I heard a joke once. A close witty pal went like:
Q: What does an elephant heifer use as a vibrator?
A: An epileptic.
It was kinda funny. Actually, kinda’s a bit subjective, because were I not an epilecptic myself, that joke woulda killed me with delirious heaps of helarion.
|Images of the Epileptic fit|
So yes; I’ve never once written about it, rarely ever speak of it, but if you shoved me up an elephant cow’s vablank in the process of any one of my fits of oblivion, she’d probably trumpet my name between shudders of superclimactic bliss.
Jokes aside, however – while based on a true story and I take no offence whatsoever with it, nor with my close witty pal – the anecdote is just but an insignificant blip in the radar of challenges I have faced as an epileptic. I must reiterate at this point that they haven’t all been quite as light-hearted or easily ignored as that not so tall story was.
My mum, bless her soul, took me through an exhaustive array of pokes and prods at many a medic’s table trying to figure out just what was wrong after I fell at the dining table with a bowl of soup in my hands. Let’s just say the fact that the soup was so hot it could only be described, in popular Kikuyu colloquialism, as:
‘ta mũgũrũki athurĩtie thoko!’ (Hot as a madman’s fart at the marketplace!)
When my lips even tried to mouth the word epilepsy, at age 16, my ma took me to the VCT and said, quite simply, G-Pange.
To blend some perspective into this, does anyone recall their first 8-4-4 acquaintance with epilepsy, or in the Swahili classes, kifafa? Personally it was traumatizing just thinking about the ‘foaming mouths’ and ‘wall-butting heads’ the disorder hired as associate producers. Then you went to hospitals, and the graphic depictions of people suffering the disorder were pretty much as proliferate as the HIV/AIDS Jijue campaigns we have today; only a monster trailer load bit more chilling.
|Phases of epilepsy|
So when all else failed and the doctor said the problem was most likely neural, ma called my cousin, at the time a nurse and lecturer at Aga Khan University. Were my shudders and naturally bloodshot eyes a symptom of marijuana abuse? Nay, said she, and told ma that when it eventually happened, she – my cuzo – would let her – ma – know. I did not smoke bhang, ever, while ma was alive. Not even a cigarette, and hardly any liquor.
Fast forward through the CT Scans and MRIs, and diagnosis = mild epilepsy. Then came the twitching as I did my exams…pretty much any time I was nervous, my lips would feel much like the propellers in a combined harvester. I still, to this day, get very subtle mouth twitches when am edgy. My meds, however, which I took with draconian compulsion thrice a day for over two years, put the disorder under wraps. Notice how I still can’t bring myself to say disease?
Then there was my family. The whole woiye thing going on every time I actually left Starehe Boys’ Centre on a weekend and went to South B. My cuzos were like “What if you fell in the streets? What if a jav was flying past? What if it crushed your grey matter to rubble in the midst of all that rabble in town?” I wanted to say I’d die, but they were only showing their concern really. Not that it helped…it instead gave me this dependence on my illness.
I got a note exempting me from physical labour as from 3rd Form. Which was a big deal coz Starch had these chores that made you, at the time, feel like a farmer. Not that there’s anything wrong with them, and if anything, that gave me a fortitude I would need in years to come, when I had to fend for myself in the many hustles of an Undergrad living outside campus.
Today I only get my fits when am extremely – with a capital every letter – stressed.
Written in honour of Purple Day, the world epileptics awareness day (last week Monday), inspired by the amazing @SitawaWafula, and incepted by the elegantly brained @buggz79