A week after collapsing in central London, on an extremely wet and gloomy day, I was wandering around Northampton General Hospital trying to figure out where on earth you go for an EEG appointment. This was a classic example of something that would have been considerably easier had I brought the car – at least I’d have somewhere dry to sit. But, having now surrendered my licence, I’d arrived in the general area of the hospital by taxi and was now getting soaked through while circling the site on foot.
Having finally found the right building and the right door, the nursing staff led me in and escorted me to the examination room, before wheeling in all manner of intimidating machinery. Lying on the bed with electrodes attached all over my head and face, they explained that they were going to carry out a number of tests, concluding with a whole load of strobe lighting to see if they could bring on an epileptic fit. Great, I thought, but then if I’m going to have one it may as well be here. As the lights were dimmed, part of me began to hope that they could set me off – at least then we’d have some idea of what could be the cause.
It’s reasonably common knowledge that some forms of epilepsy can be triggered by flashing lights – anyone who’s ever been to something like a pantomime may have seen the signs warning of strobe lighting. So as I lay there with the lights flashing wildly in my eyes, I wondered why all this should happen now. I’ve been exposed to strobes on many occasions, working on theatrical productions, as a DJ, and in various clubs and so forth. So why should it all kick off in my late twenties?
After enduring an increasingly dull CRM conference in central London, my colleague and I decided to skip the concluding question-and-answer session and make our separate ways into the city. I got hold of my dear friend Tom, and we agreed to meet outside Tottenham Court Road tube station before heading off east to meet up with some more nice folk. I stood under the covered entrance to the Dominion theatre where we had agreed to meet, smoking a cigarette and killing a few minutes until our agreed meeting time. It was wonderful to be back in the hustle and bustle of the city I call home. I remember savouring the noise, the smells, the drizzle.
When Tom appeared, we rounded the corner to the first bus stop in New Oxford Street, and pratted around with the ticket machine before stepping back to wait for the right bus. “So,” said Tom, for we had not had a proper catch-up in a long while, “what’s this I’ve been hearing about you having seizures?” With spectacular comic timing, and part-way through a word in my reply, it happened again.
Following a number of unexplained blackouts, there was no longer any use denying that there could be something wrong with me. After the first two, I wondered if it was a dietary thing or, at worst, side-effects of prescriptions I’d been given for something else. But, following a third, I was tired of guesswork.
As good as the NHS is at reactionary care (I still find it remarkable that they can get two paramedics in a fully-kitted van to wherever I’ve collapsed within minutes), it didn’t seem that anyone was getting closer to any kind of diagnosis. Fortunately, I had another option – the company’s private healthcare plan. Sitting in front of my GP, the situation seemed quite hopeless… until I brought out the health insurance paperwork and his eyes lit up. Suddenly, possibilities were plentiful, and waiting lists no longer applied. Would this, at last, lead to any kind of diagnosis?
It was a gloriously sunny and warm bank-holiday Saturday in what had otherwise been a damp and grey summer, and I had spent it self-indulgently. In the late afternoon I hurtled towards the centre of town to find a drum shop, and spent ages rolling up and down the narrow back-streets between Victorian terraces trying to find a parking space that was at least on the same side of town as this particular percussion emporium. In fact it took me longer to park than it did to buy the percussive odds and sods I was after and hurtle home again.
Little did I know that the events to come would make this day one of the most significant and memorable in my life so far.
Part-flowchart, part-venn diagram, this is one of those things you can stare at for five minutes, finding new chuckles all the while.
Bad → Dirty → Not Sexy Threats → I’m going to pound the farts out of you
Joey deVilla: The “Things to Say During Sex” Chart
Can’t resist a meme after all this time.
- My uncle once: “stole” my nose, and the bastard still hasn’t returned it. Bastard.
- Never in my life: have I worn a toga, and long may that continue.
- When I was five: I first realised that adults lie about everything, all the time.
- High school was: nowhere near as good as adulthood. Not by miles.
- I will never forget: my science teacher at primary school. Only the other day I was wondering what happened to Mr… um… god, what was his name?
One year ago, I published a piece about bipolar disorder. It had been something I had wanted to do for a long time, and the act of doing so marked a significant point in my life. The piece itself has been useful on a number of fronts. People who know me have either found it or been referred to it, and it has given them something of an insight into my head. Some people I thought I knew well have opened up a little more as a direct result of reading it. It has also introduced me to some new people. But more significantly was the effect it had on me. Up until that point I had been enormously guarded on the subject but, almost instantly, I became much more relaxed both with others and myself.
I’d liken the experience to something like bungee-jumping: while you’re standing at the top crapping yourself with fear, but after the event you’re left both with a sense of achievement and wondering what all the fuss was about.
Somehow, I’ve become one of them.
The first mistake, I think, was to buy a Mac. My reasoning at the time, I maintain, was perfectly reasonable: having worked with computers for more than a decade, I was thoroughly sick of looking at their insides. So when a well-dressed bunch of Californians offered a sexy-looking powerhouse of a laptop that was, most importantly, welded closed, I handed over my credit card on bended knee. Even though it’s no more reliable than anything I had before, being able to overcome the urge to explore its irritating nuances down to the last component is an enormous relief. I continue to earn a living by fixing difficult problems but, in my head, keeping my own laptop working is someone else’s problem. Hoorah! But the Californians won’t let it end there. The laptop may be a silver box full of wires and circuit boards, but they insist on going around telling everyone it’s a “lifestyle choice”.