My ‘depression’ turned out to be epilepsy

Doctors thought Beatrice's 'strange' feelings were depression - it wasn't until she ended up in hospital after trying to kill herself that the truth was revealed.

True Stories

girl looking at the camera

Learning to live with a life changing diagnosis

My story may sound a scary experience, but I hope it will help anyone out there. And help people to understand, there is always hope.

“Normal” problems

I was a very happy girl growing up with no worries in my life, until I hit 14. I, like all of my friends, would have a ‘grey’ day when we would all feel a bit ‘down’, with ‘normal’ problems like boys and spots.

However unlike all of my friends, I started to experience strange auras that I could not explain. I tried to carry on day to day at school, but the feelings began to worsen. I would casually be walking to school or sitting in the classroom, when I would unexpectedly experience a scary, strange ‘deja vu’ feeling. It would feel as though I’d been here and done this exact thing before. Then I would suddenly feel so hot and confused about what was going on around me. It was so scary, in a way that words cannot describe, then after a couple of minutes the feeling would stop.

I tried to explain it to my mother; who wasn’t sure what was happening either, but she could see how scared I was. She took me to the doctors. As I explained my experiences, the doctor looked completely baffled, and said I was suffering from depression. He referred me to see a counsellor. Despite feeling so unwell, I had no choice but to follow the doctor’s referral. I was referred to an adolescent counsellor. I found it very difficult to talk to him, as he didn’t seem to understand what I was saying. He ignored everything I told him about the strange feelings I was experiencing, and prescribed me a form of Prozac. Just two weeks after taking the drug, I was staying the night at my friend’s house, when the next day I woke up in Hospital.

My first seizure

I was told by the Doctor I had experienced a Grand Mal seizure. I was in absolute shock and horror! How embarrassing to have a seizure in my friends bed!

I later saw a neurologist who confused me with his analysis. It appeared there was not a black & white answer. On reflection it makes a lot of sense, he explained that it could be a one-off seizure, as this happens to 1 in 20 people in their lifetime, but my EEG showed I was susceptible to seizures. I came home scared and confused. What did this mean? I wanted to get back to ‘normal’ as quickly as possible.

I continued to experience strange auras. However my GP ignored all of the neurologist’s summary, and sent me to see another counsellor for depression again. I continued having the strange sense of deja vu and the scary feelings continued, until one day I thought I was going mad. It got too much to handle, so one day I bought a load of painkillers from the chemist and took an overdose at home. I wanted to end the fear, and the strangeness I was experiencing. I had given up on everything.

Hope

I was brought round in hospital luckily to see my mum, dad and sister who were so kind and understanding, and promised to help me get through everything, and gave me hope.

As time went on, the deja vu, I know now as auras, started to turn into seizures which my mother and sister witnessed. I was eventually referred to a hospital specialising in neurology. I met the most understanding neurologist. Every experience I described, for instance. unpleasant deja vus, a pain in my stomach at the same time, feeling really hot, and then what he described as a ‘Grand mal seizure’. He instantly diagnosed me with Epilepsy. In a strange way at the age of 18, I was relieved; I wasn’t going ‘mad’ I am just a normal girl who experienced a common form of epilepsy. I later had an MRI scan that showed I had a small scar that possibly caused the seizures.

I was prescribed anti epileptic medication, and I instantly started to feel more ‘normal’. Now I can understand the feelings. Although it may take some time to find the right medication, it doesn’t stop me from leading a normal life. I still like a drink, but no longer take any drugs, as that is a trigger.

I happily started back at college, and then went onto complete my degree in Media Studies at university.

It is not an easy topic to tell people about, but I want to break the barrier. I am not alone. Over 450,000 people have epilepsy in the UK alone, with 7 people diagnosed every day in England. Like most people I don’t always find it easy to tell people, but as time goes on, I have told everyone I am close to. If people are too scared I just have to reassure them I am not going to suddenly have a seizure and fall on the floor, but if someone finds it too hard, I think I’m better off without them.

Picture posed by model from Shutterstock

Next Steps

  • Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 3393
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By Beatrice

Updated on 29-Sep-2015