One year ago I opened my copy of Epilepsy Action ‘Epilepsy Today’ magazine to read the ‘My Journal’ experience pages. (1)
There before my eyes was the story of a lady so rare that she could be listed as an endangered species next in line to the Dodo.
The story read:
‘The Jury is still out on whether complementary therapies can be effectively used to treat epilepsy. After an initial seizure, Emma Wilkinson decided to try them for herself.’
‘There is very little available information about treating epilepsy naturally, without medication. If you ask your doctor about it, they will probably say that there is no scientific evidence to prove it is possible. Yet, I have done it – through natural health my seizures have stopped. After being diagnosed with epilepsy, I began upon a natural route. I have seen incredible results on my health. It is my hope that by sharing my journey, you may be inspired to look into the treatments that may be used alongside your medication.’(p 27)
Unfortunately although Epilepsy Action have started posting new issues of the magazine online the back issues are not yet up, so I will briefly outline Emma’s story.
Emma started having seizures in 2008 following a gym training session which caused her to develop a migraine and on the way home she had her first seizure.
After initial investigation and a tumour scare, her neurologist told her that a small area of her brain showed up as having died, and was harmless (not a tumour), but caused an increased risk of seizures. This condition was linked to head injury but Emma had never had one.
She had been living with Bulimia for 7 years at the time and was not sure when to tell her neurologist.
She was diagnosed with Primary generalised seizures and epilepsy in 2009, when she was offered anticonvulsant medication.
At this point Emma’s story deviates drastically from the one’s I have read about previously, because she decided to meet a natural nutritionist who listened to her concerns about the side effects of anticonvulsant medication.
She says she was cynical about meeting her nutritionist because she didn’t see how changing her diet could stop her having seizures; her doctors were quite clear there was something wrong with her brain. The nutritionist really listened to her which was the first time she felt this had happened.
Information was gathered about events surrounding her seizures, emotionally and physically, health from birth to present day, Family history of health and illness, her troubled relationship with diet and exercise.
The nutritionist was clear that she could not ‘treat’ epilepsy, but the aim was to improve migraines that seemed to be linked to the condition.
‘She (the nutritionist) explained that when we suppress illness symptoms, our bodies lose the ability to tell where imbalances lie. Her job was to understand those imbalances and teach me to treat them appropriately through gentle detoxification techniques.’(p 29)
Additionally, to help Emma reduce the stress of experiencing epilepsy.
Emma made dietary changes, created a tailored supplement programme using naturopathic techniques from the nutritionist.
Emma says ‘It was the first time since my seizure that I felt so optimistic. Rather than being consigned to a lifetime on drugs, I was given an option of trying a different way. In natural health I was expected to take an active part in my own healing process. I would rather that than passively accept a one-size-fits all drug.’
Emma’s friends and family had reservations but within 6 weeks Emma noticed fewer migraines with loss of vision.
Additionally she felt she had more energy, felt less stressed and craved less exercise, she felt the incentive to continue.
She also enrolled in counselling specifically to help with her bulimic symptoms. She went to psychotherapy. Understanding how her early life had formed her thinking, feeling and behaviour and how it affected her relationship with food. It also helped her come to terms with having epilepsy.
Things got complicated when she started her teacher training. Emma had to rely on public transport where before she could drive. Between the long journeys, work and pressure she became tired, relapsed into her old stress, exercise and bulimia problems and so a year after her first seizure she had another one.
Obviously she was devastated. With a second seizure came further loss of independence and driving. Her consultant said she was at 90% risk of more seizures.
‘After much deliberation, I came to terms with the fact that I was responsible for my own health. Perhaps another seizure was just part of the journey. It told me that something within my body was not right and needed to be addressed, rather than supressed. I could see that, despite having this second seizure, I had come so far with my health. I felt that I owed it to myself to continue. With renewed determination, I moved onto the most important part of my healing process. I didn’t want to simply work towards reducing the likelihood of having another seizure. I was finally prepared to understand what factors, other than diet, were causing them.’
Emma purchased ‘Treating Epilepsy Naturally’ by Patricia Murphy (2).
She started to receive acupuncture and zero balancing therapy in addition to nutritional therapy. She went to a complementary therapist for massage which helped her to manage stress.
Her migraines totally disappeared.
‘My overall health and vitality blossomed. I was experiencing a wonderful state of full health for the first time in ages. These practitioners have also helped support my body through detoxification. They have enabled me to get rid of negative thinking patterns. They have allowed me to understand how my emotions are mapped onto my physical body.’
Emma states that her ‘team’ of therapists helped her to come to the painful realisation that she thought she was unable to love and accept herself unconditionally.
‘All of this work helped me make lots of positive physical and emotional changes. It is only through this understanding of my physical body that I made the biggest achievement of all. I learned to believe in my own self-worth. I can love and respect myself.’
In December 2011 Emma had been seizure free since 2009 and was looking forward to a career in music and was experiencing good physical and emotional health.
Emma finishes by acknowledging the contribution that western medicine has had on epilepsy treatment options.
She goes onto say ‘Western medicine encourages us to believe that doctors hold the power and have the answers that will cure us. It does not encourage us to listen to what our bodies are telling us or try to understand why a seizure occurs. I have learned that full health is my right – but it is also my responsibility.’
Emma ends by saying that natural health offers a totally effective therapy that can be tried alongside medication. She thinks it can work for everyone.
Epilepsy Today have BIG red writing paragraphs underneath about there being no scientific evidence to suggest that any type of complementary treatment is successful in curing epilepsy; AND about using complementary treatment alongside anti-epileptic medication rather than on its own.
It also signposts to www.cnhc.org.uk Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council to find a trained and qualified complementary healthcare practitioner.
Personally there is a lot about Emma’s story that I could relate two, although the circumstances around our epilepsies are completely different.
I would also state that in my experience no anticonvulsant medication has ever ‘cured’ the seizures I experience.
I have also used a large number of complementary therapies on my epilepsy journey, and there is a small army out there who I need to thank.
Unlike Emma I do take anticonvulsant medication. I was very young when my seizures started and so never had the opportunity to choose alternative therapy as a sole treatment from the outset.
I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to try alternative therapy as my main source of treatment, and whether or not the drugs I have taken over the years prevent me from ever finding out.
I don’t know what research there is in relation to neurodevelopment when anticonvulsants are prescribed.
Research into Cannabis shows that this drug does affect neurological development (3), I wouldn’t trust a drug company to honestly state what anticonvulsant medications do to the developing brain, but I still take my medication. (4) I did have really big problems with learning on some medications.
Emma mentions a book by a lady who chose to treat epilepsy naturally; I have found a second in my search for natural treatment see (5).
From this I have concluded that the incidence of completely natural epilepsy treatment is very much like spotting an extremely rare bird, there isn’t a high incidence of sightings.
For me Emma’s story goes to show it is possible in some RARE circumstances to ‘fly without wings’ and go it alone without medication, and for her sharing her story I am grateful.
She might be rare but she is flourishing and that is really something to behold.
Emma BELIEVES she can fly.
Not everyone is so fortunate.
It has served to highlight to me how unique we really all are in our health needs, experiences and treatments.
1) Epilepsy Action Magazine – Epilepsy Today Issue 110 December 2011 pages 27-30.