For my last birthday, my sister crawled through my parents’ grove and unearthed a beautiful, decayed typewriter to give to me. It’s gorgeous. I love typewriters for the same reason I love paper—they represent the possibility to manipulate language for story.
But this typewriter is pretty much just for looks: the keys are stuck, the roller won’t budge, and it’s full of corrosion and filth, leaves and twigs and dust.
October’s been a rough month for my brain. I’m still transitioning to my new medication, and as a result, I’ve had a lot of seizures in the past few weeks. Over a dozen.
I’ve fallen into a sort of pattern with these seizures, as many epileptics do, preferring the same idiosyncrasies: I march in place, twiddle my thumbs, and talk nonsense, mostly about food—carrot nubs and garlic cloves in particular. (I guess this is an improvement over a phase I went through in 2012, in which I would take off my own pants…)
In the moments before a seizure, during the wave of nausea and nerves that course through me, I always believe I can stop it, that I can maintain my composure, that I have some sort of control over this disease.
But after my marching and thumb twiddling and food talk (which I never remember afterwards), I always believe that I somehow overruled my seizure, that I kept it from happening, that I overpowered it and kept it under control. I pick up the thread of conversation where it left off. The only indication that anything went wrong is found in those who witness it: this startled, sad expression, gentle words, an offer to sit down, a hug, a glass of water to swallow down my pills.
I hate it.
Not their kindness, never that. I just hate needing it. I hate finding out that I didn’t have as much control over my own body and mind as I thought. I’ll admit, watching people reenact my drum majorette march and my thumb twiddles for me is kind of funny.
The part that’s really embarrassing is finding out what stupid things I’ve said.
During my seizures, I’ve said the following things, within absolutely no context whatsoever—these were lovingly recorded by my friends and family members who’ve witnessed my brain fails:
“You be the zombie sitting in the chair.”
“Matthew in my lap—I’m going to eat his throat out.” (I said this while repeatedly punching my fist into a plate of cake.)
“The carrot nubs will make me stop marching.” (I said this while petting the inside of my purse.)
“You go through the door first.”
“The mermaids at the end of the driveway made me do it.”
“The garlic will make me stop marching.” (I said this while pointing at some garlic cloves and laughing hysterically.)
I’ve also laughed hysterically about our dog barking and about nothing whatsoever.
I sometimes have this strange semi-awareness during my episodes, and I do recall that during the two where I was talking about food (the carrot nubs and the garlic), I was thinking that I should probably take an Ativan tablet, which can abort a seizure. I knew I needed it, and I was trying to articulate that need, but the words just came out all wrong.
I like words. A lot. I was an early reader. I’ve been writing since I could hold a crayon. I taught English for seven years. So to have a disease that robs me—even momentarily—of the capacity to use language properly is devastating. I lock up, I malfunction, my keys get jumbled, the paper gets jammed. I feel like that typewriter my sister found for me—created to use words, but completely helpless to do so.