Mysteries of the “Sacred Disease,” by Art Remillard
When I was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2000, I asked my neurologist about the cause of my seizures. His answer: “It’s a mystery.” Sister Mary Catherine employed this phrase when I inquired about the Holy Trinity; but I never expected to hear it from a neurologist. Alas, the various tests he ordered revealed nothing. And like so many others in my situation, the doctor explained that I would probably never know the cause.
Indeed, epilepsy is a mystery. Moreover, seizures are downright mysterious, causing many to use religious language to describe their attacks, claiming to have encountered divinity in their moments of neurological chaos. Perhaps this is why Hippocrates called epilepsy, “The Sacred Disease” (actually, it’s a brain “disorder”). Karen Armstrong, historian of religions and epileptic, explained that in the brief time preceding her seizures, “everything comes together in a moment—everything adds up, and you’re flooded with a sense of joy, and you’re just about to grasp it, and then you lose it and you crawl into an attack.” I can only echo Armstrong. Often, I see “something” that I can’t recognize or describe, but desperately want to. While in this state, I think that knowing “it” will bring about enlightenment and/or contentment. Then everything fades away, and the rest is history.
After his recent hospital stay, Chief Justice John Roberts still doesn’t know the source of his seizures. He too will likely contend with the mystery of epilepsy, and the mysterious quality of his seizures. According to one AM talk radio host, however, there may be no mystery at all. Just prior to Roberts’s episode, New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer reportedly vowed that he would never confirm a judicial appointment made by President Bush. This led the radio host to speculate, “Am I to believe there's no connection between Charles Schumer on Friday saying he would never . . . approve another Bush appointment to the court, to any court? And then the chief justice suffers a so-called seizure two days later? You're telling me there's no possibility of a conspiracy by the Democrats to have caused this seizure in some manner?”
If memory serves, I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 instead of Al Gore. I was living in Florida too. So perhaps “they” went after me! And to think, all this time I thought my epilepsy was the result of an angel, demon, genetic disorder, or bump on the head.