Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures (PNES)
Since returning from Afghanistan in Nov 2010 I have been on Anti-seizure drugs to control whatever caused my seizure in theater. The downside with these is that they are also Mood Stabilizing/Altering. After 8 years of being on them I was eventually stripped off my anti-seizure drugs during Easter 2018. What followed was 11 months of hell.
I was diagnosed with Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures (PNES) during a two week admission to Toronto Western Hospital’s Epileptic Monitoring Unit. I won’t get in to what kind of disaster this diagnosis has been, instead that deserves it’s own post. The end result was an 11 month period where I almost died numerous times, bit a piece of tongue off and caused other injuries to myself (during seizures), I was also house bound and mostly bed ridden. I was unable to take care of myself let alone help with the household. I required almost 24hr nursing and PSW care as a result I became Veteran Affairs most expensive client.
This all culminated with my depression taking over, I stopped living and was only just barely existing. I threatened my best friend, I become isolated and totally withdrawn. I picked fights with my spouse and betrayed the trust of everyone around me. Eventually, I gave up on life and even came up with a plan on how and when to end it. Luckily I was stopped. I would spend almost 20 days in hospital under observation.
Turning on the Lights
During that 20 days I had a complete and total breakdown. I was also taken off the last of my anti-seizure drugs completely (I had gone back on them). I was now only on my anti-depressants, no more sedation either. The psychiatrist then put me on Abilify, as an adjunct to my Cymbalta (SNRI). Abilify is an anti-psychotic, but at lower doses (less than 40 mg) it causes your body to absorb more of your anti-depressant. This new combination worked wonders.
I liken it to walking into a room with no lights and no windows, and then turning on the lights. Suddenly, after years of living in a drug induced fog, I could see and think more clearly. Which means I could also clearly see where I messed up, the mistakes I made. The pain of knowing that I hurt those closest to me is excruciating. The shame is almost unbearable. What’s worse is most of it is covered in a foggy blur. Days, Weeks, months they are all just a single mass of depression, numbness, hate, anger and sheer lack of living or even desire to actually live.
The Future Path
What transpires next is a very long journey, not just for myself, but for my family and friends as well. I am still not well, not by a long shot and there are others, closest to me, that I have injured that will need the time and resources to heal as well. The question remains though, is there enough time left and resources available so that they can heal as well. Or has the damage been done. How much of the damage to me can be healed? How much of it is now a permanent reminder of my military service and total disregard and even contempt that my Chain of Command held for my well being.
Knowing what I know now. Had I been told prior to enlisting that I would be irrevocably damaged to the point of wanting and planning to die and that I would turn on those most closest to me. Would I have still taken the oath and signed the papers. Knowing now what I know, and the price that I have paid and that others continue to pay. I do not think so.