I see the light
After finishing the open MRI, my next step in the process of trying to find out what is going on with me was scheduling an electroencephalogram, or EEG.
According to WebMed.com, an EEG is a test that measures and records the electrical activity of your brain. Special sensors, or electrodes, are attached to your head and hooked by wires to a computer. The computer records your brain's electrical activity on the screen or on paper as wavy lines. Certain conditions, such as seizures, can be seen by the changes in the normal pattern of the brain's electrical activity.
There are several reasons an EEG is prescribed. An EEG is used to diagnose epilepsy and see what types of seizures are occurring. In fact, it is considered the most useful and important test in confirming a diagnosis of epilepsy. The EEG also is used to check for problems with loss of consciousness or dementia. It helps determine a person's chance of recovery after a change in consciousness. An EEG can indicate if a person who is in a coma is brain-dead. It is also used to study sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, and to watch brain activity while a person is receiving general anesthesia during brain surgery. And an EEG can help find out if a person has a physical problem (problems in the brain, spinal cord, or nervous system) or a mental health problem.
The night before the test I did my research so I would be at ease. not to eat or drink foods that have caffeine (such as coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate) for eight hours before the test. They also instruct you not to take certain medicines, such as sedatives and tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, sleeping aids, or medicines used to treat seizures, before the test. When I was told that, I looked over at wife and smiled, “Looks like another sleepless, restless night in Tacoma.” I am often asked: “When do you sleep?” Well, even with medicine I can stay up for more than 30 hours. To get to a good night’s rest I just double or triple my intake. The key word is “rest.”
Since the electrodes are attached to your scalp, it was really important that my hair be clean and free of sprays, oils, creams, and lotions. But I shave my head, so all this wouldn’t be a problem. Having an idea of what was going to happen during the test made me feel like it would be a breeze.
We arrived at Madigan and made our way to the test center. As we waited, I thought about my travels in the system and about all those who are still in limbo. I know my goal is to get myself healed, but just knowing there are service members sitting somewhere and they are possibly going nowhere enrages me to no end. I can name these individuals, and I see their faces. It’s really depressing.
So the technician called my name. As I made my way through the door the technician, who happened to be rather giddy, informed me that my wife could be in the room during the test. So my wife and I made our way into the room. In the small room were a table and a computer as well as some other equipment. My wife sat in the chair next to the computer, and I was instructed to get on the bed and lie down. The technician then came over to me and cleaned off my head. Next she put the electrodes on my head. I couldn’t see them, but my wife said there were about 20 to 30 and that I looked like some kind of creature of the abyss. Lying on a table shouldn’t seem that difficult, but because of my sinuses my nose was stuffed up, making it uncomfortable already. Still very giddy, the technician started to give me the instructions. But to tell you the truth, I was just trying to breath. All I heard was a voice similar to an adult Charlie Brown.
The test started, and within seconds it was like being sucked into a tunnel with a lot of lights going off and on. The strobes were so intense I seized up, gripping the bar on the side, and wiggled around, almost like I was trying to get away. I started sweating, and then like some terrible movie, I started seeing things when the strobes flickered. In reality, it was just images piercing my thoughts. Some images were of doing patrols in Iraq — but from a distance, almost like I could see myself. The other images were of my sitting with a bunch of soldiers waiting in line at mental health. The other images were of disturbing things I have seen in battle. To respect my younger readers, I will not share those, but let’s just say death is not pretty. I started getting angry. This emotion was on dot with what happens when I have an episode. My mind started to race; images started flying, and then just like in one of my episodes, I went blank. I can’t tell you what happened for about two minutes, but I can say I was not there. I came to and looked over at my wife, who was sitting there watching the screen. I asked her, “Did you just see that?” She replied, “It is too dark. I can’t see you over there.” If she didn’t see me there was no way the technician had a visual on me. This was important; this was it. I had had one, and I didn’t explode or do anything. The test wasn’t over. The strobes kept coming, and more visions came. The technician asked me to breathe — not a problem. I was already breathing hard. I could hear the lady tapping away. My head seemed like it was on fire. I didn’t remember reading about that, but later I read elsewhere that such feelings were normal.
The test was almost over, which was good because I wasn’t feeling too well and I wanted to get up. The technician made her way over to me and told me that it was over and started to undo my wires. I got up slowly, so that I wouldn’t end up on the ground. I got off the table and made my way over to my wife. I asked the technician, “Ma’am, did you see that?” She replied, “No, I didn’t see anything, but if you would have had a seizure I would have immediately gotten medical personnel.” I smiled, “That is good to know you’re on your game.” I wanted her to annotate what I had experienced in her records. I thought it might help whoever was on the other side to get some kind of read. As I talked to the very nice lady for a minute, I noticed my wife looking at the paper that had my name on it on the desk. Basically this paper was a referral paper. It had all of my medical information, what I need and other important information. We finished up there and made our way home. While in the car my wife was silent, which was a little odd, but I wasn’t going to bother her. She is getting to that point in the pregnancy where talking, especially with me, can be bothersome and annoying. Finally, she broke her silence. “Hey, did you read the top of the paper that was on the desk?” She had the same look I get when I unmask some kind of story. I replied, “Nope, didn’t do any looking around or scanning papers today.” She then dropped what made me almost forget to get off the highway. “The paper said, ‘Well known soldier.’” I looked at her in disbelief. “What? Well known what?” She replied with a grin on her face. “Looks like you’re rather popular in the system.” I think I was quiet for the whole ride home, but not after telling my wife I was proud of her for reading a paper that just happened to be backwards. It so happens that my wife is a little investigative reporter.
Later that week while at my psychologist appointment, whom I would like to add is absolutely brilliant, I asked what that all meant. He gave me the dead honest answer. “You have been in the system for some time, and I am sure you know the rest.” I didn’t feel the need to push further with anymore questions, because he was right — I knew what it meant. You can take it two ways: “You’re a real pain in the butt, and you’ve been around since the dinosaurian age.” Or you can take it like: “You’re really one popular, top-notch pain in the butt.” No matter how they title me, I don’t care. I actually get a kick out of it. I am just encouraged to know that maybe with all of my sessions I will be able to feel the way I used to feel. I do believe it will happen — in time. Thank you for all of your prayers and your encouraging e-mails as well as phone calls.