Part One: In Which Our Chronicler Suffers A Great Shock, Nearly Loses His Life, And Thereafter Counts His Lucky Stars
I woke up in the hospital, with the edges of things feeling soft and somewhat unreal. Tubes in my arms. White walls, bright lights.
“Oh, you’re awake,” the lady all in white says. She calls in some concerned-looking people who’ve been waiting outside.
I vaguely recognize them: mom, dad. Intuitively, I know that they ARE my parents, but at the same time, they feel like strangers. Very nice strangers, who take me back to a place I recognize but don’t feel is mine.
The above is as close as I can get to the feeling of jamais vu. It's the opposite of déjà vu—when you get the feeling that you’ve been somewhere or heard something before, that you know you’ve never been or heard. When you get the feeling that you’ve been somewhere or read something before, that you know you haven’t been or read.
With jamais vu, you will go into a place you’ve been before (my room, for example, when I got home), and feel like—though you DO recognize it—it’s the first time you’re seeing this. When I looked around my room, I knew what clothes were in what drawers, and which books were on the shelf. But none of it felt like it belonged to me.
On an impulse, I took Philip K. Dick’s The Divine Invasion off the bookshelf. I remembered (as though from another life) that one of the characters is suffering from amnesia, and felt that it would be a good companion to where I was. In the next month, this book would prove instrumental in guiding me back to myself—or possibly a better Self.
Jamais vu is disconcerting, and in the week that followed, I struggled with that and other aspects of depersonalization that came and went without warning.
Let’s take a step back.
At the time of writing this, I have never had any ‘hard’ psychedelic drugs: no acid, no mushrooms, no ergot, ayahuasca, peyote, or opiates. And no, I’ve never licked a toad.
What I’ve described above was part—a very small part—of the week following a seizure I had on March 8th, 2016. I was driving to work when it happened, and by <the grace of God/sheer dumb luck>, I was stuck in traffic and my foot slammed down on the brake. Two guardian angels in the car behind me guided my car to the side of the road and called for the help I needed.
I consider myself to be insanely lucky. If I’d had this same seizure on, say, the highway at 70 miles per, you would not be reading this blog.
In that postictal week, I often found myself falling asleep randomly, feeling waves of unreality washing across me, crippling migraines, and violent mood-swings. Not to mention the series of spiritual/religious experiences I had, which may have been vivid dreams, or astral travel, or possibly a brush with the Godhead.
He sat for a little while, although “little while” no longer signified anything. Then, by degrees, the transform took place. He saw outside him the pattern, the print, of his own brain; he was within a world made up of his brain, with living information carried here and there like little rivers of shining red that were alive. He could reach out, therefore, and touch his own thoughts in their original nature, before they became thoughts. The room was filled with their fire, and immense spaces stretched out, the volume of his own brain external to him.
(Philip K. Dick, The Divine Invasion)
Some of those symptoms are typical of seizures (particularly the religious experiences, which are commonly associated with temporal lobe epilepsy). But some are also associated with Keppra—an anticonvulsant medication that was prescribed to me in the hospital, with the assurance that this was the best way to prevent further seizures. Below, you can read an incomplete list of potential side-effects to taking Keppra:
And—hilariously—Keppra may cause seizures.
I was, as you might imagine, not terribly thrilled about being put on this drug.
I was determined to get off these meds, and onto something safer.
Next Time: Exploring Alternative Medicines
Adam Singer is a writer, shutterbug, entrepreneur, decent artist, and knows far too many 'blue' jokes. On March 8th, 2016, he had a seizure which has been a catalyst for deep introspection and drastic change. You can find him on Twitter, @timeofposting. If you have had a similar experience, or are investigating medical CBD, he encourages you to tweet @ him.