So you think there might be more to suffering from epilepsy than simply having numerous seizures? Searching for a holistic view of the emotional, physical, and social issues vexing a sufferer? Desiring empathy either for others or from others? Tacking on the Styx offers an impassioned view of a stigmatized illness but not at the expense of the nitty – gritty side of reality. It will sail you close to the shores of Hades before turning back about for the shores of Earth. Can you handle the education en route?
According to the World Health Organization, the burden of disease for epilepsy, worldwide (inclusive of early death, time lived in poor health, and a person’s diminished contribution to the economy), stands at 0.5%. Against a backdrop of all medical conditions, that figure is higher than it seems. A clearer understanding of the disease’s psychological impacts can aide society as a whole.
Epilepsy in days gone by: Sometime during the last century, behavioural therapists took flight from people with epilepsy. Taking refuge behind semantics, they cordoned off epilepsy from other mental illnesses and increasingly left the treatment of patients to their peers who practiced neurology. The organic causes of the disease had been defined and could then, physiologically at last, be treated through medication and surgery.
However, all diseases have some level of organic causation yet psychologists fill useful roles in helping patients to cope all the same, so was this redefinition fair? In Tacking on the Styx (Authorhouse Press), Jeffrey Hatcher, Ph.D., poses the question to college students, to practitioners–in-training, and to family members of persons with the disease. Each of these three groups of people will find parts of the book particularly meaningful for understanding not only patients but the practice of epilepsy treatment, itself.
To link to these disparate groups, Hatcher takes advantage of his research background to report on the science of epileptology while retaining the objectivity of one outside of the medical profession. Just as importantly, he offers a level of candor in the discussion of various issues which is unattainable for the medical professional, as Dr. Hatcher is also a member of the patient community. As such, he understands the ways in which epilepsy is very much a mental illness.
As a person with epilepsy, he shares his meditations on the meaning of professional work accommodation for someone with a mental illness and on relationships, both of a personal kind and in the world of employment. He provides the reader with information about surgery’s potential effects upon emotional perception – a particularly troubling topic for some patients. Further, he challenges psychiatrists, surgeons, and neurologists to address psychological issues of epilepsy by going above and beyond seizure control in treating patients.
In “Tacking on the Styx,” Hatcher takes a unique, three-pronged approach to prepare the reader for tackling challenges in perceiving the disease. First, he makes the complicated medical literature accessible to the lay reader and to the student. To understand the challenges that society imposes upon patients, one first must understand the moment –by – moment mental and physical problems that arise in epilepsy. Hence, Hatcher reviews technical literature for the reader which is pertinent to understanding both aura and the diverse automatisms that may cause stigmatization of the disease.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Heroism
…it behooves the wise man to look with a bold eye into those rarer dangers which sometime invade men, and to familiarize himself with disgusting forms of disease…
Tacking on the Styx ventures into areas of science that doctors choose not to discuss for reasons of the subject matter or their work load. Hatcher distinguishes the simple seizure from the generalized seizure; the frontal lobe seizure from that of the temporal lobe, the parietal lobe, etc. Involuntary sexual actions which occasionally accompany a temporal or frontal lobe seizure create stress that is quite different from the kind caused by the hallucinations of an occipital lobe seizure.
As a second tack for bringing the psychology of epilepsy to the reader, Hatcher presents essays on the topics of the emergence of consciousness and the cognitive models providing the structures for such emergence. By way of example, he discusses the artistic schools of Impressionism and Surrealism respectively. He further describes the thought process in the mathematical context of artificial intelligence. He brings these topics back into the context of a seizure event and the thought processes impacted by aberrant brain activity. In this endeavor, he is aided by direct experience of the phenomena.
Topical reviews and essays have great value, but they do not inspire the student or family member to pursue the highest level of understanding epilepsy. Nor do they convey information in such a way that promotes an optimal level of empathy. Storytelling accomplishes those goals better, thus storytelling is the third component of the book.
Hatcher nests these literary reviews and essays within a novella about a young scholar suddenly confronted with temporal lobe epilepsy by way of a prolonged status epilepticus event – a seizure lasting an hour. The book alternates between these factual sections and fictional story, connecting topics en route. An essay on entropy abuts the plot section of momentary bouts of exacerbated amnesia. Discussions of spatial memories link to the confusion of the young man lost in an isolated forest. His sexual crisis precedes a review of epileptic assaults on sexuality and social acceptance. Throughout the storyline, Hatcher particularly dwells on the misery of amnesia so often linked to temporal lobe epilepsy.
The mission of Tacking on the Styx is not to comfort. It is to offer informed empathy. Its candor and breadth seek to inform, to illustrate points of view, and to provoke thought. It prepares people to ask more penetrating questions of physicians or professors. Lastly, darker and more foreboding portions of the storyline hammer home the need for a greater presence of psychiatry in the treatment of epilepsy.
Trephining was thought to relieve seizures (among many other neurological issues) via pressure release. The trepine was used to bore holes into the skull (both Figures 327 & 339 are taken from The Principles and Practice of Surgery Being a Treatise on Surgical Diseases and Injuries, Vol 1. 1889. D.H. Agnew. J.B. Lippincott Co. Philadelphia).
Enjoy a look at these and future book authors:
Michael Chukwudi – the 2nd Nigerian writer in this interview series. He writes historical fiction. His work includes UnDeserved, which is set in the Igbo community.
Scott Hughes – a writer of poetry and horror is the author of The Last Book You’ll Ever Read which one Bram Stoker award nominee describes as “nimble and poetic and downright freaky”.
Nick Crutchley – author of Deadweight, an autobiographical look at mental illness. Purchasers of Crutchley’s book will be entered into a lottery. Proceeds from the book will go to a mental health charity of the lottery winner’s choosing.
Mystqx Skye – poet and nominee for the Golden Door Award. Author of Bared – Beneath a Myriad of Skies.
Jill Amy Rosenblatt – has five novels under her belt. Three are in a crime series, The Fixer, and include The Nacked Man, The Killing Kind, and The Last Romanov.
Nick Savage – author who writes adult contemporary romance and young adult urban fantasy, the latter including Us of Legendary Gods which has high praise.
Stephanie Ayers – author of The 13, a horror series, Destiny Defined, a fantasy series, and various titles in fantasy and horror anthologies.
Chiara Benedetta Condorelli – author of multiple Italian and English books including I Mal Benedetti; Stelle in Alta Definizione; Fáil-te; and The Rebel Murphy among others.
Sarah Sanchez – author of a young adult trilogy of vampires, The Sunwalker Trilogy and a middle grade fantasy series The Keeper Chronicles. An update to report: Sanchez is releasing the second book in the Keeper series shortly.
Ephraim Michael – a Nigerian author writing in multiple genres which include short stories – Three in One; horror – Hochebene Mayhem; and even childrens literature. He has tackled class, culture, crime, and homophobia.
Christine Bernard – a Brisbane author whose thought provoking work includes Mute; Haze; Cracker Jack, and others.
A note about feeds – Research literature as reported below is difficult and expensive to get outside of a university library. Nevertheless, anyone can printout an abstract after clicking on a title and show it to a professional to find out more information.
The main purpose of this website is to promote a greater inclusion of the psychiatric and behavioral therapy community into epilepsy treatment, most especially in evaluations for surgery.