Flashbacks | Mark’s Remarks - Republic-Times | News

Flashbacks | Mark’s Remarks

By on May 30, 2018 at 9:30 am

When I was a kid, my mother and I were hit by a drunk driver as we turned on a country road while traveling to my grandparent’s house.

He sideswiped us. I bumped my head pretty hard against the back of the truck. There was broken glass, which gave my mom a cut on her head. I remember being barefoot with brown cut-off shorts and an orange shirt.

We sat there a long time, and at one point, I was so shaken up I remember walking across the grassy slope where we wrecked and joining the crowd of spectators. It took a long time to get over the trauma of the wreck.  There was a period of time that I did not want to go to school or be away from my mother, which I remember quite clearly.  

I am sure that is a normal response for a kid.

Right after the wreck, I remember experiencing what I eventually called “flashbacks.” They would begin as split-second memories, much like feelings of déjà vu (I’ve been here before). After several of the split-second episodes, usually lasting for a full day, I’d have full blown déjà vu memories, resulting in about 20 seconds of a memory. After the episode was over, I could not recall or put words to what had happened but there was definitely a bit of “zoning out” and a warm feeling; the opposite of the cold feeling you get goosebumps from. It didn’t last long, but I’d continue to have the little episodes, followed by a large one until the “spells” seemed to get out of my system.

For a period of time after the “flashbacks,” I’d feel a little scrambled as if my thoughts were cleared out and re-booted.  At times, during the larger episodes, I’d feel a strong sense of dread.

These episodes were so strange I could not explain them to anyone as a kid. I would try, but as soon as I got to the “I’ve been here before” part of my explanation, people would say “Oh yes, I’ve had those, too.” I remember a few times I felt things go all black for a few seconds, but what do you do when a kids says those things?  

Kids with active imaginations often tend to go overboard with dramatics and almost seem to be making things up. So, I lived with these all my life, always trying to explain them to someone with hopes I could figure them out. The episodes didn’t happen a lot; in fact, I could go years without having any.

When I was an adult, I had a few times when I had more serious issues with the episodes. At least three times, I blacked out.  At one point, it happened in my classroom and I awoke to find my poor little third graders staring in disbelief at funny Mr. Tullis on the floor. A neurologist diagnosed me with a seizure disorder, but again, I continued to go years without having them. 

With the advent of the internet, I began hunting around for other folks who may have experienced such episodes and found a large community of people who had the exact same symptoms. The seizures we experienced were very minor and some had experienced a few more serious ones, just like me.  I can’t tell you the relief I felt when I found out there were others like me. In fact, I discovered that the déjà vu feeling was very common.

So much for being unique.

One lady had almost identical experiences to mine. She said she too had a few major seizures in which she passed out, but never experienced any serious ones after that. This is the case with me; after a few years in which I had the more serious seizures, I have not had any such episodes. There have been a few of the minor blips here and there, but no blackouts or fainting.

My daughter, a brain cancer survivor, has dealt with seizure type activity, as you can imagine. I think anytime your head is messed with too much you are prone to stuff like this. She explains the onset of her seizures as “things speeding up.” After her own spells, she usually sleeps for awhile. Again, like me, they eventually leave her system. However, recent help with meds have helped her and we are praying that her particular episodes can be controlled.

It’s strange that my head injury so many years ago and my daughter’s operations have caused us both to experience these weird seizures. I’ve often been asked if our disorders could be genetic, which I would expect people to ask. However, my head injury caused mine; not anything inherited. 

On a side note, I was thankful to have experienced what I did, as it helped me understand my daughter when she was finally old enough to tell us what was going on. 

I’m wondering how many people out there have similar issues, maybe brought on by a fall or another accident. Weird things you can’t explain. You are most likely not alone.

The head is a delicate thing, isn’t it?

Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.