What To Believe When Epilepsy — A Chronic Disease — Is Magically Cured?
For starters, I believe in something greater than ourselves.
About ten years ago, I stopped taking Epilepsy pills. To commemorate the first decade of my life without daily pills, I decided to share this personal story with the world.
I hope it will inspire others to believe in magic or something higher than themselves.
About eighteen years ago, when I was thirteen, I had my first epileptic seizure.
My parents said I didn’t return home for hours after school that day. I don’t remember what I had done when I was missing. I remember passing through a garden near our house and seeing my brother coming towards me from the direction of our home.
“Oren! Where have you been?”
“At school, why?”
“We’ve been looking for you for hours! Mom and dad are worried sick.”
I was dumbfounded. I didn’t remember doing anything special that day. I came back home with him, and my parents asked what happened. I swore that nothing happened.
The last thing I remember from that day was my brother talking to me in private and saying: “If something happened and you don’t want mom and dad to know, you can tell me. I’m your brother. You can trust me.”
Then everything went black, and when I woke up, I was in an ambulance.
I was hospitalized for three days. During my stay there, I had gone through strange tests that were bound to become something regular in my life.
I had gone through both of these scans and was invited to a neurologist. She destroyed my life with a single sentence.
“It is best that Oren won’t use computers or watch movies with high frequencies of lights.”
As a kid, I loved my computer, and I loved my TV. Doctor neurologist wanted to take both away from me. I loudly disagreed, and my mother tried to calm me down.
When they said it’s temporary until they know more, I agreed, but I was still agitated. At home, I still played my computer. I told them I wasn’t playing anything with flashing lights. I didn’t know that the actual display was flashing lights. I could have caused myself serious harm if the reason behind my seizures was connected with high-frequency flashing lights.
In another checkup a few weeks later, we were notified they found something in my brain. A center that creates disturbances with the rest of the electric waves going on in the brain. Usually, this type of center can be created when a person was hit by a car or something similar, and there’s brain damage or body trauma.
The doctor said I would have to take pills for the rest of my life.
The next seizure happened in public.
It was Saturday, and I spent the morning — like every Saturday — with my dad at the synagogue in prayer.
One moment I was sitting in my chair, the other I was waking up on a sofa outside the synagogue. Not only I was dizzy and nauseous, but I was also ashamed. It got out. Now everyone would know something is wrong with my brain. Everyone would laugh and point fingers. I wanted to kill myself, and I hated being different.
I also hated the fact I couldn’t remember anything or that I lost control over my body. What people had seen during a seizure was me flailing my limbs, foam coming out of my mouth, and my eyes go up in their sockets that the white is shown instead of my iris.
I have no recollection of any of that. For me, a seizure is a deleted point in time. I only know everything was black. I don’t remember anything else.
It was time to up the dose.
We went to the doctor and told her what had happened. Every time before she would up the dose — and that happened a few more time in the early days — she would send me to go through an EEG again. When it was still positive something was affecting my brain, she would agree to up the dose.
As I started taking higher doses, I noticed something strange. I was becoming heavier and heavier. Where once I was almost underweight, suddenly I was in my right one and crossed it as well.
It didn’t take long for me to cross over into the overweight category where I stayed.
The doctor said it was a non-harmful side-effect, and for a time, I wasn’t suffering from seizures, so she didn’t want to change the dose or replace my medicine with something else.
I knew something was wrong, but I also knew she was right.
But then I had another seizure a few weeks later when I crossed over to age fourteen — the most violent seizure yet.
The Sun had already disappeared in the horizon. I was alone with my other brother at home. My parents left to attend a wedding, and my eldest brother was in the army at the time and would only come on the weekends.
I was feeling strange the entire day and knew something was wrong with me. I recognized the feeling like a different kind of fatigue. I went to the kitchen to pour myself some water.
My hand holding the cup crashed on the table. I remember trying to lift it unsuccessfully and thinking to myself: “I can’t move my arm. Why can’t I move my arm?”
Then everything went black.
When I woke up, I was already at the hospital. My parents, who came straight there from the wedding, told me my brother came down from the second floor and found me lying in a puddle of my own blood on the kitchen floor with bits of broken glass all around me.
There on the hospital bed, I discovered I was not merely physically injured, I was also spiritually broken. “Is this what my life would look like now? Frequent visits to the hospital? Injuring my body and not remembering any of it? What did I do to deserve this punishment?”
I asked God to answer me, and he didn’t.
So if God wouldn’t come to me, I decided to go to their home — The Western Wall, Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is the most spiritual place in the world. At least in my opinion. The timing for my visit was right — A few days before Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur are days when Jewish people decide to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem from all over the country, some even come from other countries to pray at the Western Wall.
I took it all in. There were vast amounts of people near the wall. Many were crying; dozens were deep in prayer. I came there with my dad, and he went ahead to join one of the communal prayers people were conducting at the wall. I told him I would come to join him soon.
I walked to the entrance, and there was a washbasin. The Western Wall is considered a holy place and therefore every time you come to visit you need to wash your hands before coming in. I washed my hands and my doubts away and let the water put me into the situation. I was in-the-moment.
I went to the wall and started talking to God. I was talking silently and told them about my troubles and how I was so scared that I would never be able to use computers again or that I will always take pills.
I asked for their help and their forgiveness for not following through with their commandments. I was religious, but not as the Torah wants you to be. It is a hard life. I told myself I would keep Shabbat if I were somehow cured and spared from this life.
Whether God had listened to me or not, I had felt better than I had felt since my first seizure occurred. I talked about it, let it all out and it was a much-needed release.
I left the western wall with a smile on my face.
Fast forward to eight years in the future. I had been taking pills regularly that entire time. I already forgot about my chat with God, and I thought they forgot me too. I guess I was wrong.
My mom had taken me to my bi-annual EEG checkup (at this point, I was doing them every six months). This time, the scan was clean.
The neurologist told my mom and me that it’s quite rare but not unheard of for Epilepsy-inducing centers in the brain to vanish in my age and she wanted to confirm this is what happened. She then sent me to a CT and a new type of scan — MRI.
Both scans were clean. Whatever was in my brain, causing me to have Epileptic seizures had vanished.
In a follow-up meeting with the doctor to talk about these results, she said something both exciting and terrifying:
“People whose Epilepsy is ‘cured’ like this tend to get it back at age 70–80.”
I didn’t care. I wanted to be free of these pills. I wanted to live my life as I want and not as I’m told. If that means I only have like 50–60 years to enjoy, then so be it.
One of my new year resolutions for the Jewish New Year was to start keeping Shabbat. I kept my promise to God, and I did. I still do, ten years later.
After that meeting with the neurologist, we started a slow process of taking down my huge dosage back down until I wouldn’t take any pills at all.
It took a few months.
On the last day, when I finally took the last pill, I knew my Epilepsy was cured.
What to believe when Epilepsy — a chronic disease — is magically cured? Well, everyone is different. Perhaps, let’s start with: “Magic is real.”