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Just when you thought it was safe

Epilepsy in Plain Sight

Just when you thought it was safe

A personal epilepsy experience by Dr. Lee Outlaw

I am taking a short break from my six part Epilepsy series, “Six often overlooked associated conditions of Epilepsy” to write a special piece on my most recent experience as an epileptic.

I want every epileptic to know that I am not just a Christian Counselor and Psychologist; I am a real life epileptic. Although, my epilepsy is controlled fairly well, like you, I have my epileptic moments and just when I thought it was safe…, EPILEPSY reared its ugly head.

I was driving home (yes I drive) from a meeting feeling perfectly fine when suddenly out of nowhere I was hit with the ugly fist of a full blown Epileptic aura; not a seizure mind you but the next worst thing. I had taken my morning dosage of Depakote and CBD and had gotten my full 8 hours sleep. Apart from the slight stress of the drive itself, there was absolutely nothing to trigger an aura.

It was a very frustrating experience. Although I had had minor auras, this was the first major aura in ten years and that aura led to a major Grand Mal seizure; needless to say I was scared.

The aura was so intense, I had to pull over onto the frontage road from the freeway and eventually I pulled into a convenience store and purchased a diet cola. I finally felt I had walked the aura off well enough that I had control and drove on home; unfortunately the aura wasn’t over.

As I reached my home, I became extremely tired (every epileptic knows that severe tired feeling) and I practically fell out of my van. I made it inside the house and collapsed into my recliner where I remained fading in and out of consciousness for the next eight hours. I had no doubt as to what was happening so I finally took an extra dose of Depakote and ultimately made it to bed.

I woke up Saturday morning and felt some better but I knew things still weren’t right. As usual I took my Depakote and later CBD. I had a light breakfast but the aura remained; not as bad as the previous day but it was bad.

For those of you who might have never experienced an intense epileptic aura, here is what I (and many others) experienced:

It was as though I became semi-conscious, walking around in a hazy light yellow (some experience other colors but mine has always been yellow) fog (unable to focus or concentrate) intermittent déjàvu, weird smells (I smelled cigarette and cigar smoke even though no one in my home smokes and nobody is allowed to smoke in the house) and a thousand crickets in my head (some claim to hear strange sounds or music)(tinnitus/ringing in my ears). I also experienced a light head ache.

As a psychologist I need to point out here that someone experiencing a stroke can have a similar pre-stroke experience. Unless you have had an intense aura and discussed it with your neurologist (even if you are an epileptic) and have such an experience as I have described, you should call 911 immediately; it could be the difference between life and death.

Every epileptic’s aura experience is different but that was my most recent.

I continued to take my Depakote and CBD throughout the day and even an extra half dose of Depakote in the afternoon as my neurologist had previously directed when I experience an intense aura.

The aura seemed to decrease throughout the afternoon until I went to bed that evening.

Around 4:30 am Sunday morning, it happened, I had a “night (Nocturnal) seizure”; I woke up consciously shaking having bitten both my right side tongue and upper and lower lips. My tongue was bitten severely and outer lower lip bite actually bled.

The good news as most of us as epileptics know is that after the night seizure I am feeling much better and am nearly back to normal.

Keep in mind, increasing numbers of neurologist and researchers believe the epileptic aura is actually a simple partial seizure. Regardless, the aura for most of us as epileptics is a horrible experience.

I thank God for a good neurology team, support team which includes my family, great anti-seizure meds and prayer.

I am also thankful for the U.S. Congress having legalized CBD oil in all 50 states and the Texas State Legislature having legalized Low THC/CBD Cannabinol for use by Epileptics. I believe sincerely, had I not been taking CBD, my aura and seizure would have been much greater.

For all epileptics and non-epileptics alike, please remember that epilepsy is not a disease (although since 2014, many researchers have disagreed); it is a neurological disorder. At present there is no known cure and epilepsy does not get better (although most of us agree it is becoming easier to control); it is always there. But with proper care and support it is possible to live a relatively normal life.

May God bless every epileptic and their families and may God give wisdom to epileptic researchers as they seek a cure.

© 2018 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

 

 

What’s wrong with people? Part 3

Part 3 of A Seven Part Series on Why People Do What They Do

PART 3


People tend to care more about themselves than the greater good of others


As we continue to investigate this “social-psychological” problem of “What’s wrong with people?”, it has become evident to many in both mental health and pastoral care that people appear more self-centered than at any time in history.

It seems that in western civilization especially, we have become a “me first” society; this is not to disparage President Trump’s America First agenda which has been sorely needed. On the world stage, the United States has been and continues to be the most caring and giving nation in the world. On an individual basis, however, people, in general, seem increasingly less concerned for their fellow man and more concerned about themselves.

This “Me, me, me” attitude has developed an increase by smaller side culture groups (too numerous to mention) promoting their cause(s) in such great emphasis that their particular cause and need seems far greater than what it is in actuality.

The result is very “in your face” and sometimes profane and vulgar bumper or rear window stickers used to intimidate; the intention is usually to emphasize, “I’m more important than you” or “My cause is greater than yours”.

We used to be a “Good neighbor” society. New neighbors were welcomed to our neighborhoods, villages or towns. If someone moved in next door to us, we introduced ourselves; made a cake or casserole and let them know we were there “for them” should we be needed. This usually resulted in men exchanging tools needed for repairs and children playing together.

In the current trend of “Me, me, me” and self-gratification, there is little if any concern or even acknowledgment for our neighbors or anyone else. This attitude results in people shoving or stealing someone’s place in line, needlessly cutting in and out of traffic, not obeying traffic signs and failing in general to acknowledge our own bad behavior.

In essence, we have become a Narcissistic personality disorder society.

I had a Psychiatrist friend who used to say; almost every patient he saw had Narcissistic personality tendencies. My experience as a psychologist was very similar and we would often have long discussions about this very serious subject and bear in mind, this is a serious subject.

Since most murderers, rapist, and thieves are usually diagnosed as a narcissist, just imagine the problem of an entire society with this disorder; it certainly helps to answer the question of “What is wrong with people?”

The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) , which is often utilized by most of us as mental health professionals to diagnose psychological disorders, suggests that narcissistic personality disorder causes significant impairments in personality in terms of functioning and is accompanied by a number of pathological personality traits or symptoms (which will be mentioned later).

Although it is estimated by the National Institute of Mental Health that only one percent of those diagnosed with personality disorders actually have Narcissistic personality disorder, it is important to point out that less than ten percent of the population actually receive any actual mental health treatment (even though nearly fifty percent have enquired at some point about professional counseling). This brings to question such a low estimate of those with an actual Narcissistic personality disorder.

Most of us in professional mental health agree the problem is far greater than one percent.

Regardless of the percentage, the problem is real and increasingly affects our society; so what do we do?

First of all, never hesitate to obtain professional psychological help.

Here are some of the symptoms of a Narcissistic personality disorder:

  • An exaggerated sense of their abilities and accomplishments
  • Constantly seeking attention, affirmation, and praise
  • A belief that he or she is unique or “special” and should only associate with “like-kind”
  • Persistent fantasies about attaining success and power
  • Exploiting other people for personal gain
  • A sense of entitlement and expectation of special treatment
  • A preoccupation with power or success
  • Feeling envious of others, or believing that others are envious of him or her
  • A lack of empathy for others

If you or someone you know demonstrates any of these traits, Narcissistic personality disorder might be the problem and it is not to be taken lightly.  Seeking professional help is essential and can make a difference.

There is good news,  many counseling and psychotherapeutic techniques have been proven effective in the treatment of Narcissistic personality disorder.

These treatments include:

  1. Psychodynamic psychotherapy
  2. Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  3. Psychotropic medications

There are also the words of Jesus from the New Testament, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,” Matthew 7:12.

© 2018 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

Six overlooked conditions of Epilepsy

MLREPIL (Large)Six overlooked conditions of Epilepsy

 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

As I begin the new section of Drtruthman Christian Counseling and Opinion dedicated to Epilepsy titled, “Epilepsy in plain sight”, I will attempt to address areas of this neurological condition which are usually obvious but often neglected in general epilepsy diagnosis and discussion.

These associate conditions include:

  1. Heightened emotions
  2. Decreased touch sensitivity (aka ”Depakote dropsy”)
  3. Increased or decreased libido
  4. Verbal rambling
  5. Momentary memory loss
  6. OCS ( a type of OCD)

Crying man

Heightened emotions

Very few epileptics ever talk about this subject with either their support team or their neurologist; especially men. It usually happens while watching a movie or television program and you find yourself suddenly caught up in the movie and become either extremely angry or crying like a baby with usually more of the latter.

This Pseudobulbar affect (or more commonly known as PBA), or emotional incontinence, is a type of emotional disturbance characterized by uncontrollable episodes of crying and/or laughing, or other emotional displays. PBA occurs as secondary to an existing neurologic disorder or brain injury. Although more commonly associated with Parkinson, MS and stroke victims, PBA has become increasingly reported among epileptics; possibly because of new epilepsy medications or simply because patients haven’t always reported the condition.

These uncontrollable episodes of crying and/or laughing, or other emotional displays seem to happen at the most inopportune times.  It happens at family events, church, patriotic events and even for no reason at all. I have found myself sometime blubbering like a baby just hearing someone pray or me giving the family Thanksgiving blessing or my favorite sports team winning.

There doesn’t have to be any rhyme or reason for these heightened emotions occurring.

I do know this; I am a genetic, grand general epileptic. I was born with epilepsy and I can have any kind of seizure at any time but my problem with heightened emotions didn’t start until I was put on anti-seizure medication in 1999 and I have been on three different medications.

It depends on your anti-seizure medication as to the extent of the increase in your emotions being heightened but from the epileptics I have professionally counseled over the years it seems to happen to all of us as epileptics.

It doesn’t have to be just anger or sorrowful emotions either; it can also be manic emotion such as uncontrollable laughter, frivolity and whimsical behavior.

At this point, you have to be careful should you decide to report this to your neurologist, GP or Psychotherapist; the reason being that heightened manic emotions can also mask epilepsy in some psychotic disorders such as certain types of Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

With regard to schizophrenia there are two common sub-types which would seem to mimic The Pseudobulbar affect:  1) neophrenia; a deranged neurosis or psychosis which has often been associated with early onset schizophrenia where an individual finds everything funny and laughs sometimes uncontrollably and 2) hebephrenia; a syndrome characterized by shallow and inappropriate giggling (or laughing), and silly regressive behavior and mannerisms; this has now been renamed disorganized schizophrenia.

Another important fact to remember is that most ant-seizure medications are also used for controlling certain types of Bipolar and schizophrenic behavior.  As a result, there is some indication that the conditions these medications help to control in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia might actually have the reverse effect on epileptics causing medical and mental health professionals to overlook the epilepsy connection and jump right to the neurotic and psychotic diagnostic categories.

Even though it can be a somewhat frightening thought to have your epilepsy re-diagnosed as a psychological disorder, it is still always best to consult your neurologist with concerns about heightened emotions. It might be as simple as changing your medication dosage or even changing your anti-seizure medication completely.

But once again, with regard to the information provided, choose your words carefully.

Closely associated with an epileptic’s heightened emotions is the second condition of Decreased touch sensitivity (aka ”Depakote dropsy”) which will be discussed in the next article of “Epilepsy in plain sight”.

© 2018 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

What’s wrong with people? Part 2

Part 2 of A Seven Part Series on Why People Do What They Do

Part 2

People tend to take the easy way out

 

People do tend to take the easy way out; often making both their life and the lives of others more difficult.

In the continuing look at the ““social-psychological” problem of “What’s wrong with people?” it’s not only evident that people don’t think things through but that they also tend to take the easy way out. If there is an easy way to accomplish something most people will take the easy road to their intended accomplishment.

This is not to say that the easy way is never the best way; sometimes it is. Even the problem-solving solution by the thirteenth-century English Franciscan friar, William of Ockham stated that “when presented with competing hypothetical answers to a problem, one should select the answer that makes the fewest assumptions”. In other words, what has become commonly known among scholars as “Occam’s razor “suggest that the best solution or answer to a problem is often the simplest or most obvious conclusion that sometimes the simplest and easiest way to a solution is the best.
Occam’s razor does not seek to offer complete and absolute proof, but to find the simplest probable answer to a question of why an event happened.

Although the good Friar was a man of God and quite learned for his day in the fields of science, math, philosophy, and theology, the overall theme of the church was that every choice man made should be attributed to God or the church. As a result, everything people did that was bad for them was due to their disobedience to God.

Over time, people began to blame God or the Devil for everything that was good or bad in their lives. God and/or the devil were the obvious “easy answer” to all of life’s situations, difficulties, and problems. In essence, the most obvious answer to “What’s wrong with people?” was simply they weren’t obedient to God.

That trend continued over the centuries which followed and continues today; only now God becomes less and less the “easy way out” and other people, places, and things become the easy road or solution to humanity’s problems or accomplishments. After all, man has moved beyond God (or so most think).

Generally speaking, the easy way out for many people is the “blame game”; the idea that “it wasn’t me”. It was somebody else, it was a professor, a parent, a college, a pastor, a love relationship, the car they were driving or the road on which they were driving. For others, it was the job or the lack thereof, the foods they eat, the stress in their lives, sibling rivalry, bad genes, not enough money or too much money, alcohol, drugs or sex.

Unfortunately, Psychology, the very profession I’ve been a part of for over forty years has made the blame game the top “easy way out” for most people.

After all, it was the father of Psychiatry, Sigmund Freud who concluded that all of our problems can be traced back to our parents and our childhood; we could now blame our parents for our flaws, our frailties, and our failures.

Even though Carl Yung attempted to emphasize that personality traits and behavior were learned through social interaction and environment, the tendency within the Mental Health Community has continued to allow the blame game a significant area of emphasis.

Although blame is a simple and easy road on which to escape responsibility, it isn’t the only “easy way out”.

One of the easiest ways out of any situation in life for many people is the age-old art of lying. I use the term “art” here as opposed to sin because even though everyone does it in one form or another, some people have indeed made lying an art form due to their pathological infatuation with its use.

For far too many people today, the failure to keep the ninth commandment is not even considered a sin since everybody does it. Even many theologians argue that technically there is no “Thou shalt not lie” found anywhere in the Ten Commandments or anywhere else in the Law of Moses. These Theologians would argue that the ninth commandment is about “Not bearing false witness against one’s neighbor”; in other words claiming or saying your neighbor said or did something they had not done; most would even argue that the commandment was primary about land and property disputes. Of course, lying is still implied even though not stated specifically.

So choosing the simplest way of doing something, blaming someone or something else for our mistakes or failure and lying are all ways of taking the easy way out. The most common way of taking the easy way out, however, is simply never committing to a task or quitting after the task has begun.

As we continue our look at “What’s wrong with people?” it’s obvious that people all too often tend to take the easy way out leading to mistakes and difficulties which affect themselves and everyone around them.

If more people would slow down their lives and stop to think things through, they’d be less apt to take the easy way out making life better for everyone.

© 2018 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

What’s wrong with people? Part 1

Part 1 of A Seven Part Series on Why People Do What They Do


Part 1
People don’t think things through

“What is wrong with people?” is what many of us think, say, or shout in the wake of a seemingly senseless, sudden action or comment we encounter by another person or persons.

It might be someone cutting us off while driving, using profanity in front of children, making rash or unthoughtful comments, making a senseless financial decision or wrongful action to a friendship or relationship.

On the grander scale, it might be a political decision you don’t favor, a disagreement with a theological or ecclesiastical (church) decision or a troubling socially and politically correct trend.
For many of us, these kinds of things not only upset us but make our blood boil with anger.

This often stated frustration made by many appears to be on the increase; in reality however, this “social-psychological” problem is as old and as common as man himself.
The main cause or ingredient to this problem is a lack of common sense or critical thinking; in essence, people simply don’t think things through. They neither think things through thoroughly and completely nor weigh the consequences of the subsequent action.

Some would say such critical thinking and evaluation is near impossible “on the run” or in the “heat of the moment”. Therein lies one of the most serious of this social-psychological problem; most of us need to slow down.

It is impossible to think a thing through if you’re living life at the speed of light.

The computer era has made the term of “multi-tasking” the common cliché. In reality multi-tasking is all too often the attempt to do too much at one time and like the old adage says, “A jack of all trades is the master of none”.

This multi-tasking develops an environment of increased personal pressure forcing many to toss critical thinking or  “common sense” out the window; the result is another common cliché of our day, “It is what it is”.

The reality of this nonchalant attitude of “It is what it is” is simply a “don’t care” attitude; seldom is what something appears to be reality.

When the majority of people develop this “It is what it is” attitude there is no base for establishing common sense or critical thinking and no reason for people to think things through thoroughly.
The failure to think things through thoroughly ends in negative results from not considering all the possibilities, ramifications and consequences of a possible action.

As stated in the introduction to this seven part series, you will not only find a discussion of what’s wrong with people but also answers.
People can only begin to use common sense and critical thinking if they have a standard on which to base their actions and decisions.

As a Christian Psychologist and counselor, I find no better standard than the Bible.

There are three verses which emphasize what people can do to think things through thoroughly:

Think:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you”. (James 1:5 NIV)
Decide:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Act without anger:
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” (Ephesians 4:26)

Part 2 of “What’s wrong with people?” will discuss “Why people take the easy way out?”

© 2018 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

What is wrong with people? Introduction

A Seven Part Series on Why People Do What They Do

 

Recently my three sons and I were discussing in general the actions and attitude of people within our circle of friends, acquaintances and extended family. As we discussed some of the issues and situations in more specifics, we came up with more questions than answers but the overwhelming question was simply, “What is wrong with people?”

In general the question seems to be cross generational and cross cultural but overall the intricacy of the question can be broken down as follows:

What is wrong with people seems to be a result of :

1.       They don’t think things through thoroughly

2.       They seem to take the easy way out

3.       They tend to care more about themselves than the greater good of others

4.       They tend to care more about themselves than the law

5.       They tend to care more about themselves than God and their faith

6.       They care more about feelings than consequences

7.       They tend to believe the unbelievable but can’t believe in an all knowing and all powerful God.

In the area of psychology, we refer to this study of people and what sometimes appears to be a less than normal and lack of common sense approach to life as “Social Psychology”

Of course within secular psychology, the study of such is an attempt to scientifically understand and explain how thoughts, feelings, and behavior of people are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others within society.  Simply stated, social psychology is all about understanding how each person’s behavior is influenced by their social surroundings.

The problem within mainstream secular psychology however, is that there is no real defined moral base or ethical value from which to standardize such a study of an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behavior apart from fluctuating statistics in comparison analysis of the same given criteria among ones peers or an established psychological norm at any given moment.

As such, I will attempt to examine in a seven part series  utilizing both Christian and Secular Psychology, “What is wrong with people?” from a Social Psychological perspective and unlike many Psychological papers, I will attempt to answer the question.

Regardless of one’s philosophical, political, religious or psychological view, we have all been dissatisfied, disappointed or even frustrated by people either within or outside our social and family circle and we have asked the question or variation thereof, “What is wrong with people?”

Hopefully, over this seven part series on Drtruthman Counseling, you will find your answer to that age old question, “What is wrong with people?”

© 2018 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

 

 

 

I am an Epileptic

 

Having been one all my life, it is sometimes easy to overlook the fact that I am indeed an epileptic.

I am on medication and live a fairly normal life. I do most everything that non-epileptic people do; in fact after eleven years and seven attorneys attempting to get this “Grand General Epileptic” disability, the state and federal governments denied such because they declared that I was a “functional epileptic”.

“Functional epileptic”, is there really such a thing? That’s a topic for another discussion.

None the less, most epileptics will tell you it’s not necessarily the seizure that’s the great concern but everything leading up to and afterwards such as pre and post seizure auras that are truly debilitating and hinder the ability to “be normal”.  

For the non-epileptic, it’s important to note that epileptic auras are for most, more dreaded than the seizure itself and like a seizure they can occur unexpectedly at any time with or without medication with no reason as to the cause.  

One thing for certain is that there is nothing fun about an aura. They can last from a few minutes to hours or even days. The average aura time for most epileptics I know is about 15 minutes. My average aura last 24 hours but I have experienced a pre-seizure aura which lasted 2 days and a post-seizure aura which lasted almost a week.

Auras are terrible. They can be mild to migraine headaches, the proverbial “seeing stars”, visualizing “saintly” like glows or halos around people, visualization can take on a yellowish hue as well as experiencing  strange sounds and odors.

But the worst aura experience of all for most epileptics is dissociation; the feeling of uncertainty of where you are or what many epileptics describe as a sensation of being in multiple places at the same time. Some have suggested it is like you’re here but also somewhere else. The bottom line is if you haven’t experienced it, you simply can’t understand.

The aura often causes an epileptic to lose momentary thought, focus and concentration.

Some research now suggests that due to their debilitating effect on the epileptic, these auras are actually partial seizures. Regardless of what these auras are, they can certainly slow a person down, delay or even force a change or cancellation to plans.

It is important to note here that some epileptics never experience an aura.

In addition to the auras and seizures, there is also the emotional trauma sitting in the epileptics unconscious mind constantly asking the question, “Will I have a seizure today”? And “If I have a seizure today, what kind will it be”?  

Those questions usually give rise to more questions which give rise to more questions such as, “Since I feel kind of strange today, should I go out in public and chance having a seizure away from home”? If you drive, “Should I try to drive today and possibly have an accident or even hurt or kill someone”?

“I’m feeling constantly sleepy, do I need sleep or am I trying to pass out and seize” and “if I take a little nap, will I have a sleep or wakeup seizure”? “Should I go to the ER or should I call my neurologist or am I just being silly and paranoid”?

Although life for everyone is filled with uncertainties, for the epileptic these uncertainties become magnified.

For this epileptic, the past month had gone very well; between my medications of Depakote and CBD oil I was stable and feeling great. I had gone to church, out to eat, a birthday party or two and even driving during day light hours. Being an epileptic simply wasn’t on my radar and didn’t seem to matter.

Then suddenly out of nowhere last Saturday, I experienced the worst aura since 2008. My hands and arms shaking, visualization suddenly yellowed, found myself staring for long moments into space, then the dreaded feeling of disassociation; the feeling of being in two separate places at once.

The feeling was horrible and quite frightening. The last time I had an aura that intense was prior to a “Grand Mal” seizure while driving in 2008. There was nobody hurt and no damage except to my van which was totaled. Thank God a police officer witnessed the entire thing and called the paramedics who took me to the ER immediately.

That recent Saturday aura suddenly brought me back to reality reminding me that I am an epileptic.

Then this very morning, with plans in process, my day is interrupted by having a moderate morning wakeup seizure with a traumatic follow up post-seizure aura destroying both my plans for the day and possibly my future.

It is totally debilitating, destructive and often humiliating (as it was for me today), this thing we call epilepsy.

But once again, I am an epileptic and as most neurologists tell us, we can have a seizure at any moment of any day; unfortunately for some repeatedly throughout the day.

Cancelled plans and appointments, inability to keep commitments, feelings of inadequacies and indecisiveness, frustration and associated depression; all associated with epilepsy.

Take the meds as prescribed, get eight hours sleep, try and avoid naps and seizure causing meds and still a seizure and/or an aura is possible.

I can never forget I am an epileptic.

© 2017 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD