Comfort Food


I took another sip of my gin and tonic. It was sharp on my tongue.

“So, how old are your children?” I asked the man sitting across from me. He was quiet. He flashed his eyes at me a few times. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair.

“Ummmm…twenty three…..” he said, slowly. Another flash of the eyes. I looked around as causally as possible, hoping to see his wife coming back soon.

“Oh,” I answered, “my son is eight.” I had no idea what to say.

I took another sip so I didn’t have to say anything. He sat quietly, staring at me and raising his eyebrows.

I wondered if it would be unseemly to bolt for the door at a fundraiser. I looked away.

There was a hand on my shoulder.

“Can you call 911?”

The flirty man was sitting with his chin dropped toward his chest, rocking gently back and fourth. I could see the look of panic in his wife’s eyes. “He has Type 1 diabetes. He’s having a seizure. Can you call 911? Please….” In that fraction of a second it took for that word to go from her lips to my ears, everything became clear. I knew exactly what to do. The call was made, the staff was quietly informed, the dinner bill that arrived was put on my credit card, and I came back to the table and put my hand on hers. “Don’t worry,” I said, “it doesn’t really hurt. It’s just so embarrassing…” The paramedics came and ushered him graciously an quietly into the back hall. She sat back down in the black, 70’s vinyl chair and planted her feet on the floor so it wouldn’t swivel. Tears welled up in her eyes. “I just hate this,” she said, under her breath.

I have never seen someone else have a seizure before, but I’m certain from experience and from the description of my friends, that was exactly what mine are like. I was appalled at myself for not recognizing it. Then I began to wonder, is that how my friends feel? Do I make everyone so uncomfortable? Strangely, it was comforting to me to see things from the other side.

About 15 minutes later he popped out from behind the curtain, shaking the hand of the paramedics. “Sorry about that,” he said, sheepishly, as he sat back down. “Thank you for not making a big deal of it.” His wife held his hand in hers.

“No worries,” I answered, “I know how it feels.”

I have struggle to keep control over my epilepsy for some years. Although it’s from a different cause, it has the same symptoms. It is nearly impossible for someone to tell whether you are a complete psycho or are having a seizure unless they know what to look for. Brains are such mysterious and complex things and doctors love to pretend that they know what they are doing. One day, we will look back in our history books and say, “I would have hated to live back in those days, do you know how they treated people for …..! Such superstition!”

I am lucky enough to live with a pharmacist, who’s good friend is also a pharmacist, so I have a built in second opinion. After this incident I had a chat with J and asked him about my own medications. Although they are controlling my seizures better than anything else I have previously taken, they have side effects.

“What are you taking it for? What were you on before?” J asked.

” Seizures….Lamictal.”

“Oh.” He answered, heavily. “Well, it’s good that you are off of it. That stuff has bad side effects and lots of unpredictable drug interactions. There is really nothing else you can do except change meds again. But Keppra is much better. I has the fewest side effects. It’s pretty much the best there is. Are you feeling suicidal?”

I thought about this statement/question combo….Keppra has the fewest side effects…it’s the best there is…are you feeling suicidal?

Shit! No wonder no one thought it was a big deal when I complained about the Lamictal – it made my hair fall out, it caused skin issues, liver issues, I cried constantly while I was on it and it didn’t control my seizures that well. But suicidal?

“No.” I said to J.

“Well, then I would just recommend that you get plenty of exercise.”

“Wow. That’s it? Scott is right, it really is a bit like Voodoo, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. I’m afraid so.”

I’ve shied away from alternative medicines until recently because I was too afraid of my seizures. But I have decided that I don’t need to make a choice, I need to do what ever it takes. How horrible my friends must feel. How hard it must be for them to not fully understand that a good deal of my “behavior” is driven by the medications I take.

C asked me once, what I would consider a successful trip to India. “If I don’t get sick,” I answered. I was glad I changed meds when I did. I may have been a anxiety ridden bitch the whole trip, but all in all, it was pretty successful. I didn’t find myself writhing in the filthy streets of Varanasi. I didn’t slide out of the chair, onto the floor, flapping around in my pretty Kanchipuram Saree in the middle of my friend’s wedding. I felt for this guy who had a seizure in the middle of a crowded room filled with people who don’t know him.  I remember my husband’s heavy voice saying, “I just hate this.” He did not take my hand, he walked out the door.

I sat down in the chair at the acupuncturist yesterday and talked to her about what it might do to help control the side effects of my medications. “We know a lot, but we really don’t know all there is about how it works. Bodies are complex things.”

“Yep.” I said. Maybe this is as good as it gets for me. I don’t know. But I’m not willing to stop trying yet. Stick me like a voodoo doll, I wanted to say to her, let’s give it a shot and see what happens. She didn’t mention suicidal thoughts as a possible side effect. That was comforting.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup (no one really knows how it works either, but it sure does make you feel better sometimes)

chicken-noodle-soup_bowl2

  • 1 (3 1/2-pound) Whole Chicken
  • 3 quart(s) Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 6 Carrots, peeled
  • 4 stalk(s) Celery, ends trimmed
  • 3 medium Onions, peeled
  • 5 Black Peppercorns
  • 1 clove(s) Garlic, crushed
  • 10 sprig(s) Parsley
  • 2 sprig(s) Thyme
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 tablespoon(s) Unsalted Butter
  • 4 Leeks, tops and root ends removed
  • 1 teaspoon(s) Salt
  • 1 teaspoon(s) Fresh-Ground Pepper
  • 3 cup(s) (5 ounces) Medium Egg Noodles
  • Make the stock: Place the chicken and chicken broth in a large stockpot and set it over medium heat. Roughly chop 2 carrots, 2 celery ribs, and 1 onion and add to the broth. Add the peppercorns, garlic, 2 sprigs of parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and enough water to just cover the chicken. Bring the broth to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the chicken is very tender — about 1 1/4 hours — skimming the surface periodically. Remove the chicken and place in a large bowl. Strain the broth through a very fine sieve into a large, clean bowl or stockpot. Discard the vegetables.
  • Make the soup: Skim any fat off the top of the strained broth and discard. Slice the remaining carrots, celery, onions, and leeks into 1/4-inch-thick pieces and set aside. Remove and discard the skin and bones from the chicken, cut meat into 1/2-inch pieces, and set aside. Chop the remaining parsley leaves and set aside. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the vegetables and cook until the onions are translucent — about 7 minutes. Add the chicken, the reserved broth, salt, and pepper. Simmer the soup until the vegetables are tender — about 1 hour. Stir in the egg noodles and parsley and cook until the noodles are tender — about 10 more minutes. Serve hot.
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