“It was SOOO Funny!”
By Karen Lankford-Carnes
This is an excerpt taken from an unfinished, most likely self-published on Amazon memoir of what I have personally experienced since the age of twelve. I’ll be skipping around a bit, so as not to lose the actual topic of this week. This is absolutely a true, absolutely intimate, and absolutely painful retelling of a time of my formative years.
I don’t think “Mean Girls” really covers it completely, certainly not the entire scope of things. As an adult, I look back and see how desperately everyone wanted to fit in. I look around on my social accounts and laugh when they all think the phrase: “You haven’t changed a bit.” is somehow a compliment.
It was 1976 when “jr. high” (currently known as middle school) first began to reveal its plan to label me for the rest of my life. I’d really never cared. I was myself, I started learning that I was “frank”, “weird”, certainly not “popular” with the boys. I was never the “girlfriend”. I was relegated to begin the “girl friend”, who introduced my female friends to my guy friends. It was an acceptable arrangement. I was what they used to call a “Tomboy” back in the day. In the 70’s, it was all about being a “fox”, or a “dog”. Your hair either feather perfectly or, like mine, had an uncontrollable cowlick that threw everything just a little bit off, I was just a little bit off.
During the recession, my family was hit with the first of what would become a domino-effect of wounds when my father lost his job. We were forced to sell our house and move, quite literally to the Southside of the little town that I’d grown to love. It was culture-shock for me. A completely different world. Here there were plenty of kids. I learned to babysit...all of them. I had friends, made up games. Role-played. One unmistakable omission were fathers. Moms were all there. Everyone was divorced. Everyone talked about something called “ADC”. Compared to the two-parent neighborhood that I’d been transplanted from, this was unusual, uncomfortable and I didn’t like it.
It was here, at the age of twelve, that I started to notice these little “waves”, I called them. LIke a little dip in a carnival ride. I didn’t realize they were something. I didn’t know what was in store. My mother told me I had mentioned them to her-I don’t remember being that much aware that much to have done that. She explained that she’d written it off as “daydreaming.”
The first time I was cognizant about one of these happening was here, at this place I now lived, and hated. The neighbors who never got along-weren’t getting along-and the police were called. Because I was witness to this fight-they wanted to question me. I felt very nervous while speaking with the officers who talked to me, and I “phased out” for a few seconds. Again, not knowing until much later that these were a precursor of what was to come.
Well it did come, months later, it came violently, without mercy. Another label. I was now thirteen years, eighth grade was looming and we were finally back into a real house again. My friend and I were set to do a choreographed gymnastic routine in gym class. My friend was absent, so I would go it alone. I don’t remember whether the music had begun or not.What I do remember is my head snapping back, so that I appeared to be looking at the ceiling. Then my head turned to the right, my body followed suit, a robotic pirouette. I apparently fell, and tried to lift myself up by grabbing the vice-principal’s leg.
My next memory is laying in the office, presumably waiting for my mother to pick me up. The two biddies were having a laugh at my expense when I couldn’t say the words that I saw in my mind. This is called: aphasia. No, it’s not funny. A boy from my neighborhood popped his head in the room. They asked if I knew who he was. I did, but… They both cackled and one said: “It’s Robert Redford!”
When I was finally taken to see a neurologist-one of a dozen since my diagnosis-he’d noticed something, Again, I was nervous talking to him, I “phased out” again. He jumped on it and told me it was a type of seizure. At the time, they were known as “petit mal” seizures. They are currently known as “absence” seizures. That day at school had been my first “grand mal” seizure. These are currently known as “Tonic-Clonic” seizures.
The day after that seizure, I went back to school, going class to class, as usual. Social Studies was one of my favorite classes. I liked the teacher and got to sit behind my crush. I suppose that I caught off guard that a teacher would make such an inappropriate judgment call, when class had just begun and he sought me out, spoke my name and said: “Hey! Are you alright? What happened yesterday?”
As if she were waiting, one of the “populars”, who had been in the gym class, said: “OH it was SOOO funny! You looked up.Then everybody else looked up, and it was so funny!”
By now, the entire class was laughing including my crush, and the teacher. What choice did I have but to laugh along? Looking back, there seemed to be just as many teachers who desperately wanted to be accepted by the “populars” as there were students.
As I mentioned, this is but an excerpt of the memoir that I really oughta get around to finishing. I want to inform, maybe give those newly diagnosed, a leg up on those like me who weren’t given a clue as to what to expect. I don’t want to call this “Epilepsy for Dummies”, I don’t want to pretend this is about “epilepsy awareness.” If anything, I’d maybe like it to be an “Epilepsy Hacks” manual and encourage people to be their own advocate, be involved in every aspect of their treatment. ASK QUESTIONS! No one’s going to do it for you. Oh, and please...don’t wait 45 years.