Posted by: Harold Knight | 09/26/2009

Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and Dante: An Unscientific Exposé (and an open question how this is related to Bipolar disorder)

“Thank God hallucinations are not part of Bipolar disorder or TLE!”   Unless you count déjà vu and such oddities of seizures as hallucinations. That’s all I’d need: Angels talking to me or demons flying around my living room.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away

An oddity of seizures:  fluorescent lights. At the beginning of time, Heinrich Geissler, Peter Cooper Hewitt, and Edmund Germer ** had a special circle of hell created and reserved for them, directly above Lucifer frozen in the ice for eternity.

I'm not half the man I used to be

I'm not half the man I used to be

Well-meaning people tell me I’m imagining a problem with fluorescent lights because they no longer flicker. Those folks are not inside my head. Fluorescent lights cause (me, at any rate) seizures. Or, at the very least, they cause the nasty, distressing, and ultimately excruciating thing (I call it a thing because I don’t know a word for it—not exactly pain, but something so weird and, yes, violent) that happens to my brain. They give me the sense that reality recedes, and I am left alone, observing what is happening, hearing myself talk, but not feeling my jaws and lips move because body and mind have taken leave of each other. When I was in second grade, I told myself I was feeling “that way” and assumed it was one step away from crazy. 

I don’t know if the lights in Mrs. Hall’s second grade classroom in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, in 1953 were fluorescent or not. That’s irrelevant because I felt “that way” in other places, too. But I know my seizures are often related to those damned lights. Even if they don’t flicker, they are not natural. When did the sun ever make everything the same white brightness? Go to the beach. Sit in the sun. Does it look like your office? Of course not. So don’t tell me I’m mistaken.

Fluorescent lights may not be the problem. They may be the symptom of living in such an artificial world that the most sensible brains rebel. My brain is trying to show the rest of you that you are in danger and don’t know it.  I’ve never had a seizure at the beach. Remember a few years back all that talk that living under high-tension wires would make you sterile or drive you batty or something. Ponder…Is this weird, fantastic, beautiful, or what?

Beauty in the brain of the beholder

Beauty in the brain of the beholder

FIELD by Richard Box is a set of 1301 fluorescent lights installed in the ground and powered by the ambient electricity from nearby power-lines. 
http://www.jimonlight.com/2009/03/01/field-by-richard-box/ 

The only surprise here is that more of us don’t have seizures.

** The earliest fluorescent light was invented by physicist Heinrich Geissler in 1856, a gas-filled tube that gave off a bluish-green light when jolted with electricity.
In 1901, an American inventor named Peter Cooper Hewitt developed the first successful fluorescent light bulb.
It wasn’t until 1926 that scientist Edmund Germer was able to produce a truly commercial fluorescent light.

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Responses

  1. Joshua wears a baseball cap at work to shield his eyes from the fluorescent light so he won’t get a bad headache.

    Does feeling “that way” include seeing other people distorted as through a coke-bottle lens and some sounds magnified while others are muffled, with thoughts racing while it feels like your body is moving in slow motion like you were underwater? Third grade is the first time I remember it happening – hasn’t happened in awhile, thank goodness.

    That was one of the days I got “licks” because I was hitting the desk and stomping my feet, trying to bring the world back to normal. It gave me my third demerit of the week (the others always received for talking to those around me when I had finished my work, but they were still working) and consequently three strikes in the hallway from the teacher’s trusty paddle.

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  2. I am confused about the statement that TLE does not include hallucenations. Mine does. The whole Dante deal. I also have a problem when air takes on a “feeling” like there is another demension. Try getting your basic neurologist to believe that one. I have gone through two lately that believe I am psychotic. Luckily I see a doctor once a week who specializies in psychosis and says I am not. I hear voices and have since kindergarden. I know that this is the TLE since they can be controlled based on the amount of medication I take. considering what goes on in my head, I certainly believe you about the lights. I am 55. I managed things until four years ago when it became unbearable. Now I rarely leave the house or drive. I am on Topamax -the others cause a problem responses such as death ideation.

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  3. I should, of course, have said, MY version of TLE does not include hallucinations. I think it’s probably true that there are as many versions of the disorder as there are people who have it. I love your description, “when air takes on a ‘feeling’ like there is another demension.” The oddities compound themselves in my head, and that is one way of describing the sensation I have that every time I breathe in, I am experiencing a new view of the world. I hope you find a neurologist who is able and willing to work with you instead of judging you.

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