The Mighty Logo

Getting Back on the Treadmill After Having a Tonic-Clonic Seizure

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Turns out I spoke too soon. My last post was celebrating being two years seizure-free. However, just a few days after that post, I had a tonic-clonic seizure at home, and then a couple of weeks after that I had another one while out shopping. They came as a bit of a shock having been seizure-free for so long. I admit with hindsight that complacency had set in.

It’s been a few weeks since the last seizure. The impact has been significant and varied, emotional and physical. I’m sure I’ll touch on all of the effects and probably more in future blog posts, but today marked a milestone for me that I wanted to share. I went running for the first time since these recent seizures occurred. Running and exercise in general is really important to me. I don’t do it to lose weight or look good. I do it because it makes me feel great. My old PE teachers would be shocked I’m sure, as at school I found every excuse to get out of doing any sport, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to love running. I love the sense of freedom, the views, the challenge and the achievements. I find it relieves my stress and anxiety. Running literally, and I mean literally, makes me smile.

Other relevant stories:
Is Epilepsy Genetic
Can You Join the Military with Epilepsy
What Triggers Epilepsy

Earlier this year I got the opportunity to take part in the 2018 London Marathon, so of course I jumped at the chance. Running the London Marathon has been on my bucket list for a few years, and the prospect of being able to achieve this goal was really exciting. I knew it was going to take a lot of hard work and commitment, but I was ready and actually really, really looking forward to it. The training was going well, the miles were building up nicely and the pace was getting faster. I was loving it. Then I had a seizure, and it all stopped.

That is until today. It has taken me three weeks to get back to running. The first week after a seizure is always pretty much a write-off for me thanks to the after-effects of a tonic-clonic. I’m exhausted, ache all over and my brain doesn’t seem to function properly. It’s like I’m in a haze. But the following two weeks… well, there wasn’t really any reason other than I was nervous. OK, “nervous” is perhaps an understatement. I was scared. Scared I would have another seizure, scared I wouldn’t be able to do something else I loved, and scared I would be so far behind in my training that I’d never catch up.

To ease the nerves I put a few safety measures in place. Firstly, I ran at a gym on a treadmill, which is safer than running alone on the streets. Secondly, I made sure I’d ticked all the “trigger boxes” – took my medication, slept, drank lots of water, and had a full stomach (not ideal for running, but as eating appears to be my major trigger, ideal for my epilepsy). Finally, I made sure I had an emergency contact ready and my “I have epilepsy” card in my bag. I knew it was unlikely anything would happen, but having all these things in place made me feel better, and safe… well, safer.

As I walked up to the gym, my nerves were really starting to get the better of me. I get a “warning” before a tonic-clonic seizure. In fact, these warnings are seizures in their own right. They affect my vision, and I was convinced this was happening while I was walking. It wasn’t. It was my nervous brain playing tricks on me. Since my breakthrough seizures, this happens regularly, daily probably. I notice my vision seemingly change and wonder, “Is this it, am I going to have another one?” It hasn’t happened so far, but this constant fear is exhausting. More on that in another blog.

Just walking through the doors of the gym and knowing I was going to be running in just a few short minutes made me feel happy. Once I got the first mile under my belt, the smile began to reappear. Then the second and third mile, and by the time I finished at four, a few tears had fallen. It felt so good to be back. Not just back running but a small part of me was back. A small part of my confidence. A small part of my happiness.

It was at that point I realized the recovery period isn’t just a week; it’s much longer. I know this is only the start, but as long as I know there is a potential for seizures, I will always have this underlying anxiety. I imagine and hope it will get less, but I know at any time, anywhere a seizure can happen. How long will the mental recovery take? I wonder in fact, will I ever recover?

Follow this journey on Series of Small Disasters.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Getty image by shironosov
Originally published: January 13, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home