Seized! Epilepsy made me a writer?

Jul 20, 2001 (Updated Sep 8, 2001)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Gives wonderfully detailed history of how TLE became a phenomenon instead of a disease

Cons:None.

The Bottom Line: Seized is by far the best book I have read about TLE, and doesn't give grim outlooks like other books do. Interesting histories of famous people with TLE are included!


When I was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy in 1997, I thought my life was over. When I was able to drive again, I headed to the local library and spent the day pouring over books and articles related to this very common type of Epilepsy. I came across this book by Eve LaPlante called Seized. I grabbed it and checked it out immediately. Something about the book took a hold of me and said "read this first."

Out of all the other books I had checked out of the library, this is the only one that made Epilepsy seem like a historical disorder that could cause some very interesting things to happen within the brain. Because the temporal lobe controls various emotions, artistic talents, musical talents, and writing talents, any form of scar tissue or damage to the lobe can cause accentuation of these. Of course, as LaPlante points out, not all TLE sufferers have it so easy.

Van Gogh was a fantastic painter and a very, very sick man. Although epilepsy was not officially diagnosed in him for years, his artistic abilites would increase as his seizures, or dreamy-states, worsened. Pretty soon, he was writing letters saying he could not paint unless he had these episodes. As time passed, his seizures became more violent and he was committed to an institution, as so many sufferers of epilepsy were back in those days. Soon, he was home again, and one of his violent seizures caused him to cut off his ear lobe, wrap it in paper, and leave it for a prostitute that he had been with recently.

LaPlante tells the story of many famous people and not-so-famous people, and their history and treatment of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. The book was originally published in 1993 and went out of print. Although it is still out of print, you can order it through a website called backinprint.com, which specializes in popular books that for some reason or another had gone out of print.

The book is broken down as follows:

Chapter One: A Classic Case talks about Van Gogh and how he was diagnosed, and tells his full story. Gives excerpts from letters he wrote to his brother and friends, and from his diary. Wonderfully interesting! Also mentions Tennyson and Flaubert, but not in as much detail.

Chapter Two: Pioneers talks about John Hughlings Jackson and his wife's epilepsy; how Jackson was able to fully research and write about epilepsy and what caused it, and how they are put into use in today's diagnoses of TLE.

Chapter Three: Ordinary People gives stories of three very different people leading different lives that all have TLE. LaPlante goes into detail about what was happening to them in their lives before they were finally diagnosed with TLE as adults. I related to one of them, as her story sounded almost identical to mine. She, however, was able to stop her stressful job and stay home to do what she loved most. I don't have that luxury!

Chapter Four: Mental States gives an introduction to the brain's anatomy and what each lobe of the brain does. It also explains how epilepsy can vary within different lobes, and explains how generalized (grand mal) seizures differ from partial (petit mal) seizures. Explains neurons and how their misfirings can cause seizures, and talks about why TLE is known as the artist's epilepsy.

Chapter Five: Personality discusses how different the right half of the brain is from the left half and what each half controls. Wonderfully detailed explanations of why seizures can cause artistic temperments to come out in full in those of us with TLE. I learned quite a bit from this chapter, and I have a lot of it highlighted with notes in the margin.

Chapter Six: Intervention talks about different forms of treatments in the past and compares them to today's treatments, along with how TLE is diagnosed. Again we are told of the three average people and how each of them had trouble with obtaining a diagnosis.

Chapter Seven: Body and Mind summarizes the book and one doctor's approach to why TLE is so artistic: The disorder generates intense motivation leading to sustained rather than fragmentary attention while preserving the essential faculty of critical judgment. In other words, the doctor believes that seizures allow for more focused creativity, rather than fleeting bits here in there.

Seized also gives a very detailed source guide and bibliography for those wishing to learn more about the disorder or the history of it. This has got to be one of the best books on temporal lobe epilepsy I have ever had occasion to read, and I use the book constantly: especially if I have a lot of breakthrough seizures and I need a bit of motivation to get myself back on track.

Even if you don't have epilepsy and you just enjoy learning about new things and how they've come about to the present, this will surely be an interesting read for you. LaPlante's writing style is detailed yet simplistic for those of us without medical degrees, and she writes in a very interesting way, at the same time quoting others so the general public can understand everything. No previous knowledge of epilepsy is "required" to read this book. She explains the disorder in a crystal clear and precise manner.

Cover Price: $18.95 (trade paperback, 254 pages)
ISBN: 0-595-09431-7


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