Online Christian Counseling and Opinion

Archive for the ‘Epilepsy’ Category

The Importance of Sam’s Law

Hopefully, as I prepare to publish this article, “Sam’s Law”, House Bill 684, was being heard in front of the Senate Education Committee (Tuesday, April 30) and will be placed on the agenda for a vote prior to the ending of the current Texas State Legislature.

The reason this law is of vital importance is that it will require all schools to become epilepsy educated and aware. Epileptic seizures (of all kinds) are often misidentified and epilepsy itself is so misunderstood that many people don’t recognize a seizure when they see one. Some seizures such as absence, simple or complex partial seizures are simply unrecognized.

Even when a seizure is recognized, people often don’t know what to do. This is especially true in our schools. Children and teens with epilepsy can experience a seizure and depending on the type of seizure, teachers, coaches, principals, counselors and even some school nurses are unaware of how to proceed.

This is also true of School police officers and security. In fact certain seizures such as grand mal and petite grand mal seizures are all too often perceived by police and security as simply disobedience and a behavioral or drug related problem sending these epilepsy effected students needlessly and incorrectly to the local jail, juvenile detention facility or a behavioral hospital leading to misdemeanor or even felony charges against a sick person needing immediate medical attention and wasting valuable time.

Please remember, Epilepsy kills.

Sam’s law,  (HB 684), introduced by Rep. Travis Clardy, would require that ALL Texas public school personnel — meaning anyone who has contact with a child with epilepsy — will be trained in seizure recognition and seizure first aid. People who interact with children with epilepsy on a daily basis should be trained to care for them if they have a seizure.

Sam’s Law would ensure seizure education and first aid training for employees in Texas public schools who have contact with children. It would require teachers to take an online course effective Dec. 1, 2019. The bill proposes free seizure recognition and seizure response training for teachers and staff at Texas public schools.

The bill is named in honor of Samantha (Sam) Watkins, a Kilgore ISD student who passed away in December 2016 after complications from a seizure just three months after she had been diagnosed with epilepsy.

Again, not to be morbid (but as an epileptic myself) Epilepsy kills and both time and the proper response can be the difference between life and death.

Much of the foot work in getting this bill introduced into the Texas legislature was due to the efforts of former teacher, Shari Dudo who is also an epileptic. After suffering a seizure at the school where she taught, she founded the Purple Warriors of Texas. Samantha (Sam) Watkins’ mother, Barbara Watkins, also a teacher has worked with Shari to get this bill introduced into the Texas State legislature and bring it to its current point in the state senate.

At the same time, there are many others throughout the nation attempting to get similar legislation introduced into their own states.

Still others such as the RGV’s own April Flowers and her daughter Lili are spending time in Washington D.C. meeting with Congressional staff and Senators in an attempt to raise attention to the need for Sam’s law nationwide.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

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NEW EPILEPSY Support Group Forming

We are in the process of starting a second Epilepsy Foundation support group for the lower RGV area which will meet at a separate week and day of each month from our current Edinburg meeting.

You are also welcome to attend the support group in Edinburg which meets the third Thursday of each month in the Texas Room of the Edinburg Regional Hospital.

The NEW group will meet at the City of Laferia public library which has elevators and easy accessible handicap bathrooms. Specific dates and times are yet to be announced. If anyone knows of folks with epilepsy, family members or their care givers which would be interested or could benefit from this group, please email me at Drtruthman@live.com.

FREE food and beverages will be provided.

Thank you,

Dr. Lee Outlaw

Depression is everybody’s problem

The suicide death of so many celebrities and returning military from combat zones brings to the forefront the all too common problem of depression with the often end result of suicide.

We all have seen the many public service announcements by the late Mike Wallace and others who have openly admitted their battle with depression in an effort to shed light on an all too common problem.

With one out of every seven people in the modern world dealing with this very serious mental health issue at some point in their life, there is simply never enough emphasis placed on this condition.

There is so much which can be said about depression and yet the reality is very few people actually attempt to do anything about either their own condition or the condition of a friend or loved one.

Depression is generally defined as, a condition marked by feelings of worthlessness, dejection and worry which is usually accompanied by a state of unhappiness and pessimistic outlook on life.

The depressed person is susceptible to minor states of frustration, feelings of guilt and even occasional paranoia with a tendency to feel they are either a failure or failure prone.

Basically the depressed person develops low self-esteem and an overall feeling of inadequacy.

In more severe cases, depression may result in suicide.

Depression can be brought on by many things including Parkinson disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.

It has now been stated by the wife of the late Robin Williams that he was actually suffering from the early stages of Parkinson which might have contributed to his depression.

As an epileptic, this writer is well aware of the potential of the medication I take as well as the disorder itself which can lead to depression. In fact, my neurologists always ask me on each checkup visit if I am experiencing any depression.

As a child I witnessed the constant depression of my late mother and wanted to know more about the subject which ultimately led to my study of psychology.

Unfortunately, my mother never really recognized she had clinical depression; although it was quite evident to those around her.

For my mother as well as both of my Grandmothers, they simply addressed their problem as being “down in the dumps” or “having the blues”.

Down in the dumps and having the blues doesn’t last a life time but genuine clinical depression can; especially left untreated.

It should be noted here, that there is a clear clinical distinction between a person suffering from what is known as a “neurotic depressive reaction” which might result from a difficult situation or traumatic life event such as a divorce or family member’s death and “psychotic depression”.

“Psychotic depression” includes a variety of widely known depressions known as “manic-depression” and “Bi-polar condition” (which today is often included as one depression type).

Persons diagnosed with a psychotic depression usually have a long history of mood swings and depressed episodes accompanied by extreme paranoia, delusions and hallucinations.

Although both forms of depression are treated similarly, most forms of Psychotic depression require long term use of medication, personal and group psychotherapy and often even in-patient hospitalization.

In short, depression should never be ignored.

In contemporary society, there is simply no need for anyone to suffer with the pain of depression or to inflict in those around us the pain of watching our reactions to difficult and depressed feelings.

With proper psychotherapy and medication most types of depression can be “handled” and most people live a full, healthy and satisfied life.

Available medication, good doctors, neurologist and psychotherapist are usually the easy part.

The difficult part is helping people understand they have a problem and then leading them to seek out the appropriate solution.

Bear in mind, you cannot push a depressed person; it can only make their situation worst.

Most men cover up their feelings and as such seldom admit they’re having any kind of an emotional problem.

Even if their Family doctor prescribes some medication and warns the patient one of the side effects can be depression, many men will simply respond by saying, “it’s nothing I can’t deal with”.

Women usually will seek professional help for depression the quickest due to recognizing and understanding their own feelings.

Unlike men, women openly and easily display their feelings and emotions; any change in that normality seen by themselves or their friends and family often sends up a red flag that something is wrong.

As a result a visit to the doctor, therapist or at the least the best friend or hair stylist is sought to talk things out.

Herein is where depression becomes everybody’s problem.

Women realize for the most part, that “airing out” their feelings or differences helps and often even bring about a solution or complete healing of the depressed state of mine.

Men on the other hand hold it in and are very good at putting up a façade that there is “nothing wrong”.

Teens too, are often good at hiding their true feelings for fear of being “singled out” and made fun of for admitting they have a problem, talking about it to friends and family and seeking the professional help they need.

In over thirty years of counseling, the main reason most people came to me ultimately led back to depression.

Their depression escalated other problems such as marriage and family relationships, employment problems, long time friendships and various forms of sexual dysfunction.

Often depression can affect health problems such as appetite, weight gain or loss, hair loss, visual problems and much more.

Many times it is necessary for a psychologist to refer a patient back to their family doctor in order to eliminate a possible physical problem.

Again, depression is such a huge problem that it is everybody’s problem; it is a personal problem, and your friends’ and family’s problem.

It is your church and pastor’s problem and it is your family doctor and psychotherapist’s problem.

It takes all of us working together to recognize our own depression and/or that of our friends, family and co-workers.

Depression is indeed everybody’s business and my next Christian Counseling article will look at its many warning signs.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

Becoming EpiAware

This is a meme I came across several years back from one of my Epilepsy support groups and felt it time to include with a short article on anti seizure medication side effects.

The meme addresses a subject we don’t often think about; our anti seizure medication and the side effects they bring to our lives. It sometimes causes us to do or say spur of the moment things we don’t intentionally mean to say or do. It’s very similar to or may even be part of an aura or seizure; and yes most anti seizure meds can cause auras and or seizures.

The side effects are not wanted or planned; they “just happen” without warning. We need to familiarize both our self as well as family members and friends with these side effects.

Remember, most epilepsy medications are not only prescribed for epilepsy and seizures but also for behavioral health use in treating such illnesses as Bipolar Disorder and many Schizophrenia disorders.

Unfortunately for the epileptic, the medication can often have the exact opposite effect for which it was intended in treating such behavioral disorders.

As a result it is extremely important to know your medication’s side effects; not just in general but in you specifically; find out everything you can. Becoming familiar with these side effects can help prevent wrongly diagnosed mental health issues as well as social and relationship issues.

It is important that every epileptic as well as friends and family know and understand anti seizure medication side effects; not just in general but specifically for the epileptic in their life.

We should all become “#EpiAware”.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

Not even considered

Symptoms often overlooked as epilepsy related

Being involved with literally hundreds of epileptics in epilepsy support groups, I’m amazed at those recently diagnosed as epileptics who had started out with simple illness symptoms that most of us wouldn’t consider as having anything to do with epilepsy; at least on their own.

The problem arises when over time and normal medical treatment by your General Practitioner these symptoms remain or even seem to increase.

Unfortunately, the GP prescribes a few tests which come back normal or maybe he or she gives you a Rx for a med that eliminates the problem but over time actually triggers other symptoms or even a seizure.

The attached drawing is an admittedly somewhat controversial drawing of many of the associated illnesses or symptoms of epilepsy. However, if you experience any of these, especially together, you should inform your doctor or neurologist immediately.

Any one of these illnesses can be signs of an impending seizure or related to an aura.

We all have these symptoms from time to time and as such the reason many consider this as controversial, but my experience has shown most epileptics have had these associated illnesses at one time.

I hope this drawing will help you better understand yourself as an epileptic or the epileptic in your life.

May God keep us all seizure free.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

Post seizure counseling

The need for post seizure counseling

by
Dr. Lee Outlaw
DSCI0074
Use of a counselor/psychologist can be beneficial in post epileptic seizure recovery

After thirty years of counseling people in practically every area of life including epilepsy, I am obviously an advocate for counseling. In fact, I have written several papers and articles on the subject of the need for professional counseling.

Counseling, that desire to talk to somebody when you just can’t figure things out is always helpful even if the person you’re talking to is only a friend or relative; we all do it.

Don’t think I’m referring only to other people; in my thirty years as a pastor and Christian psychologist, I had standing weekly appointments with both a close pastor friend and a Psychiatrist colleague to simply talk and discuss “things”, to keep from losing my proverbial mind. If you think personal problems are tough, try dealing with hundreds of people’s problems; it can often be more than one person can handle. I might add that this was long before I had been officially diagnosed as an epileptic.

The point is, we all need help from time to time and we need to talk about our problems and issues with life.

Unfortunately for those of us who are epileptics, the ones we want to talk too either don’t want to listen or have pre-conceived ideas about epilepsy. They often perceive epilepsy as a mental illness, drug abuse, anger issues or even demonic possession. In addition, many think we make it all up and are lazy resulting from having to give up driving, unable to work and often afraid to go out in public for fear of having a seizure.

Another problem for many of our friends and family members is they have never witnessed us having a seizure, or so they think. This alone results in a variety of arm chair counselors making unsubstantiated accusations and incorrect recommendations or suggestions.

After my two recent grand mal seizures just 3 hours apart (as stated in my last article), recovery has been tough, really tough”; it has been the most difficult post seizure recovery and taken the longest time for recovery I have ever experienced. Only now nearly three months since the seizures am I beginning to feel almost “normal”.

I believe sincerely the only reason I am even close to full recovery is due to seeking out personal counseling.

A colleague suggested that I might want to consider a series of sessions with a mutual fellow therapist, which I did. I knew this man and like me he is both semi-retired and a Christian Psychologist and he has some experience in counseling epileptics. I agreed and it has been the best thing I have ever done.

The first thing he asked me was, “What are your two greatest fears with regard to being an epileptic?”

Those of us who practice psychology are well aware that the one thing common to everyone is fear; it either drives us to success or failure. Fear can also induce or reduce stress in our lives.

I believe sincerely this is why the Bible tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2Timothy 1:7

My first fear like most epileptics is that of the unknown; that is the not knowing if or when I will have another seizure and what kind I might experience. Also, the older I get is the realization that the next seizure could take my life.

The second fear I shared with my counselor is very personal and something I had held onto for 19 years. Once I shared it with him and God I felt stress almost immediately leave my mind and body. It was and is a great feeling.

The past we hold on to produces emotional poison and develops stress after stress after stress in our lives. This is extremely dangerous for anyone but for the epileptic it can be absolutely fatal. If a past problem is long past and buried deep in your mind it will probably require professional help to eliminate.

The point of this article is simple, Professional Psychological and/or Clinical Pastoral Counseling can be of great benefit to epileptics in relieving stress.

This is part of my reason for starting LIVE Online Counseling beginning April 2nd.

Although epilepsy is not a mental health disorder, due to the extreme impact on an epileptic and their family, there can be associated mental health issues which develop along the way such as mood swings, depression, anger and personality disorders.

All of this can contribute to stress for the epileptic and their friends and family. Counseling can possibly help.

If you haven’t done so, please give Epilepsy counseling a chance.

May God bless us all as we seek to find a cure for Epilepsy.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

Unrecognized Seizure Signals


 
Epilepsy is certainly a disorder of mystery and unpredictability as any epileptic will tell you.

 After ten years being grand mal seizure free, just one day after this past Christmas I found myself waking up in an ambulance from a grand mal seizure in route to the hospital where I encountered a second seizure only three hours later. This has been the worst seizure ever and roughest recovery. After coming home from the hospital, I slept for nearly 3 days and remember almost nothing.

 Although unknown to me until I was fifty-seven years old, I was born an epileptic and had experienced seizures all my life; in fact my grandfather was an epileptic as was his grandfather and his grandfather before him and who knows how far back.

 For those of us older such as me, we grew up in a time when epilepsy had many labels and taboos even linked to mental disorders and demonic possession. As a result, your family or even family doctor might not pursue any detailed medical investigation. In my case, my parents and I were told it was just part of growing up; or so I had always been told. But shortly before my father died, he confided in me that our family doctor had suspected I might have epilepsy but to quote my father, he told “old Doc Holden, there was no way his son was crazy”.

 My father also, didn’t understand that what he witnessed so often in his father as what was called “fits” was actually epileptic seizures as well.

 Although I don’t blame my parents for my epilepsy, it’s very sad to think what just a little more knowledge and information might have done to help me today.

 Since having my first full blown grand mal seizure in 2001, I have made every effort to learn everything I could about epilepsy and how to recognize and avoid the proverbial “seizure triggers” and how to prevent them.

 As most epileptics know the two basics to control and prevention are, 1) take all your meds as prescribed and 2) get at least eight hours sleep every night. In most cases, if an epileptic follows this regiment of treatment the chances of having a seizure are greatly reduced.

 Unfortunately Epilepsy is a neurological disorder and not a disease resulting in the reality that at present there is no cure. The best that can be done at present is the prescribing of a variety of medication, electronic stimulators and surgery. As such the bad news every epileptic receives once diagnosed is “epilepsy is for life”; so your neurologist will instruct you in how to recognize the possibility or the signs of an upcoming seizure.

 Most epileptics are well aware of the most obvious sign of a possible seizure which is the dreaded “aura”. For most of us, we hate the aura worse than the seizure. The seizure strikes and is usually over in just a few minutes but the aura is totally debilitating and can last from a few minutes to several days. Like it or not, the aura is usually a sign of a potential seizure.

 The aura is difficult to describe; especially to non-epileptics.  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 the experience of strange sounds and odors.

But the worst aura experience of all for most epileptics is disassociation; the feeling of uncertainty of where you are or what many epileptics describe as the sensation of feeling like you’re in more than one place at a given moment. Some have described it as feeling like you’re here but also somewhere else. Some have likened the experience to a type of “déjàvu”.

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 that although some epileptics never experience an aura, those that do have different aura experiences. One such experience is “mood change”.

Mood change (which is usually a side effect of anti-seizure medication and not epilepsy) itself is often a signal or precursor to a major seizure. Of great importance is the “Unrecognizable Mood Change”. It might be subtle or it might be drastic. It might not be recognizable to the epileptic patient at all but very noticeable to everyone else. The mood change can begin weeks before the seizure.

As a lifelong epileptic and Christian psychologist I was well aware that mood changes could be a part of epilepsy but as a lifelong epileptic I had never seen myself as having mood changes.  Recently however, my reaction to what I interpreted as a bad smelling slice of ham was actually seen by family members as both irrational and mean spirited. The bottom line is others saw the mood change but I didn’t. In addition my family informed me that over the past forty years I had many similar experiences. 

The bottom line is if you haven’t experienced an epileptic aura, you simply can’t understand but you can try and be observant of the epileptic in your life.

If the epileptic in your life begins demonstrating unusual or a sudden change in behavior, be certain to make them aware of those changes in a very caring and constructive way. You might ask if they have taken all their meds on time or ask how they’re feeling.

If you’re an epileptic, listen to those around you, they might see things happening in you that you don’t see in yourself and if you listen carefully you might prevent a seizure or even save your life.

Let others help you recognize the unrecognizable signals in you.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD