizure) and have a lowered self confidence and self esteem as a result. So if you are helping someone with epilepsy, please realise that these are the emotions they have to deal with. Speaking of which, I am not going to let these emotions control me.

Did you know that there is another type of seizure called absence seizure which often happens in childhood which just makes the person stare in space for a while and waking up afterwards without realising what has happened and people just think that the person is not paying attention in class and has poor results from the moments he/she misses out? Epilepsy is not easy to diagnose and some people go on for years without being diagnosed.

When we are dealing with something we do not understand, people are afraid to talk about it and so they don’t sometimes because they don’t know what to say. Take for example my friend firehorse. She had written a post dedicated to me on her blog and she got 10 measly comments when she usually gets about 30 or so.  I take this to mean that two thirds of her readers are afraid or rather uncomfortable to say anything. Lol!

Some people have an aura (a brief electrical discharge in a localised part of the brain) which some would call a warning sign or a partial seizure before a bigger or generalised seizure. I will talk about my auras another day. I’m lazy today.

Ok. Now comes to the most important part of my post. How do you help someone in a seizure. I will just point out what I think is the most important thing not to do.

Most important things not to do to help a person in a seizure.

  1. If its in a public place, don’t stand around oggling and being a busybody. If you don’t know how to help, just look if you must then move on!!! Don’t crowd around the person. They need the air and you don’t want to embarass and confuse them further by standing around looking.
  2. Don’t try to stop the seizure. You can’t. Just make sure the person won’t hurt themself by moving hard or hot things around them. After the seizure turn the person to the side to prevent them from swallowing their own vomit or inhaling fluids or acids from their stomach which could cause pneumonia or choking, something that could be more dangerous then the actual seizure itself.
  3. Don’t put any object into the persons mouth to “prevent the person from swallowing their tongue”. They won’t. In fact if you place a hard object like a spoon for example it could cause harm and injury to their jaw or teeth or if you place a soft object it could cause them to swallow it and choke. (This was what my teachers did to the poor girl in school. They always tried to push a spoon into her mouth.) If you want to be a hero and place your fingers into their mouth it would probably be bitten, so don’t.
  4. If its in a public place, after the seizure, comfort and speak to the confused person gently and ask if they need help to get home etc. DON’T take this as an opportunity to steal their wallet!!!!
  5. Don’t wake a person from their deep sleep after a seizure and don’t offer any food or water until they are fully awake.
  6. There is no need to call and ambulance and send the person to emergency unless the seizure does not stop for 5 minutes or the person stops breathing for longer than 30 seconds in which case in could be life threatening and medical help is required.

My husband asked me how I would feel if I had a seizure in a public place and I told him that I would not feel anything because I don’t remember it afterwards. I only remember bits and pieces but I think it would be harder for him to handle. He would have to handle me, the inevitable busybody crowd plus make sure our two young kids are safe. (Which is why I stressed No: 1 as Don’t stand around oggling if you can’t help). Thats all I want to write for now. I want to go and do my exercise now.

Some of the self help techniques I am trying out for myself, include exercise, deep breathing, relaxation, getting proper nutrition and sleep, yoga (If can’t go to yoga, yoga will come to me. I can’t go to a yoga class so I bought a begginers yoga tape instead. Hehe.), awareness (reading and recording down), taking my medication with timeliness and working with my neurologist together. Hopefully I will become seizure free then.

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25 thoughts on “Epilepsy as explained by MG

  1. Hi MG, u are right that this is a topic that is hard to comment. Just to let u kno that though comments may be few, your readers are praying for your good health and may you be seizure free soon.

    Hi Shooi. What? No comments for lil ole me? Waaah! I love comments. Thank you for your prayers and well wishes especially from people I have never even met. It makes me feel nice that the world is a warm place full of caring people afterall instead of those negatives you read in the papers or watch in the news.

  2. hi MG, thanks for the useful info sharing =)
    If you don’t mind I’ve got a question though, does the abnormal electrical activity always happen on the same spot of the brain for a particular person? Or can that person get a different type of seizure each time it happens?

    Hi Wendy. I read that a person can have different types of seizures. A seizure can start at the same spot and spread to different parts or the whole brain as well. Beyond this my knowledge is limited (I only know what I read) so you’d have to ask a neurologist. As for my own experiece, for years I had auras or partial seizures, then I had two generalized seizures in bed which caused me to be unconcious meaning it began at a spot and spread to the whole brain and then I had a seizure while I was awake which never happened before and it happened 3 times that day too which was rather scary.

  3. Dear MG, I am one of the reader you mentioned. *guilty* Usually I choose not comment because I dont know how to console people or I don’t feel comfortable in commenting in sensitive topics. Anyway, I just want to tell you that you are one strong mom and I wish you good health and every happiness. Take care! 🙂

    Thats ok crazymommy. I know you sometimes read my blog silently from my stats just as I read yours silently. Hehe. I love your blog for your craft ideas and links and I’m trying to learn chinese now. So I like to check out your blog for links on those as well. Hehe.

  4. I’ve thought about this for a number years now, ever since I first witnessed my friend suffering from a seizure. I was still in primary school and as it was my first time, I was a bit shocked but felt really helpless because I wish I could do more than just watch.

    This is truly informative, although I’ve read some of them before elsewhere (I decided that I *need* to, well, at least know what to do should anything like that happens to anyone around me). People should be educated on the do’s and don’ts when witnessing an attack.

    Narrowband, its true what  you said about the feeling of helplessness because the person may look like they are in pain. (Sure what rite? Brain merajuk and person lose bodily controls would look scary and shocking to most.) Its exactly that feeling that makes someone want to do more than is required to help a person during a seizure, like try to hold them down for example or put something in their mouth, both of which are a not the right thing to do.

  5. Frankly last time i never bother to know abt this, but after read from your blog, I know I should learn more of epilepsy. Thanks for sharing it in layman term, appreciate that!

    The more people know about it, the more I’m helping myself.  

  6. Oh I just knew about ur condition. Hope you are all well.

    I’m glad that you just knew. That means hopefully, I don’t sound very much different lately? Not more depressed, angry, sorry or self pity for myself. I’m still the same person. Only difference is I now know that I have epilepsy. That is all. 🙂

  7. Hey MG, I was just thinking about what you mentioned here. When someone has seizure, would he/she bite their own tongue? I heard that the reason an object is put in a person’s mouth is to prevent that from happening.

    That is a good question to ask. Yes a person bites their tongue. I did and it was very painful afterwards for about a week with blisters on both sides. When you see someone doing that you would naturally want to protect them from harm by preventing them from doing it but it would likely cause more injury to them. Hmm… this site explains it better. I will copy and paste the part on tongue biting for you to read. Thanks for asking.

    During the seizure the person may foam at the mouth. This is caused by a build-up of saliva and slime in the throat. If the person bites his tongue during the seizure, the resulting mixture of foam and blood can appear very dramatic. Tongue and cheek bites are not very dangerous, although they can be painful for some days afterwards. They are nearly always surface wounds which heal quickly. There is no record of a person biting his tongue off during a seizure. In the past a “bite pin” was often used, a pencil or whatever came to hand, to prevent tongue biting. This is quite unnecessary and can be dangerous as teeth can break off due to the violent clenching during a seizure. At worst the broken tooth could go down the wind pipe and cause breathing problems or even an abscess in the lungs.

    The above excert was taken from this site. http://www.epilepsy.dk/Handbook/Types-of-seizes-uk.asp

  8. Thanks for the info and may I know what causes Epilepsy? Is it a genetic thing?

    Allyfeel, children whose parents have it are more predisposed to it which worries me, some are caused by injury to a part of the brain, some by chemical imbalances in the brain and some are idiopathic meaning of unknown cause as in my case.

  9. MG,I have been a silent reader of ur blog for quite a while already & have always love ur writing. I just want to wish you a speedy recovery & pray that you will be seizure-free very soon. Thanks for all the info on epilepsy. I too have been trying to read up on seizures ever since my gal had a febrile seizure.

    Hello Blur Mommy. Fortunately most febrile seizures are harmless but nevertheless it is very alarming for the parents to witness. Here’s another link for you to read about febrile seizures.

  10. MG i always saw in the tv they use spoon or something hard to put in the mouth. luckily never follow them.

    Aiyoo, Luckily! I write this post becos I sked I lose my 9 dental crowns. Yes, I have 9 of those.

  11. MG, I comment lah whether I say the right thing or not. My friend, Mark also suffered from epilepsy since October last year and I feel this post will prepare me though I pray that I will never have to utilise this knowledge on him because I pray that he will be healed. I will continue to pray for you.

    Thank you Judy. Maybe you can send this for your friend Mark to read. Not sure if it’ll help though.

  12. I’ve been thinking of what you wrote about the dedication Firehorse wrote to you..and that she had less than errr…10 comments(?). I just wanna speak for myself. I did not want to comment becoz I felt it was a very personal message she wrote especially to you..and I have no right to say anything. So..while I thought it was pretty special for two of u to have such a great relationship, writing some stupid comment from me..wouldn’t do it any justice at all……


    Wah…so special our relationship. luckily we not of opposite sex, afterwards our spouses think we having afair.

  13. Frankly, I had seizure when I was in my younger days (about 9 years old) and was hospitalised every time I had it and needed to be on drips but as I grew older, I was cured (don’t ask me how, I’m scratching my head too – I’m now in my very late 40s). My mom used to go and pray and let me drink the ‘fu’ (amulet) water too *duh*. One of my brothers passed away becos of the sickness cos back then my mum didn’t know what to do and I remember she applied ‘fung yau’ (medicated oil) only. Seizure is really no joke. Just be extra careful. U just don’t know when it’ll strike u but I do remember it struck me whenever I have very high fever.

    A number of people with childhood seizures outgrow them like you.

  14. Yeah.. I think sometimes people don’t comment because they don’t know what to say, or afraid that they may say something that might offend. But I’m sure they wish you well in their hearts!

    And yes, always thought that we should put something into the mouth to prevent the person biting their tongues. My mom actually used her fingers on her friend’s daughter… and yes, she was bitten but fingers till intact though.

    Take Care…

    Ooh! Ouch to your mom’s fingers. I bit down so hard the sides of my tongue were in shreds and I had difficulty eating for about a week so I can imagine how painful that kind of bite must have been to fingers. I think its our natural instinct to want to protect a person from hurting themselves and thats why we put in fingers etc yes?

  15. generally, i dont think bystanders feel any ill intention or prejudice towards sufferers of seizure attacks.

    our ignorance means we’re usually useless and awkward as we’re not equipped with the knowledge of what to do and could cause more hinder than help.

    most of us r also not staying to “watch a show” but fighting our own internal war; should we call ambulance? go over and do something (but dunno wat)? erm scream for help? etc… walking away seemed so cruel! (nut now i know better)

    so thanks for the information and actually telling us what is the preferred thing to do and not do. take care

    No, I don’t think generally anyone has any ill intention or prejudice but rather its probably from curiousity. Most would not know what to do or like you said whether to help or not or how to help. If the person having a seizure is with someone else you can approach to ask whether they need any help otherwise its better to just move on then to stand in a circle watching. In other words for anyone who is not helping its better to just move on then cause the person more embarrassment and confusion when they come to. Its not cruel to move on unless theres no one else there and you leave the person alone.

  16. Thanks for sharing this with us. It’s good to hear it from someone’s who’ve experienced it. I hope in time, you’ll be seizure-free too. HUGZZZ!!!

    Thanks Samm for the hugs.

  17. Hi MG – this is a very good explanation. Thanks for posting it as it helps people to know more about it and what not to do! Yeah, I’ve heard of people trying to jam a spoon in between a person’s mouth during a seizure…kesian only ya? I think one of my teachers used his belt instead and that helped more because the girl didn’t bite her tongue and the leather was tough enough – is this ok?

    I don’t really know. A belt sounds safer than a spoon but there are hard parts too and must make sure it doesn’t make the person choke or swallow fluids or swallow vomit etc.

  18. Thanks MG for the post. At least now I have a slight idea about what you have been going through. It must have been tough on you and I hope you will recover soon.

    Guess like everyone, I also thought of the ‘put a spoon/long hard object’into the person’s mouth during a seizure kinda thing if one are not aware of the real cause/situation.

    Thanks. I have long since recovered from that 3-in-1 seizure if thats what I can call it. However to know whether I’m totally “recovered” I would have to wait for 2 years to see if I’m seizure free with medication, then I have to go off the medication and wait some more. Feels a bit like time bomb like dat. 😛

  19. I should seriously take notes here hor so that we can go out. What about using those teether rings (not the ones with liquid in it) but the plastic ones, would that work to prevent tongue biting?

    I seriously don’t know whether a teether would be safe or not but what I do know is that even if a person bites their tongue, at most, it will hurt for about a week afterwards so even if it hurts you to watch, its ok to leave them alone because they won’t come to much harm from it. Its better to make sure they don’t swallow their own vomit or any fluids by turning them over to one side as that could be potentially more harmful.

  20. Thanks for the information.

    I remembered I saw a seizure happened, the guy sit just next to me in the class. His friend was experienced enough to handle him but other peoples like us didn’t how to react, we just sit there and did nothing and pretending nothing happened when the guy had recovered from the seizures.

    You probably felt bad about pretending that nothing has happened but you could have saved that guy from further embarrassment after his confusion to have his classmates crowding around him so don’t feel bad.

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