Seizures As Part of My Journey
By Melody Chord
Issue: Summer 2008: Honeybees as wise messengers - Issue #52, Vol. 13
On March 3, 2003 I was in a car accident that caused my body to start having seizures and spewing out poems. Nine months later, with no seizure improvement, I attended a Healthy Lifestyles Workshop. There I first learned about the seizure research being done by Siegward Elsas, M.D., at Oregon Health Sciences University*. His research is about controlling seizures without the use of drugs.
I did not qualify to participate in his research project. However, Dr.Elsas told me about the Takacs Clinic in Portland, Oregon where I could learn how to manage my seizures without taking medication. He also said I should begin going outside for a walk immediately after I wake up in the mornings and eat organic food. I began walking and changing my food choices the very next day.
Joan Takacs, D.O. managed my seizure education experience at the Takacs Clinic. For the next year and a half I participated in movement exercises, art therapy (wet-on-wet water color), massage therapy, cranial sacral treatments and counseling.
Leslie Cox taught me a series of movement exercises (Eurythmy) that I then practiced at home every morning and evening. In addition to leading me through exercises, Leslie and I talked about life. She thought I might enjoy reading, How To Know Higher Worlds by Rudolf Steiner. Reading the book brought a calm within me I’d never known before.
Finally, someone who understood the experiences I’ve been having since childhood. Finally, an answer to my lifelong quest for religious truth. As I turned the last page I realized I’d opened a new chapter in my life. I no longer felt suicidal, a pull I’d struggled with since I was around ten years old. I felt as though I’d been given a new lease on life.
While working with art therapist Jannebeth Röell, I wasn’t aware that she was moving me closer to, through and out of a seizure. Upon completion of the ten-week course I hung my painting series on a wall in my home as a subtle opportunity to desensitize myself to the seizure experience. Jannebeth also freely answered my many questions and suggested the book, Living With Your Body by Walter Buhler.
Two years later when I returned to the wet-on-wet painting process my poems and paintings merged into responsive art forms. As I paint, poems begin flowing out. I pause to capture them on paper then return to painting until I am again interrupted by a poem impulse. I now have a pile of paintings and a notebook of poems inspired by them.
At the time I started working with my anti-seizure team my complexion was quite a mess. Sometimes my face even bled. Receiving Hauschka massage therapy moved energy out of my head and also helped improve my digestive process. If I were to express fully the many experiences I had while undergoing this energy movement, you may not believe me. It was here I flew over grass fields in Africa, met Crystal Fairies and experienced a dream while awake for the first time. I have to admit this treatment is the one I miss the most because I loved my adventures. Oh, yes, my complexion is cleared up now.
Since my previous doctor suggested I see a counselor, Dr. Takacs recommended Dr. Jon Benson. Our conversations were natural, without pretense and seldom delved into my past. Each session ended with what I came to call a “Golden Nugget “–– something for me to hang onto, to consider, until our next meeting. Here are just a few: “Slow down. The problem will take care of itself.“ “You can have both fleas and ticks at the same time” (more than one kind of seizure). “Trust in God but stay out of the rocks.”
For the last few months before leaving the clinic, I learned movements based on Spacial Dynamics developed by Jaimen McMillan. It’s the first time I’ve felt like I wanted to dance. While practicing Spacial Dynamics my body was able to move with ease and a lightness of being. I learned to create the exact opposite gestures of the seizures. And began to wonder if it was my own space that was attacking me during the seizures?
In addition to the cranial sacral treatments, Dr. Takacs prescribed natural remedies such as Carbo Vici Mali 12 to aid in my digestion, Echinacea/Argentum to help stop the twitch in my eye, and Argentum/Bryophyllum to stop the seizures. Later I began taking Maxalt to prevent migraines. She also suggested I learn to knit, (everyone in my family got scarves for Christmas that year) and write with my feet (this was quite fun). She further suggested that I consult with astrosopher, Charles Forster, whose horoscopic reading was a significant help for me in finding meaning and direction for this next stage of my life. Dr. Takacs also encouraged me to paint.
Currently, I am living in Missoula, Montana, where I continue using the tools I learned to manage my seizures. Upon coming here I’d hoped to add one more layer of health to my seizure control equation, to slow my life down. It seems to be working because for the last two months I’ve been seizure and migraine free for the first time since 2003.
I am extremely grateful that as a result of my seizures I was introduced to the anthroposophic philosophy of life. My individual quest for anthroposophic knowledge continues today as I read, write poetry and paint.
* The Elsas Research Laboratory at Oregon Health and Science University
Working to find whether patients can control or eliminate seizures, the Elsas Research Laboratory is comparing alternative therapies to conventional care
in two main areas: behavioral mind-body intervention and using passionflower as a potential anticonvulsant.
In the Mind-Body study, they are seeking to identify, through journals the participants are asked to keep, emotional or other triggers that may be related to seizures. They use counseling and relaxation techniques to see if these can affect the frequency or severity of seizures and thus improve the quality of life.
In investigating the use of passionflower as a potential intervention for anxiety and seizures, they are comparing different passionflower extraction methods for efficacy in seizure-prone mice. They are also looking for the safest and most effective dosage of the herb.
Their next step, if approved by the FDA, will be a clinical trial whereby participants continue use of their seizure medications while slowly increasing their dosage of passionflower. Routine doctors visits and blood tests will help ensure participants do not experience adverse effects during the study. Several surveys will be used to test for possible anxiety, sedation, quality of life, alertness and attention. As in the mind-body study, participants will be asked to keep seizure diaries of their seizure activity.
Learn more about the research at www.ohsu.edu/neurology/elsas.