Before I get started, read this Epilepsy.com article about moods and behavior. I have found it to be incredibly insightful and it helped me understand what was happening to me. If you are feeling alone, sad, depressed or are experiencing some extreme mood swings talk with your doctor immediately. These can be a sign of something more serious.
Now that that is out of the way, I’m sure you’ve noticed it is a lot harder to control your emotions in general. Thanks to the volatile side-effects of AEDs, and interictal dysphoric disorder:
Dysphoria means loss of pleasure or joy. (You may know the more common word euphoria, which means extreme joy. They share the same root.) Many people who have epilepsy experience dysphoric episodes. These episodes, which can last between a few hours and a few days, consist of depressive moods, irritability, lack of energy, pain, anxiety, insomnia, and euphoric moods. Usually they are part of a syndrome known as interictal dysphoric disorder instead of being linked to recent or upcoming seizures. (Interictal means “between seizures.”)
You probably are having a hard time doing this:
Don’t we all wish this was what we could do? I do, I try and I fail most of the time. I mentioned my social anxiety in this gem of a post, and it kind of gives some insight into a deeper personality problem of mine. This is not what I am talking about in this post. I am talking about those moments when all you are doing is sitting and maybe typing on your computer and then suddenly you feel one emotion very strongly for a few minutes to a couple hours. Mine is usually very upsetting for no reason, I feel like the whole world is going to end. When it passes I feel so stupid.
They also happen just as I am trying to fall asleep, I experience a mild panic attack and start sweating and have to sit up because I feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest. Again, there is no reason for this, it just happens. Luckily not as often as it used to, maybe once or twice a week now.
I have a method to stop it, using the 5 7 8 technique I mentioned in my post on my social anxiety. It doesn’t always work though, and I wind up in a “funk” for a while.
A few times these episodes have been even weirder, by that I mean they put me in a very cheerful and excited mood and full of energy. One of them lasted an entire day, it was bizarre.
My point in telling you all of this is that it’s normal. As weird as it is, this is what happens. My brain is a mess most days and managing to get words down in writing is an epic task. Working through emotions and panic attacks is hard, but it can be done. I cover it pretty well most of the time so my attacks are more of a temporary internal battle that makes me want to get up and scream. But I don’t, I do the unhealthy thing and just shove it down if I can.
Most of the time it passes and I am fine, and again left feeling stupid.
There are some things that can aggravate it and with me, I’ve noticed these things are the worst offenders:
- Diet changes/forgetting to eat.
- Not taking my medication at the right times.
- My period, rather just before my period. A couple days before you can experience a drop in estrogen which triggers the PMS symptoms which you guessed it, aggravates mood swings.
- Bad night’s sleep. Again, obvious for anyone with epilepsy. Sleep messes up everything.
- Too much sugar at once. I noticed that this will only happen if I go ham on dessert or drink too much coffee because I like my coffee pretty sweet. If I want coffee I have to stagger it and wait at least a couple hours in between cups with a max of 3 cups. And if I hit that limit I try not to repeat it the next day.
- Extra stress added to my routine. Like these past two weeks, for instance, I have finals coming up which means those long ass end of term papers/assignments is all due at once. THERE ISN’T ENOUGH TIME.
- Social situations; read my post How Social Anxiety Feels.
When there is nothing I can do to calm myself down I just lay down. Because in the end fighting it can make me panic more. Fighting it sometimes drags out the experience longer than necessary because I am mixing in outside stress.
If you can, just lay down. Maybe play music that you enjoy or watch something cheerful. If you’re at work, take your break ASAP.
It will pass.