Stress nearly wrecks the Zephyrhills resident’s life
By Kyle LoJacono
Carrie Jahn was like most young women dealing with the stress of raising two young children, but the Zephyrhills woman reached her tipping point when her first marriage ended.
Everyday life had been causing migraine headaches, but for the most part Jahn, 30, was able to go about her normal routine without too much concern. Her stress became serious when she suffered her first seizure in July 2010 as she dealt with a broken marriage and a custody dispute.
“It kind of just set everything off,” Jahn said. “Honestly, I didn’t even know I was that stressed out. The first seizure is what brought it to my attention.”
That first seizure came in her sleep. Her violent shaking woke up her new husband David Jahn.
The seizures lasted about 20 minutes. Jahn said she doesn’t remember much about them, but said the outcomes challenged almost every aspect of her life.
“I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t be alone with my children, it was almost anything,” Jahn said. “Just the things you take for granted. I had to have someone with me and supervising me every time I wanted to do anything with my children.”
Jahn, who was born and raised in the east Pasco County city, and her first doctors, did not see the connection between her stress and the seizures. She tried fighting the headaches with over-the-counter pain relievers and started taking medications designed to treat epileptic seizures.
The epilepsy medications did not stop Jahn’s seizures and made her feel almost drunk. She was even treated as a drunken patient when she went to another hospital.
Jahn said the strangest place she suffered one was while seeing a doctor at University Community Hospital, where she had been referred to Dr. Nancy Rogers, a neurologist.
“I had the seizure in another doctor’s office and Dr. Rogers came over and got me,” Jahn said.
Rogers, who is also director of the Florida Comprehensive Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders Center, has been treating Jahn for several months. She suspected the seizures were brought on by stress, but was unsure at first.
“When someone is taking medications and it isn’t helping, that sends up a red flag,” Rogers said. “Also, Carrie was very honest with me and told me she was having a lot of stress and that the seizures were causing her to have more stress. The problem is, the seizures don’t happen right when the stress begins. It’s more like post traumatic stress disorder, so they don’t associate them with the stress.”
Rogers said this is why stress induced seizures are misdiagnosed. Jahn had almost no other symptoms besides headaches. Rogers suspects as many as one in five people who come to an epilepsy center actually are suffering from stress seizures.
“Everything else seems fine,” said Rogers, who has been practicing medicine for 17 years. She then added, “Three times as many women as men suffer from these stress seizures, and they’re more common in teenage and young adult women. However, children and the elderly have them and men have them too.”
Rogers said the seizures can get worse if not treated. She added it is hard to estimate how common the stress seizures are in the general population because they are so often misdiagnosed, but suspects the number is around one in every 200 people.
“These kinds of seizures tend to be more or less common in cycles,” Rogers said. “It seems like I’ve seen a lot more lately. It’s hard to say, but I think we’re seeing more because people are feeling more stressed lately. Even if you have a job, you hear on the news about the bad economy or people without a job losing their homes. I think hearing those kinds of negative things every day can’t help but stress all of us.”
Besides medication, Jahn has learned different ways to cope with stress.
“One of the things I do is teach people good stress management techniques,” Rogers said. “It’s more than just a pill. Exercise 30 minutes a day is important. Thinking through your problems and talking about them often helps, especially with someone not involved in the problems. I recommend people take 30 minutes each day as alone time; time just for themselves. That’s hard for moms like Carrie, but it’s important to your health.”
The stress management techniques have helped Jahn stay seizure free since August 2010, describing her transformation as, “180 degrees different,” without the stress of her previous marriage.
Jahn and David have been married for about a year now and her children David Karl Jahn IV and Corey Jahn are ages 4 and 2 respectively. She said stress is still a part of her life, but it is not as consuming as it was last July.
“Stress is an unavoidable situation in life and different people have different ways of handling it,” Rogers said. “The problem is a lot of people don’t have good ways of handling stress. A lot of time people suppress it because of other demands in life. What can happen is, people hit a low point where the stress creates these problems and the stress is self-perpetuating. The key is finding something that relieves stress.”
Ways to deal with stress
–Thinking through problems
–Talking with people about problems
–Taking up a regular hobby
–Having alone time
–Having fun with family/friends
–Getting enough sleep