The first seizure I remember was like a wave in the ocean. Over my head, sudden dizziness, ready to go over the crest, then down into the dark. The dark was just not there. Or anywhere. Coming up was like being thrown out into the flotsam and jetsam, not knowing which way was up—seeing but not. A slow coming to the shore, a slow return. I knew I was there, but not. Others were just out of reach; I could see them but so far away.
The first time ended in the ER, surrounded by others, some of whom I knew, others not. Busy action that I could not quite grasp. A business that I was a part of but not. Testing and testing while thinking, “This is weird.” We do this, don’t we? We don’t expect to be on the other side of care. Normal, normal, normal. And yet, I am not.
My brain is not cooperating. Neuro, an abnormal EEG, watch and wait. And again, the slipping into the water. Again and again, unpredictable. Uncooperative. Unprofessional. Without regard to my schedule. Without regard to patients. Without regard to students, family, and my team. Meds, and maybe I’m slowing down. Maybe they are drowning less, but now more often. This taking away independence is frustrating; I struggle to consider it humbling.
When physicians become ill, we, like everyone else, look for a reason. Then we turn the fault inward – what have I done? Who/what do we expect to answer? The logical and illogical mingle in our scientific minds. How we answer this complicated question lays the groundwork for how we embrace a chronic illness. In turn, it determines how we relate to our patients. Acceptance leads to compassion. Humility leads to understanding. Vulnerability leads to caring. We share this road called life with our family, friends, and patients. We do not walk alone.
Lisa Menard-Manlove is a family physician.