Author of Electro Girl - An inspiring journey into epilepsy awareness

Why do we feel like we need to hand our power over to others when we become un-well in order for them to make us “well”? Why is the first emotion we engage with fear when we are diagnosed with something out of balance? Why do we seek the knowledge of other’s with the sole belief that they know better than us what would work best for ourselves? The answer as I see it and have lived it, is simple…..we don’t trust ourselves enough or spend enough energy and time on ourselves to really understand how our body and brains work – until we get sick. For the majority of us, the first thing we do when we get a headache is reach for the panadol/nurofen – the bandaid effect. If that does the job we don’t look into why the headache was there in the first place unless it’s due to a hangover – It’s just like “thank god that bastard has gone” and we reach for another dirty martini with 3 olives and lots of olive brine.

I have been working for the Happy Herb Company for over 15 years now and I first came across the company when I was looking for a different approach to managing the diagnosis of Epilepsy that I received when I was 19 years old. I was on Anti Epileptic medications for 8 long years and at the time I felt there was no other option as information on other ways to manage the condition and success stories around Epilepsy and alternative therapies were very slim back in the early 90’s. I did believe in my heart though that  there had to be other ways of dealing with neurological conditions like Epilepsy without solely relying on medications that were and still remain to be, purely experimental. What we don’t know or don’t understand typically scares us, and that’s really why separating the myths from the truths, and knowing the basics about epilepsy, is important.

March is Epilepsy Awareness month and I would like to pass on some information that I have learnt through my journey of living with a seizure disorder for the past 30 years. Some Facts, some Myths surrounding seizures, Info on herbs that can assist in brain health, resources that I’ve found handy over the years and some good old fashioned encouragement.

FACT:

  • There are 50 million people living with Epilepsy in the world
  • There are over 40 different types of Epilepsy. What seizures look like can vary. For example someone may go ‘blank’ for a couple of seconds, they may wander around and be quite confused, or they may fall to the ground and shake (convulse). So not all seizures involve convulsions.
  • Experts agree there is more we don’t know about the brain than we currently know.
  • Epilepsy is usually treated with medication called anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). AEDs aim to stop seizures from happening, but they do not cure
  • 60-70% of all cases aren’t treatable with AED’s and so many people remain untreated or taking meds that don’t relate to their condition in order to stop some of the symptoms
  • We all have a seizure threshold in our brains but some of us have a lower threshold than others which allow the electrical activity which causes the seizure to take over.

MYTH:

  • You are born with Epilepsy – not true, anyone can experience a seizure at any time of their life
  • Epilepsy is contagious – errrr nope. It’ a momentary disruption in the electrical activity of the brain.
  • Seizures are always medical emergencies – Infact, more often than not, they aren’t and an ambulance doesn’t need to be called. If a seizure lasts more than 5 minutes or the person is turning blue then it becomes an emergency situation.

HERBS FOR BRAIN HEALTH:

There are a number of herbs that have assisted me on my journey with my brain and nervous system. It was a lengthy experiment to find out which ones would work best for what function but this is what it boiled down to.

Scientifically, doctors still don’t know what happens to the brain during a grand mal seizure, whether brain cells are lost or the brain shrinks somewhat or memory gets lost for good. As a seasoned seizure expert I can tell you that my long term memory has been terrible since I started having seizures. People are always reminding me of events that were remarkable and turning points for them and I was apparently right there at the time….but my brain has lost the ability to visualise and remember alot of these events. It is something that I have just gotten used to but I don’t like it so I have made it my journey to try and repair some of the damage from these seizures…if possible!

I use Brahmi on a regular basis as well as Gotu Kola for the sole purpose of restoring the memory channels or at the very least preventing more deterioration. Brahmi is recognised the world over as a brain tonic, to promote intellect and comprehension, rejuvenate the brain and boost the memory.

I can absolutely feel the difference when I drink the tea as I feel more able to “use my words” properly and I say “Um” a lot less. I know that might sound weird but the words flow from me when I drink these herbs, I write better, I’m a better listener and I am totally sure it’s because of the brain tonics I drink. I can’t afford to lose more brain capacity; I have had nearly 300 Grand Mal seizures in 25 years.

Scullcap, Mulungu and Damiana are great relaxants for the anxiety experienced that every person with Epilepsy would understand. For many thousands of people living with Epilepsy it is beyond just a medical condition, it has now become a mental health condition as well, even though the medical industry haven’t picked up on this wholeheartedly yet. The anxiety that you feel having to be ashamed and afraid of an unpredictable brain in a “perfect” world creates a big wall around alot of people with Epilepsy and I know when I had these relaxing herbs to assist me to balance my moods and anxiety, I always felt better almost immediately.

Gingko Biloba is another powerful brain herb that is used to improve blood circulation and have a tonic effect on the brain. Most websites suggest people with Epilepsy stay away from this though as a study shows that years ago there were a few cases where seizure activity increased. I believe the study was in 2005 and was anecdotal. Still it’s always a good idea to check with a health professional when introducing anything new into your treatment regime and make sure friends and family know of your changes so that they can support you however you need.

RESOURCES I WOULD RECOMMEND:

The bits and bobs that have assisted me in changing the way I see myself and my condition revolve around the following awesome info.

  • I introduced Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) meditation into my life daily so that I could learn to disassociate the constant negative fear mantras about having seizures and learn to see those thoughts as clouds just passing by. It has made a massive difference to not attach to these thoughts as they were taking up 60% of my thoughts a day and sometimes even causing the electrical disruptions. http://www.mindfullivingprograms.com/relatedresearch.php
  • Read Ray Thorpe’s HHH book and arm yourself with knowledge about plant medicine. Good to know even if you don’t use this info immediately.
  • Hit up Google about Neuroplasticity. Our brains are actually pliable and nothing is hard wired in there as was believed by many neuroscientists up until recently. What this means is…….you can change your fear patterns surrounding your condition any time you like.
  • Read a book called “ Brain Maker” by Dr David Perlmutter as this is a valuable tool of information in making the connection between what we eat and the health of our brain
  • Read anything and everything you can from the incredible Norman Doidge

A parting few words:

Self love and self acceptance of what’s happening right now can be the only cure of any condition you find yourself dealing with but especially ones dealing with the unpredictability of neurological imbalances.  This is not something that a doctor can write a script for, or that can be infused in a tea strainer or sold via a supplement jar so it needs to start within you. Your brain and your gut are intrinsically connected and in the case of Epilepsy you can be confident in stating “you are what you eat” as many of the neurotransmitters we rely on to fire properly are all made in the gut. Read more in the book stated in point 4 above.

Lainie Chait

PHD in living with Epilepsy

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