The Hypergraphic Me


Recently, NPR set off an epiphany in me. A key turned and part of my brain was unlocked. There were so many questions answered. Questions that I didn’t even know I had. There is now a new set of questions to ponder.

“Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” tried to Bluff the Listener. It did not work, not for me. I knew the answer, inherently.

Each week “Wait, Wait” offers up three stories, two false, one true. There is a theme. This week it was me: strange but real side effects of medicine. The anti-seizure medicine that I take (and have taken for a decade) is Lamictal (lamotrigine). It has been shown in real actual case studies to have the side effect of compulsive rhyming and writing poetry. Really? Really.

It is sublime to rhyme.
I am drowning in poetry.
Is it a compulsion for me?
Of course, you see,
It must be.

As I mull this over, I searched out the original study online.  I came across the term hypergraphia. Since it was highlighted and unknown to me, I clicked on it. My entire life was revealed. Everything makes sense. Everything.

The term hypergraphia describes a condition seen in people with temporal lobe epilepsy. (Me!) Wikipedia describes it as an intense desire to write. The Latin is simple: hyper = too much, graphy = writing.

Time slowed down a bit as I read this. I read it twice. I read it two or three more times.  It is found in people with the same type of epilepsy as me…  I cradled my head in my hands. My brain felt heavy. The signs and symptoms of hypergraphia were so clearly describing me. I have an intense desire to write. See? Proof.

Another one of the signs of hypergraphia was writing lists of random things, like favorite songs. I kid you not, I was writing a list the most influential books I have read only the day before. The day before!  I was organizing them in chronological order. (The Diary of Anne Frank is #1)  Umm, I guess that’s kind of weird? Not everyone does that?

I looked at the pictures of writing samples of hypergraphia. The second one stopped me cold. I write and doodle just like that. I looked at the paper next to me, covered in various writing and doodles. Whenever I am bored or on the phone for a long time, I start to doodle. I almost always have a pen with me. There is a pen in my hair as I write this. (Pens make great hair chopsticks.)  Clearly, this was describing me. I have always wanted to be a writer. I feel terrible when I don’t write. I have hypergraphia. I wrote it in my journal several times.

I made a list of all things that applied to me. I do get angry when my writing is interrupted. I keep a diary. I make notes and write haikus about housework and menial things. I hate it when people make inappropriate rhymes (ie. Katy Perry). My friends know me as a bibliophile and a grammar Nazi. I read Roget’s Thesaurus. I write down homonyms for future writing use. I have an intense desire to write.

I told my kids about hypergraphia. My daughters eyes grew wide with belief. I asked my son if it explained a few things. He said, “It explains everything!” I’m not just on-line self-diagnosing. Everybody in my family agrees.

All my temporal lobe energy is just oozing out of me. I must rhyme, I must write. I’m not alone. There is a name for this: hypergraphia = too much writing.  Of course, there is no such thing as too much writing.  Not in my mind anyway.  It explains so much.  I have always been this way.  And I’m not the only one.  I am just like Dostoevsky: an epileptic who wrote too much.  I think I’m going to read “The Brother’s Karamazov” and commune with the man who wrote it; a man who was just like me.  It could be worse.




Filed under Living w/ Epilepsy, Non-fiction

3 responses to “The Hypergraphic Me

  1. Y. Booker

    Can you recall the citation for the article? I, too, heard that episode of Wait, wait and was just telling a friend of mine about it. I found your entry on Google.

  2. I can’t remember the citation (stupid brain!) But know they said the name of the original case study during the show… It was a one word name of a science journal. Neuro or Pysch or something like that. If you go to the Wait, Wait site you can listen to the show again. I just searched wikipedia for info about hypergraphia. Thanks for reading!

  3. dee

    That’s really interesting, I’ve not heard that one before. I do the list thing, but only because I can’t remember things…but I do love words, always have. I used to have the grammar/spelling thing, but since injuring my brain I have trouble in these areas. Recently I’ve been getting into adult colouring books and am really enjoying it. Great fun, and a creative way of relieving stress…

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