“Brittany, remember the color blue,” three nurses surrounded me as the strobe lights immediately stopped flashing, all lights in my room came on, and I felt my body tense up, as if I had turned into a snake.
“Brittany what is today’s date?” – slowly, I spat out, September 13.
“Do you know the year?” – My mind wanted to say 2018, but I replied; 2017.
“Can you tell me where you are?” – I replied, University Hospital.
“Can you tell me what the phone does?” – I said, phone calls.
Somewhere in all this mess I was covered in a face full of tears, coming out of my first crying spell, and noticed, I just cried uncontrollably like a hurt child in front of my Mother; something I’ve never done before as a growing child.
I slept so hard after that.
“MOM!” I yelled. I can still hear that terror and shakiness in my voice that night. That yell for my Mother started to scare some of the fight out of me. As strong as I have been and how much I have held back crying out of pain or out of joy, that night, was the most difficult for me. January 20, 2014, I started to lose my balance, and didn’t fall
because of a perfectly placed wood beam that holds up our porch. My mom came running out. Intoxicated, but, aware and scared enough to almost die herself.
“I can’t wait for him, we gotta go NOW, I’m having a stroke!”
“Ok Miss Salazar, stay calm, if you feel your headache worsening, let me know ok?” The nurse was so kind. Talked me through symptoms. I was really working my ass off to stay calm, to feel like it was just some kind of potassium imbalance or maybe I had vertigo. But I couldn’t move. I attempted and it sent an electric shock through my leg. It was so painful. Physical pain I can do, but mental pain, I couldn’t. “Precious I’m praying,” my Dad said, eyes full of tears and blood red veins, as he continues to look down at lightly touch my right leg. Then, I feel as if I did something wrong in my life by never listening to a person that we will call, ‘Him’. I called Him as soon as I felt my leg go weak and just felt something was wrong, I had a gut sensation, and then I felt light and airy. Then, stroke symptoms. Well, He was standing next to me, holding my hand, and in the light of it, I felt as if I was the image of exactly what he never wanted to see.
The person he was sharing his life with was bringing back painful memories of his past.
People were so gracious to me, so kind. Bringing all sorts of gifts and thoughtful items.
Prayer groups would come in, my Grandmother would read the bible, my nurses
complimented my upbeat attitude about my situation and how amazing He was to me. I felt blessed, but I felt weighed down. I had questions no one could answer. I fixed my mind to hearing the Doctor repeating that same old line, “All patients are different, so we will have to see in your specific case.” It left a large, long trail of confusion for me.
What is a case? How long will I be a patient? Am I chronically ill? Do I have
serious health issues? What if I ever lose my health insurance? What if I can’t pay? What if the Doctor moves out of town? What if my Doctor is located out of town and I have to drive? Am I going to need lifelong treatment for this too? What does a stroke patient feel like in 15 years? Do we get better? Am I ok? How did I not die? Am I dead?
I struggled. I can look back and tell you that I had a large support system but I couldn’t tell people the whole truth to me. Not then. I feel comfortable sharing my history if it will help people better understand or help people go through a situation; but if someone was asked what I like to listen to, truly, they would get it wrong. If you were asked my favorite color, you most likely wouldn’t know it. If you asked me about my family, I would share public information. I struggled a lot. I struggled with wondering why I was born with a mass of tangles. My hair was always tangled as a child, it hurt to untangle it, my mom complained. And then now, I had tangles in the brain? It was confusing to me. People don’t even like to mess with tangles. You see a tangled piece of jewelry, you’re more than likely to discard it, I was always the one who loved getting them right back to where they were; out of that huge knot.
“You’re not listening to the Doctors and they know whats best for you.” I struggled with this a lot. My mom retells the story of me being 5 years old and yelling ‘NO!’ simply because I wanted to cross the street myself to get to school. I constantly combated with what Doctors had to say in the appointment room. Just a bunch of empty information and medication changes. Who knows how long I would have been a patient struggling with this or that or lets try this and lets add this medication. I had ‘ticks’ where my muscle in the shoulder started jumping, and was put on anti-epileptic as a precaution, and continued on simply because of the brain surgery. I’ve been on Keppra(twice), Dilantin, Vimpat, Topamax; and while I still had multiple seizures and spells daily, Doctors came to the determination; uncontrolled by medication.
I felt very lost.
“Ok, so lets try the Topamax and the Keppra…” I was maxed out on Topamax, taking 800mg a day and starting out on 1000mg of Keppra a day. I’m 5’1, 126pounds. Someone my weight and stature doesn’t really need that much Topamax, but it was helping my Migraines, so I guess I didn’t mind. Keppra was a bit of a fight for me to go back on, as I felt like it made me moody before. But, I gave it a second try.
– I think I lost myself somewhere taking Keppra because I thought back to my stroke.
Low and behold Keppra for the second time, gave me a shorter fuse.
“.. received confirmation of your appointment at University Hospital in San Antonio for your Video EEG and you are all set to go, so they will be calling you to set a date that works best for you…” – I’ve been waiting about 2 years for an explanation as to why I feel my seizures all the time, multiple times a day, every day. I read about anti-epileptics and how too much may harm cognitive functions, and I felt like I was becoming that statistic. I remember not being able to remember to count money when I worked at the bank. If someone wanted a cashed check for $1000, I prayed they wanted it in 50s and 100s. If someone had a check for $2743.78, and they wanted 100s, 50s, 20s, 10s, 5s, and some 1s, I was not having a good day after that physically. I used to be really good at counting back, but then I had all these dosage changes, and I started talking slower, and then I couldn’t remember math formulas, and then I stayed in bed all day, and then I formed run on sentences, on top of that I complained. I complained for 2 years. I complained and drank a lot for two years. I don’t know how to get around that. I think about how I nearly threw my life down the drain because I would lie about my whereabouts just to go drink. I would call in, just because I was so tired, and confused about were my life was. I was always questioned about where I was, even if I was home. I lied. I was around people that would drink just so I had a reason TO drink.
I was writing the words to a book titled, “How to disappear by making bad choices.”
So, I quit my job. On my lunchbreak. You know that invigorating rush of, ‘I will not hush for you any longer.’ That was me, and I quit to focus on my health. It took time. Wasn’t an over the night kind of thing. Words and actions, words and actions. Never knew that to be a thing until now. I still drank, still went to my favorite places with my favorite dishes and my favorite martinis. Still went out like I was 21, I’m 27, tsk tsk for that. So I began trying to decompress from what I used to know and got into a life that was happy . I picked up a nice camera, and just went out and enjoyed the scenic views for once.
Quiet echoes of nothing.
I looked in the mirror one misty summer day as my body was vibrating with tingling sensations and muscle spasms. My eyes bloodshot. My skin pale. I knew I was me, but I didn’t recognize myself. “Have I missed my dose of medicine?” I said quietly out loud. Silence filled my room. My eyes, I had never noticed the color of my eyes before. They weren’t so dark as I had always known them to be. I gazed, noticing rich hues of gold, deep bronzes, and dark caramel shine through as the light came in. For so long I felt as I had no light within me.
The day I saw myself, was the day I stopped drinking.
“I feel most at peace at school.” I said to my Dr. “I feel as if that, when I’m there, I can concentrate and I have great classmates who are helpful and we work together well.”
‘That’s great to hear. So it sounds like classes are going pretty well for you. Do you feel safe there since your last spell? ’ I thought on this, because the question before that was, what caused my spell/seizure symptoms in class, and it was cigarette smoking. And then I couldn’t put a finger on why I would be so hateful of cigarette smells, or any smells in general. The smell was so overpowering, I could smell it like it was under my nose and whomever was smoking was probably 30, 40 feet away from me. “I can’t think of why I have to fight off the smell,” I said ”but it was awful, and my seizure, or spell as you say, I had to leave class. I just could not be there. It’s never been like this before. I walked about a half block to the admin office and I felt my body just go numb and weak. The woman said I had no color to me, and in total the spell lasted 40 minutes, and I never knew them to last so long.” I shifted in my bed, Attached to wires and wires and wires with a security camera staring at me from the ceiling and square looking object next to it that was a microphone. I wasn’t uncomfortable meeting my newest Doctors, but I was very uncomfortable with the pain of the wires. They hurt on my forehead, behind my ears, and bad. “So, I wanted to take some time to explain that your EEG is showing that your seizures are not related to electrical impulses in the brain. Not to say that you aren’t having seizures, but they may be caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain. So thats where I come in and we would like to help you get through your spells by trying to balance these chemicals.”
I was confused at first. I had a really hard trip. My mom complained to me that I would never get married, I had a bad attitude, I needed to put up with her and her noise. I feel like peace is what I needed and I felt just a bit embarrassed when I cried two separate times just airing out to the Physicians Assistant after my mom left the room. I had to put a block from anyone visiting me in the hospital, because my father thought this was a great time for me to meet a new girlfriend. I was afraid of my information being released. I was afraid of who was going to walk into the door. I was being blamed constantly by my mother. I felt like it was over the top, so, I decided to just be my complete and natural self. And that happened when I was pulled off of all my seizure medication in under 24hours. – Dr’s used strobe testing twice a day to bring on any seizures. Nothing the first day, although it was uncomfortable for me.
Day two. I’m off all seizure medication and was sleep deprived the night before, only sleeping for 4 hours, staying up for 7 hours and then immediately after, having the strobe light testing. I froze and couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. But I was aware.
2nd test before the night is over – my mom was out of the room – the technicians set up a light in front of your face about 4 inches away, and it flashes like a strobe light with red and green colors. They also have push buttons for you to hold if you feel any symptoms so they can mark and look at the EEG. I was holding my button, and going through a series of light speeds and patterns. They felt so intense on me. Like it was inside my mind. My face shook, I gasped for air, my body went numb all over, prickling painful tinging sensations, and then, I started sobbing. When you push that button, nurses run in to assist you and possibly give you medication if needed. They asked me a series of questions I remember and told me to remember something.
“Remember the color blue.” “Who is our President?” “Where are you?” “Why are you here?” “What is your birthday?” “What is the Month?” I said it was October.
Day 3. Still off all seizure medication, no sleep deprivation. Strobe testing at 9am.
I wasn’t excited for this, but I was ok. My mom was standing over somewhere and the lights started out. I felt ok, like if I just stayed calm, maybe I could get through it. It went out 2 minutes, or maybe I felt like it was 2 minutes, or maybe a long time and a
different pattern of lights started showing up and I felt the sensation of, my body going numb, the seizure coming on, and this time I dropped the button and started crying but it was harder than before. My body was tense, I felt constricted, my neck was tight, I couldn’t find air.
I answered all my questions right and fell asleep with tears on my face.
“Can you tell me about any history of past violence? Trauma? Anything stress related you feel comfortable sharing?” It was discharge day, and I was ready to go home honestly. I had just been lashed out at again because I wanted to put away my own things, and again, my attitude was brought up with marriage in mind. I paused as I thought about my stay. I finished a book, watched two classic movies, turned my phone off the entire time I was here. Had I come alone, I would have been completely happy with the silence of being unattached to the world around me. But, that was in that very moment of thinking of my outside stress. “Uhhm.” I felt the ball of tears form and my chest begin to constrain, I struggled with strength to say “I would say, I have a lot of history involving trauma…”
What an eventful journey. I am not spell free, but I am free’d by knowing that I will be able to better control my health in the future. I am off Keppra and now take a very small dose of Topamax, for migraine relief. Who would have known all along, trauma’s can manifest in ways that are so unknown to us. Life for me, feels as if I have closed a chapter on such a long journey, a struggle that I have carried since 2014, and now, with eyes gleaming, I look forward to my next journey. Again, I am hopeful, PNES, PTSD, and all.