I, like most people, had no idea how the brain worked until I was diagnosed with Epilepsy in August of 2013. While I still have a lot to learn, I have a firm grasp on the fact that like Mathematics, the brain has an order of operations. In Mathematics, to solve a problem we learned PEDMAS (Parentheses, Exponents, Divide, Multiply, Addition and Subtraction). The brain’s order of operations HLLK (Heart, Lungs, Liver and Kidneys). I like to pronounce it “HULK.”
I had undiagnosed and untreated Epilepsy for 43 years. As the years progressed the seizures became more frequent and by the time I was diagnosed I was in status epilepticus. This means I was having recurring seizures. However, they were not tonic clonic’s. An Epileptic can be in status with other seizure types. My primary types are myclonics, atonic, absence, simple and complex partials. I have secondary generalized (tonic clonic). The video EEG indicated I was having several hundred of my primary types per day.
After starting treatment and leaving the hospital I looked around and everything was different. Brighter, louder, more vivid, clearer, etc… The sun was brighter, the sky was bluer, the birds were louder. I was like a kid amazed at experiencing something for the first time! In actuality, I was. While I have experienced this with many sensory perceptions, I’ve chosen color as an example to share with you. The first evening after being discharged there was the most gorgeous sunset. I just stood there and stared and said to my husband, “look at all those colors.” I then pointed and said, “What color is that?” He asked, “you’ve don’t know what color that is?” I answered him by saying, “no, I’ve not seen that color before.” He then gasped and said, “you’ve never seen hues of colors. It makes sense.”
What made sense to him? Let me start by saying my husband is a complete, total, no doubt about it fashionista. So, he said when we would go shopping I would pick out colors that didn’t go together, but I would argue with him that they did. For example, according to him there are shades of green and purple that go together and some that don’t. I thought they all did. He thought I was color blind. Now he knew it was because I didn’t see hues of color.
He was right. All shades of colors; purple, green, red, etc… looked the same to me. I started watching the sky at sunrise and sunset. There were so many colors I hadn’t seen before. The grass was different shades of green. The leaves on the trees were different shades of green. The flowers were so bright, vivid and colorful. It was like I went from watching an old tube TV to a full HD TV. I was looking around so quickly trying to take it all in that at one point I thought I was going to get whiplash.
When I went to a follow up visit with my doctor. I was apprehensive at first but when I brought it up we talked about this in depth. He said this is what he expected and was pleased. He said it meant the medicine was working. We learned about the brain and it’s “order of operations.” Basically, when the brain is continuously misfiring it determines what functions are the most important. It can’t handle processing everything so it has to make a decision.
In essence, my brain could care less if I was hearing things clearly or seeing things crisp, clear, bright and not distorted. As a matter of fact, it put all sensory perception processing on hold. It kept my heart pumping, lungs breathing, liver and kidneys functioning. Everything else took a back seat. Why? My brain had a problem to solve. It was trying to keep me alive and was in pure survival mode.
Now, If I start feeling weird and think I might have a seizure coming on I look out the window. If I still see the different hues of color I know I am okay. If I don’t then I know it’s a warning sign or an aura. I’ve learned to listen brain and take precautions. After all, it knows its order of operations.