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OUR LOVED ONES: THE FORGOTTEN ONES IN OUR STRUGGLE WITH A SEIZURE DISORDER

Matthew Perry’s death is the one celebrity death that hit me hard. There could’ve been so many instances where he could’ve died. He almost died in 2018, as per his words in his autobiographical book. And yet, he didn’t. He died due to one bad decision, which was to get into a Jacuzzi on an already hot day. It’s both tragic and sad how life works sometimes. Luckily, we have a show such as ‘Friends’, as well as his other shows and movies, to keep his memory alive.

Perry was mostly known for his work on ‘Friends’, and was compared a lot to his character, Chandler Bing, as they were very much alike. It probably has to do with the fact that Perry was the one who wrote most of Chandler’s jokes. He was the only one of the cast who was allowed in the writer’s room throughout the 10 years the show was on the air. The show had a large number of well-known guest starsand notable episodes. The most notable episode with the most notable guest stars was the Super Bowl episode in season 2. It guest starred Perry’s ex-girlfriend, Julia Roberts as Chandler’s former classmate, as well as Brooke Shields as Joey’s fan who believed his character was a rel person.

Speaking of Brooke Shields, she recently made headlines herself as she revealed that she suffered a grand-mal seizure in September after she drank too much water. And to bring more awareness to the matter, she opened up about everything that had happened that day during her interview with ‘Glamour’ Magazine in November. “I was preparing for the show and I was drinking so much water, and I didn’t know I was low in sodium. I was waiting for an Uber. I get down to the bottom of the steps, and I start evidently looking weird and (the people I was with) were like, ‘Are you OK?'” After walking into a restaurant, Shield recalled that “everything (started) to go black. Then my hands drop to my side, and I go headfirst into the wall.”

When the restaurant staff couldn’t reach Shields’ husband, Chris Henchy, an assistant reached out to a familiar face that we regularly see on screen. “I didn’t have a sense of humor. I couldn’t really get any words out,” Shields recalled. “But I thought to myself, ‘This is what death must be like.’ You wake up and Bradley Cooper’s going, ‘I’m going to go to the hospital with you, Brooke,’ and he’s holding my hand. And I’m looking at my hand, I’m looking at Bradley Cooper’s hand in my hand, and I’m like, ‘This is odd and surreal.'”

“I flooded my system, and I drowned myself. And if you don’t have enough sodium in your blood or urine or your body, you can have a seizure,” Shields said. “I was drinking too much water because I felt dehydrated because I was singing more than I’ve ever sung in my life and doing a show and a podcast. So, (the doctors) were just like, ‘Eat potato chips every day.’ I love food and I love alcohol, and I love life and I want to be healthy for my heart. I don’t like going to the gym. I like Pilates. That’s where I am. And I am tired of not feeling skinny enough. It’s boring, and it’s a waste of my time.”

I think we can all agree that witnessing someone having a seizure can be a scary situation. Even hearing of someone having a seizure and knowing of all the details on how it all happened can be scary. You never think it could happen to you or anyone close to you. The reality is, however, a seizure can happen to literally anyone. Anyone could be healthy one day, but have a seizure the next out of nowhere. One minute you can be as healthy as a cucumber, and you can be having seizures and be diagnosed with epilepsy or another seizure-related health crisis the next. Brooke Shields is a great example of that sentiment.

But she’s not the only one. As of late seizures and epilepsy has been something I’ve been seeing in celebrity news a lot as of late. First, there was Karan Brar, an actor who got his start on Disney, opening up about him coping with the death of his best friend and former co-star, Cameron Boyce, who died of SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy) in July 2019, in an essay he wrote for ‘Teen Vague’, where he also opened up about his sexuality, and how his family and friends, including Cameron Boyce, supported him when he came out. And then, there was Busy Phillips. I mostly know her for being Michelle Williams’ (the actress) best friend, but she also starred on ‘Dawson’s Creek’, which also starred Michelle Williams, though in a much bigger role, for a couple of seasons. Philips recently opened up about her daughter suffering a seizure, and her having to find out about it while being apart from her as her daughter is attending private school in Sweden.

Brar wrote:

Cameron died in 2019, shortly after we moved in together. His death threw my already-fragile sense of self into a tailspin. I hadn’t dealt with my internalized homophobia, thinking that coming out to my friends was enough to eradicate that (it wasn’t). My mental health worsened, and my grief was unresolved.

By the summer of 2020, Sophie and my friends had become increasingly worried about the state of my mental health. I’d been on a downward spiral since Cameron suddenly died, and with the pandemic putting the world on pause, I was forced to sit with myself. I refused to acknowledge how much pain I was in and isolated myself in a deeply unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Almost every night was spent getting drunk by myself in order to cope.

Things reached a tipping point when a severe breakdown forced me to confront the current state of my life. Up until this point, I had maintained the illusion of someone who had their shit together, both publicly and privately. Some of my friends knew that I needed help, but I didn’t for a long time. Professionally, I played into the “wunderkind” and “old soul” compliments my representatives would give me. It felt like confirmation that I was navigating my transition from child actor to real actor with grace. But I finally realized that wasn’t the case, that I needed to really figure myself out, and that I need to look inside myself and match up the person I show the world with the one I know myself to be — including my sexuality and my grief.

So, after having thoughts of suicide, I decided I to admit myself into an inpatient treatment center for my depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

What many people may not realize is that suicidal ideations don’t necessarily appear overnight — instead they can take root and grow from one stray thought. Before you know it, you find yourself slipping into suicidal thoughts, making plans “just in case.” It slowly chips away at your soul, leaving you in a state of helplessness.

There were only a few fragments left of my will to live, but I had enough to carry me to the doorstep of my treatment center — and I felt incredibly lucky knowing that. I’d spent years trying to fastidiously maintain a public facade, and yet there I was, fulfilling the Disney star rehab prophecy I had been adamant on avoiding. I was flooded with a sense of failure, but there was no turning back now. The decisions had been made, and there was a twin bed waiting for me on the other side of that door. The only thing left for me to do at that moment was to decide how many pairs of underwear I needed to pack.”

Philips opened up about how her world turned upside down when her ex-husband and father of her two daughters, Marc Silverstein, ‘screaming for her.’

“And I went upstairs but then I heard his voice and I knew something was really wrong,” she recalled. “And he just said, ‘It’s Birdie, it’s Birdie. She’s had another seizure. The paramedics are on the phone.’ The paramedics were on FaceTime and she had just come out of the seizure and she was still in the post-aura state. They were like, hooking her up with stuff — on FaceTime.”

“Her friend who was with her, she was holding the phone so she was kind of, it was like this weird medium shot,” she said, trying to add some humors to the traumatic situation. “So you could see everything that was happening. So it felt, it was just so weird.” She was reaching toward the camera and just saying like, calling out for me. Just saying, ‘Mama. Mama. Mama. Where are you? Mama.’”

“I couldn’t leave set and Marc had run to the school and had gotten there at the same time as the paramedics so he had seen her in this, similar sort of thing before,” she explained. “But it was really awful seeing it on a screen, being in a different country across an ocean.”

“I feel stuck,” she explained. “My therapist yesterday said, she was like, ‘You sound like you’re disassociating.’”

“And I understand because I feel like this year has, I don’t understand what’s happening. I feel stuck in a f—king movie, in a way that’s not even disassociating, just like I keep getting put in different movies. And I just want to be in mine, like my life again. Like my movie, where things are okay.”

Statistics show that 1 in 26 individuals are diagnosed with epilepsy around the world. That means that if you’re reading this and think don’t have anyone you know struggling with a chronic illness such as a seizure disorder, you might think wrong. You may not even know that you know someone who struggles with a seizure disorder. I myself didn’t tell any of my friends I was struggling with epilepsy for two years, and the only reason why I started being more open about my diagnosis was because I started having seizures in public in front of my friends. Hence, I started educating my friends on what to do and how to handle a situation in a case of me having a seizure, including educating them on seizure aid and telling them to stay calm. One person in a group knowing is enough, and I think it’s so important for others to do the same. It could save lives! One thing I know for sure is that it’s something I’ll be teaching my son at a young age.

There’s a lot of information just in this post alone, and none of it is necessarily medically speaking of epilepsy. Instead, we’ve covered the two different sides of the coin when it comes to epilepsy – the effects it has on a person who suffers a seizure, as well as the effect it has on a loved one of a person who suffers a seizure. Epilepsy can affect a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a friend, and even a son or daughter as well. It’s not just about that one person who has a seizure. My son is just a year old, but he’s already witnessed me having not one, but two grand mal seizures in his life. My biggest hope is that he doesn’t think of himself as my caretaker, or that he never thinks to himself that I had him just so that he’d take care of the ill me. I hope he sees me just as I see myself.

So we learned that epilepsy is more than just about the person who suffers the seizures and lives with this neurological disorder. Epilepsy is more than just one dimensional. The loved ones of those struggling with such a chronic illness are part of it too. They are the ones struggling too.In fact, I think they struggle more than the person who’s actually struggling with the seizure disorder. Their struggles aren’t talked about enough. But the one thing I noticed about people such as Karan Brar and Busy Philips is that they have so much more empathy than an average person. I see it in my family, and I see it in my husband, especially after he witnessed me having that first seizure following our car accident. I’ve written this on this blog before, but I hope that by having an early close look to what life looks like for a physically disabled and a chronically ill person, he’ll develop that same trait, and that he’ll pass it on to those he’ll surround himself with. I hope that he sees that living life with such challenges can actually be a beautiful, and even rewarding thing.


2 thoughts on “OUR LOVED ONES: THE FORGOTTEN ONES IN OUR STRUGGLE WITH A SEIZURE DISORDER

  1. Thanks for this post. I know of several people who have had seizures and it is a very hard thing to process as a loved one.

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