Deanna was averaging three seizures a week when she arrived at the UC Neuroscience Institute. Sometimes her seizures caused her to pass out, and sometimes they left her blinking and wondering where the time had gone. Complicating her situation, Deanna suffered from a mood disorder, had been victimized by crime and had a history of using non-prescription drugs.
Clearly, a cross-center collaboration among specialists would be needed to sort out the reason for her seizures and to craft a solution. Deanna began by spending a week in the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit. “They sleep-deprived me, tested me with lights,” she recalled. “But it didn’t stress me out at all. I was so comfortable I didn’t have any seizures.” Deanna went home with a portable monitor on her head and promptly triggered a seizure.
The results showed that her seizures were stress-related; they did not involve the abnormal electrical discharges that define epilepsy. As a result, her doctors recommended that she take advantage of a unique opportunity: a clinical trial that involved a collaboration between the Epilepsy Center and the Mood Disorders Center. The study was testing a dual treatment that combined a mood medication with an intense regimen of talk therapy provided by a specially trained therapist at the Mood Disorders Center. The “seizure counseling” therapy, which included meditation, was designed to relieve the anxiety that was playing a role in Deanna’s seizures.
By learning to meditate, Deanna discovered that she could stop a seizure even if she felt an aura coming on. “You sit there and breathe and you come up with your own mantra, where you feel lightness in your limbs, and all the worries and the cares in the world slip away,” she said. With her doctors’ help, Deanna has now accomplished two major goals of her young adulthood: she has moved into her own apartment, and she has been cleared to drive. She has also put a new spin on her life. She’s no longer “a person who had seizures.” She’s “Seizure Girl,” the EPILEPSY CENTER person who conquered them.