Russian Writer Dostoevsky, whose writings are among the worlds
greatest literature, had a rare form of temporal lobe epilepsy
termed "Ecstatic Epilepsy". Dostoevsky
kept records of 102 epileptic seizures during his last two decades,
which mainly occurred at night and were tonic-clonic or grand-mal.
Seizures which occurred in the daytime were often preceded
by an ecstatic aura, which has led neurologists to theorise that
he had temporal lobe epilepsy with secondary grand-mal
used his experiences to create characters with epilepsy
of his twelve novels
Kirillov in The Possessed
in The Brothers Karamazov
in the Insulted and Injured
Myshkin in The Idiot
Idiot is an example of how art can contribute to scientific observation.
Dostoevsky lets us see into the mind and emotion of the person
with epilepsy through his character Prince Myshkin. Here
Prince Myshkin describes the onset of a seizure with an ecstatic
was thinking, incidentally, that there was a moment or two in
his epileptic condition almost before the fit itself (if it
occurred in waking hours) when suddenly amid the sadness, spiritual
darkness and depression, his brain seemed to catch fire at brief
moments....His sensation of being alive and his awareness increased
tenfold at those moments which flashed by like lightning.
His mind and heart were flooded by a dazzling light. All
his agitation, doubts and worries, seemed composed in a twinkling,
culminating in a great calm, full of understanding...but these
moments, these glimmerings were still but a premonition of that
final second (never more than a second) with which the seizure
itself began. That second was, of course, unbearable.'
description is very similar to Dostoevsky 's observation
of his own epilepsy
For several instants I experience a happiness that is impossible
in an ordinary state, and of which other people have no conception.
I feel full harmony in myself and in the whole world, and the
feeling is so strong and sweet that for a few seconds of such
bliss one could give up ten years of life, perhaps all of life.
felt that heaven descended to earth and swallowed me.
I really attained god and was imbued with him. All of
you healthy people don't even suspect what happiness is
, that happiness that we epileptics experience for a second
before an attack."
was affected by physical and mental disturbances following a seizure
(This is also called the 'post-ictal 'state) It took him up to
one week to recover fully. His chief complaint was that
his 'head did not clear up' for several days and symptoms included,
"heaviness and even pain in the head, disorders of the nerves,
nervous laugh and mystical depression"