When she was a Roman Catholic nun, and for many years after, religious author and scholar Karen Armstrong was plagued by mysterious ailments. Fainting spells, bouts of amnesia and hallucinations were just a few of Armstrong's symptoms, creating a frightening world that was made even more difficult by the fact that Armstrong couldn't seem to get a diagnosis.
In this video from her interview on "Super Soul Sunday," Armstrong recalls her years-long ordeal with the mystery medical condition. "[I was] having moments of absolute terror," Armstrong tells Oprah. "Absolute terror, when the world is unrecognizable. It's a state they call 'jamais vu' -- it's the opposite of déjà vu because you've never seen it before."
Armstrong says that this confused state makes you forget even the most basic daily activities and objects. "You forget how to go down a flight of stairs. You forget what a glass of water is," she explains. "The world becomes absolutely unrecognizable."
"You must have thought you were losing your mind," Oprah says.
"I was," Armstrong responds. "I was in and out of mental hospitals and I went to a fleet of psychiatrists, who also thought I was neurotic."
Then, one day things changed. "Finally, I had a grand mal [seizure]," Armstrong says. She lost consciousness while her body convulsed violently. Though frightening, the attack finally led to a diagnosis: Armstrong had epilepsy.
In the video, Armstrong calls the epilepsy diagnosis "one of the happiest moments" of her life and also describes how her experiences prior to the diagnosis led to deep despair and a suicide attempt.