Thursday, May 28, 2009

Experiencing the Divine

seizures, divine, god, christianity, religious, experience,
Note: this could well be a very poorly written and disjointed post. I am trying to capture the experience of the Simple Partial Seizures I have been having all morning in order to make a point. If this makes no sense at all, well, I've got a good excuse. (No worries, SPS's are annoying, but harmless, in my case anyway. I've just never tried to write a blog post in the middle of them.)

A great many believers, and this isn't just limited to Christians, offer up their experience of the divine as proof of the divine. "How do explain how I felt at that moment?" they ask, truly bewildered at the thought that you might want more proof than a feeling.

It misses the point, I think, to dismiss these arguments with a demand for proof. Feelings are powerful, feelings define us as humans, and truly, the only reality we have is the one we personally experience. Your reality is not my reality. In general, our realities are much the same, but in some instances, we may as well be in different dimensions.

I think of this today, because apparently my seizure meds have decided to stop working, or I forgot to take them, and the (doctor recommended) additional (or possibly first) dose I just took hasn't taken effect yet, and I've been seizing on and off all morning.

I don't flop around on the floor or blank out, though, for I have Simple Partial Seizures, in the temporal lobe. I remain conscious, capable of holding a (somewhat peculiar) conversation, or typing, and generally acting about 10 degrees off of normal. I experience deja vu so strong I feel prophetic, or jamais vu that leaves me lost in my own home. I see and hear things that aren't there, or I feel as if every normal thing I see is secretly bizarre, as if the walls are insidiously straight and their lies hold the secrets of the universe.

Why yes, that does sound like a religious experience, doesn't it? My seizures are the reason I do not believe in experiences of the divine, in prophecy, and the like. My response to the claim of any divine experience is simple: I feel like that, too, on occasion. It's a brain disorder, and it's treatable. You can feel just like me, in fact, if you could get someone to jab an electrical wire into the exact right spot in your brain.

Personal experiences are proof of nothing, other than the fact that you experienced something. My advice to anyone faced with this sort of "proof" is empathy. (I know, totally evil, right?) Explain that you understand that they did indeed feel the way they felt, and that it obviously affected them, and that's fine, but then offer up the example of seizures and fever hallucinations. Ask them if they accept without question the uncorroborated testimony of every person who has ever claimed to see an alien. Question whether they would be comfortable with psychic testimony being offered in a court of law- during a death penalty case.

tired. bye.


  1. That is an insightful and enlightening post, thanks for taking the time to get it down while you were in the midst of things. Hope you are feeling better.

  2. I hope you'll get well soon.

    I think I know what you mean, though these experiences seem to be a bit stronger for you.

    How did you find out it's SPS? I never knew how to explain these things to a doctor without sounding completely mental. The one time I tried they scanned my head and luckily didn't find a tumor, but they didn't do anything else.

    These phases are rare for me, haven't had one for several years now, but I remember that I rather enjoyed them, when I, in an even rarer case, had the time to focus on the experience. It's like... Well, somehow it's like seeing God (not the Christian one, just the concept). Just that I know it's only my brain that plays tricks to me.

    And yet some people believe that their brains tell them the absolute truth.


  3. Very well, put PF. I may write my own post on how feelings are elicited by our perception of reality. Would it be OK to linked to this post, or do you prefer to keep it "private?"

    Wishes for a quick recovery! It amazes me that you can function this well considering all.

  4. I'm fine. It's really not a bad feeling, it's just weird.

    I found out because it also causes hideous abdominal pain. I'd be in the ER 3 times a week, writhing in pain, and nobody could find a cause. I stopped going to the ER when the doctor suggesting opening me up from sternum to pubic bone "just to take a look around". No, thanks.

    Then it happened to me in front of the hubby's neurologist and he suggested that I get checked out for SPS's and whaddya know- no exploratory surgery necessary.

    SPS's are actually quite common, especially in the elderly. Most people don't get diagnosed, let alone treated, because, as you said Anna, nobody wants to tell a doctor they're going crazy. I never mentioned the mental stuff when I went to the ER, I was afraid they wouldn't take me seriously. They probably wouldn't have, but maybe somebody would have recognized the problem sooner if I had.

  5. I used to have something like that happen to me all the time. Then I started taking a medication for the fibro and it stopped, along with my annoying hand tremors. How about that, I always thought it was just me. Maybe it wasn't just me after all.
    Got to love surgeons, got a problem? Slice 'em open!

  6. I have a friend that has seizures and he just changed his meds recently. I think his are worse than yours, but I have never been around when he has had one.

    Just a little tidbit, there was a Semitic Arab merchant who had seizures also. I believe his name was Mohammad, after these seizures he would describe revelations from Allah. I just don't trust that they were real revelations.

  7. Lorena: feel free. I don't consider the internet private.

    Actually, maybe I should have done a post like this before. It seems like a lot of people were questioning their own sanity.

    Leigh: neurontin (gabapentin), perchance, or some relative of it? a lot of fibro/chronic pain meds are actually seizure meds, so it's very possible your doctor is incidentally treating an undiagnosed seizure disorder.

  8. That was definitely an interesting post.

    "I'm fine. It's really not a bad feeling, it's just weird.

    I found out because it also causes hideous abdominal pain."

    Weird feelings are one thing. Hideous abdominal pain is another. I've had that (not from SPS) and can't imagine having it several times a week. It's good that the neurologist figured it out.

  9. Yeah, well, I've had chronic pain for so long I've learned that if you could survive long enough, you could get used to being on fire.

  10. Gabapentin it is. I think maybe I should mention it to her, even if she might make me have an (gulp) MRI. That is so weird, I never really put that together.

  11. Xanax, it's the only way to go. Well, there is teh hubby's method of getting drunk, but I'm not sure I recommend that.

  12. I never mentioned the mental stuff when I went to the ER, I was afraid they wouldn't take me seriously. They probably wouldn't have, but maybe somebody would have recognized the problem sooner if I had.I feel compelled to jump in and defend my profession. Very little would ever be gained from withholding information from a physician. Also, I suspect that you were instructed by the ER physician(s) to follow-up with an internist (shameless plug).

    ER physicians triage like this:

    Admit or treat here and discharge or no clue - let an internist figure it out as an outpatient.

    I cannot tell you how many time I have had a patient come to see me for longstanding complaints that I was rapidly able to diagnose and treat. They then say "Why did all those ER doctors not know what was wrong with me?" Because they are not trained to figure it out. Internists are. In your case, had I heard of your extreme Deja Vu, I would have made the diagnosis and sent you to a neurologist on the first visit.

    Check this out:

  13. I don't hate doctors. I've come across some good ones, unfortunately, this is what most doctors do with complaints they can't find a reason for: blame them on the patient.

    Anyone with chronic pain, fibromyalgia, or a rare disease like porphyria has a story that involves at least a dozen doctors dismissing them as crazy, lazy or drug seeking.

    If you want to see it in action, go to doctors and ERs in a different city and don't tell them you are a doctor. Complain of stomach pain. Keep complaining of stomach pain. Tests won't show anything because there's nothing wrong with you. I guarantee you it won't take long before someone diagnoses you with drug seeking behavior.

    Now, imagine a person who really is in pain, and imagine their frustration.

    I think most of it is the result of how doctors are trained and how their practice normally works. Doctors are trained to think of horses when they hear hoofbeats instead of zebras. That's fine, unless you happen to be at the zoo. Also, doctors are pretty much inclined towards an almost mechanical approach: find problem, fix it. Can't find problem? No problem.

    It sucks, but fortunately there are doctors out there that are willing to go the extra mile, willing to believe their patients and willing to admit they're not the be all and end all.

  14. "this is what most doctors do with complaints they can't find a reason for: blame them on the patient."

    I think you are correct.

    While I was in training I had a patient in my clinic who had chronic pain of unknown cause. After some research I decided that she most likely had fibromyalgia, a condition I had never heard of and certainly never been taught about in medical school. I presented this notion to my attending who just laughed and said that was not a "real" disease and was just a wastebasket term. I respected this guy and it took a few years of experience for me to shake off the bias he had instilled.

    Now, the evidence is mounting that in fact fibromyalgia is "real", probably related to altered pain processing in the brains of affected persons.

    Please realize that a physician is much more likely to encounter malingering than fibromyalgia. Despite that, I have a personal policy: If a patient complains of pain, I believe her. If subsequent evidence mounts that she is manipulating me, then I become skeptical.

    In my practice, If I see a new patient claiming to have chronic pain that requires opioids, I more often than not will give them what they say they need. About two-thirds of the time, these patients will call the clinic and report that they "lost" the prescription or that it was stolen or destroyed in a fire or fell in the toilet.

    Surprisingly, none of these tragedies ever happen to the blood pressure medication I also prescribe.

    So, if people tell me they have pain, I treat it. I would rather give an opioid to a drug addict than under-treat legitimate pain. Most of my colleagues have a different policy. Who's right? Hell if I know, but I sleep OK at night.

  15. Yeah, you're one of the good ones. Doctors need to take patients' words on things. It's ridiculous for anyone to assume that they know better than me what my body feels like, yet I had about 2 dozen doctors tell me just that.

    I also find it odd that while our justice system is based on the idea that it is better for 10 guilty men to go free than for 1 innocent man to go to prison, our medical system is based on the idea that it's better for 100 in pain to suffer than for 1 junkie to get his fix.

    And I absolutely have dropped seizure meds and other such completely unamusing rx's down the drain. At least now I know why my doctor thought that was hilarious.

  16. UnBeguiled

    i have to back PF on this one, to the hilt. like her, i have porphyria, like her, i have had dozens of doctors literally ignore me - and have almost died because of it MORE THAN ONCE. like, the time my gall bladder blew up and i went to the doctor over and over again for over a month with horrible stomach and back pain, went to the ER over and over again, and they just handed me pain meds and sent me home. they didn't even stop to LISTEN to me, not even when i asked for anti-nausea meds. i had to go to an ER that i had never been to, that had never heard of me, and THROW UP ON A NURSE before anyone would believe me.
    i was hospitalized that time for 12 days, sent home, and was back in the ER less than 24 hours later having an emergency surgery to remove my gall bladder - because after i was hospitalized, the hospital requested my records from my doctor, they saw "fibromalgia" and "acute intermitend porphyria", and decided (despite all those bloody and painful tests that said otherwise) that i was making shit up.

    while i think it is really damned cool that *you* listen to patients... how many patients never get to you? how many are blown off, and essentially blown off because they are female or are not-white?

    i was diagnosed with porphyria when i was 9. they tested over and over again (14 times total) because up until me, the youngest case of porphyria seen in the US was 10. they had 11 positive tests, from a test that it is almost impossible to get a false positive out of, but where false negative happen more often than anything - and STILL refused to believe i had porphyria, and kept me on a liquid diet (even though carbs are the best way to stave off attacks) and denied me HEME for MONTHS. i was 9 years old, i was screaming in pain, i had no clue what was going on, i couldn't think, i couldn't see if there was any significant light, i was getting sunburned by the track lighting in the hospital room - and they decided i was "faking".

    and doctors keep deciding that, no matter the evidence. i have displaysia of the right hip, i have had 2 surgeries to fix it (need at least one more) after the last surgery, it got infected. a month later, i had this huge swollen area around the incision that looked like an alien fetus - i had MRSA and it took two more surgeries and 3 weeks of vacomiacin to get rid of it. when i was discharged originally, i had a fever of 100.5, the area was slightly swollen and *very* red, i told them then i thought i had an infection - the floor doctor told me "an infection won't get you more Duladid, just go home"
    and the neurologist who i saw last year? about neuropathic pain, probably caused by the displaysia? told me that my entire pain problem was because i was fat (i am not fat. i am 5'8", weigh 180 pounds. 20 pounds overweight is not the same as fat). this is DESPITE the fact that he had XRays and MRIs and nerve conduction tests THAT SHOWED ALL THE PROBLEMS IN MY LEG - the displaysia, the tears in the lining of my hip, how my sciatic nerve isn't working right - he looked at all that evidence that something was wrong with me, and decided it was all "faked" somehow, and all i needed to do to "get better" was "stop being fat" and quit "abusing" the drugs i only take half as often as prescribed.

    this is 95% of the doctors in the US. *we*, the patients, can't fix it. only doctors can.

    (erm. ranty. i just found out that i need another surgery, at least one, and i am *VERY* unhappy about it)


Comments are for you guys, not for me. Say what you will. Don't feel compelled to stay on topic, I enjoy it when comments enter Tangentville or veer off into Non Sequitur Town. Just keep it polite, okay?

I am attempting to use blogger's new comment spam feature. If you don't immediately see your comment, it is being held in spam, I will get it out next time I check the filter. Unless you are Dennis Markuze, in which case you're never seeing your comment.

Creative Commons License
Forever in Hell by Personal Failure is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at