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"It's Just Anxiety..." How Doctors Dismissed My Seizures

Being a female and developing a chronic illness comes with its own obstacles.

Not only are we now made to navigate the reality of having a chronic illness, but we are also left fighting for doctors to believe us. Many doctors immediately blame our symptoms on anxiety. That is exactly how my epilepsy diagnosis began.

Seizures from anxiety...?

The doctors I saw both inpatient and outpatient, when my seizures first started were convinced that I was just a stressed-out, female college student. Even as my seizures increased in frequency and severity I was told that I was just too stressed out and that maybe college just was not for me.

I was prescribed medications for anxiety and depression to take daily as well as "emergency" anxiety medicine to take if I felt like I was going to have a seizure. Unsurprisingly to me, none of those meds worked.

Psychogenic seizures

Then I stopped going to college for a semester and thought that my seizures would go away – because the doctors believed them to be caused by the stress of my classes and college life, right? That did not happen.

I started seeing doctors back home, but with a diagnosis of psychogenic seizures caused by stress and anxiety it made getting doctors to run tests or set a treatment plan that much harder.

My seizures were completely uncontrolled

Honestly, during this time I was hoping it was something as "simple" as stress-induced. I was praying that the medications and therapy would work. Hoping that by my next visit with a neurologist somehow my seizures would have resolved. But months went by and my seizures were out of control no matter how many anxiety medications we tried.

A doctor who finally listened

Then one day I saw a different doctor who looked into my blood work and realized my prolactin and lactate levels always elevated after a seizure. A doctor who asked for descriptions from those around me of how my seizures presented and what my vitals were during these episodes. With her listening, researching, and actually seeking a diagnosis beyond anxiety she was able to point me and my other doctors in the direction of epilepsy.

I started seeing epileptologists and neurologists alike. Seeking doctors who would be willing to look beyond "anxiety." Now, this was not easy and still to this day I have doctors who come into the picture and try to blame my seizures on anxiety.

Advocating for yourself with epilepsy

But the doctors I see regularly who have me on anti-seizure medications and who control my treatment plans are the only opinions I try to focus on. That is not always easy, because even with a diagnosis of generalized epilepsy, subclinical seizures, and frontal lobe epilepsy I still come across doctors who are not well-versed in the different types of seizures and how they can present. And when you are not the textbook patient, they will revert back to anxiety as the root cause.

I almost lost hope, I almost allowed those telling me it was all anxiety to make me believe that I was indeed crazy and causing the seizures on my own. It made healing, learning, and growing that much more difficult when you have doctors constantly telling you that nothing is wrong and that you are just stressed out.

But, at the end of the day, I refused to give up. Refused to stop fighting for help, and refused to take anxiety as an answer to something I knew was so much more.

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