Prior to my trip to Six Flags Fiesta Texas, I took a quick glance at their riders guide online for accessibility options for photosensitive epilepsy. Usually, these warnings come in the form of a symbol or a phrase such as “this attraction features strobe effects or flashing lights” under the list of the attractions. I was surprised to see only ONE ride that specifically mentioned the use of “strobe lighting” throughout the attraction. Luckily, I had a few close friends alongside me as we wandered through the park. Coasters that have automated flash photography, I feel, should be listed on the riders guide, but I was able to find the location of each camera before boarding, justly preparing myself for that portion of the ride.

With that said, within this blog post, I’ll be listing the attractions that have a strobe effect warning along with the coasters that have automated flash photography (marked with a red “X”), those that do not, and a few tips for those traveling to the park with photosensitive epilepsy. (Like me! Woohoo!) Keep in mind that I’m not your neurologist and you should acquire a professional opinion before placing yourself into potentially dangerous situations. Also, some of the attraction lines are part of the experience and you are more than welcome to wait in line with your friends and family opting out of the rides before boarding. Hoping you find this information to be helpful!

NOTE: This will not include a photosensitive guide to the attractions within White Water Bay, the waterpark section of Six Flags Fiesta Texas nor the holiday and/or Fright Fest Attractions. Additionally, on page six within the riders guide they specifically outline the following warning:

“Theatrical fog effects, areas of low lighting, loud music, sound effects, and theatrical and strobe lighting are used throughout the park during Fright Fest. This includes streets, midways, outdoor scare zones, mazes, and haunted houses both indoor and outdoor, live entertainment venues and children’s attractions. Guests with respiratory sensitivities, history of seizures or epilepsy, or sensitivities to latex, loud music, and sound effects are advised not to participate in these attractions. Please adhere to all posted and verbal warnings and directions.”

Batman: The Ride

Boomerang

Buckarooz

Bugs Bunny White Water Rapids X

Crow’s Nest

Daffy’s Bus Stop

Fender Bender

Fiesta Texas Railroad

Fireball

Foghorn Leghorn’s Barnyard Railway

Goliath X

Grand Carousel

Gully Washer

Hurricane Force 5

Hustler

Iron Rattler X

Kiddee Koaster X

Kinderstein

Krazy Kars

Pandemonium

Pirate Ship Play Zone

Pirates of the Deep Sea X

Poltergeist

Road Runner Express X

Scream

Screamin’ Eagle

SkyScreamer

Spinsanity

Superman Krypton Coaster X

Taz’s Tornado

Texas Gunslinger

Thunder Beach Speedway

Up, Up, and Away

Waverunner

Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster X

Yosemite Sam’s Wacky Wagons

Zoomjets

 

Personal Tips & Tricks:

Low Traffic Times and Sunlight:

A calendar listing the current operating hours of Six Flags Fiesta Texas can be found here: Park Operating Schedule

Depending on the time of year, special events, or holidays, their days and hours of operation vary greatly. Foot traffic and wait times at the parks is at its lowest on Sundays between mid-March and late April also, in late August and early November. I recommend booking your vacation during these dates and to avoid Spring Break and holidays if possible. Be sure to check the calendar for exact hours of operation!

 

Bring A Crowd

Gather ‘round, friends! Everything’s bigger in Texas…including the amusement parks. Bring friends or family you’re comfortable spending time with to explore together. It’s quite easy to get distracted and accidentally lose track of your group.

If you’re traveling with photosensitive children set expectations before going to the parks. A majority of the rides are photosensitive friendly, but most of the main attractions have strict height requirements. So, I always recommend making a list of the attractions that your children are able to participate in and plan your trip around them. Everyone deserves a day of adventure!

 

Be Prepared

You’ll be walking quite a bit spending a day at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. As I’m sure you know if you’re reading this that two of the biggest triggers for epilepsy can be exhaustion and dehydration. Bring what you need, or may need, into the parks with you. I always carry my backpack while traveling and inside is an extra pair of clothes and emergency meds, alongside a water bottle secured tightly to my side. Also, my medical alert tag proudly strung around my neck. There were at least two water fountains right outside each restroom that I saw. The first aid building is located behind the Grand Carousel ride between the restroom and Sangerfest Halle in Sassburg, the German-themed area of the park. I highly recommend bringing a water bottle with you or purchasing the refillable cup and finding times throughout the day to fill it with water to stay hydrated.

My photosensitive friendly attraction recommendation is Poltergeist!

Once again, these are just a few of my suggestions and you should acquire a professional opinion before making plans. If there’s anything I may have missed feel free to comment below or reach out to me on Twitter and Instagram: @iMarrowsJ. Wishing you the best and I hope your next adventure is full of wonder and excitement!

© John Marrows Some Rights Reserved

Prior to my trip to Universal Orlando, I researched what attractions I’d be able to take part in. Unable to find specific information dedicated to epilepsy, I decided to reach out to Guest Services via email stating that I couldn’t find anything regarding photosensitive epilepsy and if they had any tips or ideas. The next morning, I was sent a helpful and friendly email from one of the coordinators of guest communications.

They go on to explain that the Riders Guide does not specifically mention guests with photosensitive epilepsy, however, there’s a symbol in the Riders Guide, and outside each attraction warning guests that the “Attraction is not recommended for Guests who have medical sensitivity to strobe effects”.

Sifting through the Riders Guide I was a little overwhelmed at how many rides have this warning and that my trip may not have been worthwhile. This was NOT the case. I had a fantastic time visiting the parks and would love to take this opportunity to thank the Universal Orlando Guest Services for the valuable information they provided. Thank you!

With that said, within this blog post I’ll be listing the rides that have the strobe effect warning (marked with a red “X”), those that do not, and a few tips for those traveling to the parks with photosensitive epilepsy. (Like me! Woohoo!) Keep in mind that I’m not your neurologist and you should acquire a professional opinion before placing yourself into potentially dangerous situations. Also, some of the attraction lines are part of the experience and you are more than welcome to wait in line with your friends and family opting out of the rides before boarding. Hoping you find this information to be helpful!

If you’re staying in one of the Universal Resorts, there’s a bus that will drop you off at the entrance to City Walk from there you’ll be able to branch off to both of the main parks; Islands of Adventure (Left) and Universal Studios (Right).

Universal’s Islands of Adventure™

Seuss Landing™

If I Ran The Zoo™

The Cat in the Hat™

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish™

Caro-Seuss-el™

The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!™

 

The Lost Continent™

Poseidon’s Fury™ X

 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ – Hogsmeade™

Flight of the Hippogriff™

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™ X

The Hogwarts™ Express – Hogsmeade™ Station

 

Jurassic Park™

Pteranodon Flyers™

Camp Jurassic™ X

Jurassic Park River Adventure™ X

Jurassic Park Discovery Center™

 

Skull Island: Reign of Kong™

Skull Island: Reign of Kong™ X

 

Toon Lagoon™

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls® X

Me Ship, The Olive®

Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges®

 

Marvel Super Hero Island®

The Incredible Hulk Coaster® X

Storm Force Accelatron® X

Doctor Doom’s Fearfall® X

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man® X

 

Universal Studios Florida™

Production Central

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem™ X

Shrek 4-D X

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit™ X

TRANSFORMERS™: The Ride-3D X

 

New York

The Blues Brothers® Show

Revenge of the Mummy™ X

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon™ X

 

San Francisco

Fast & Furious – Supercharged™ X

 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ – Diagon Alley™

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™ X

The Hogwarts™ Express – King’s Cross Station

 

World Expo

FEAR FACTOR LIVE X

MEN IN BLACK™ Alien Attack™ X

 

Springfield: Home of the Simpsons

Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl

The Simpsons Ride™ X

 

Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone™

Animal Actors On Location!™

A Day in the Park with Barney™ X

Curious George Goes to Town℠

E.T. Adventure™ X

Fievel’s Playland™

Fievel’s Playland™ water slide

Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster™

 

Hollywood

Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show™

 

Personal Tips & Tricks:

  1. Low Traffic Times and Sunlight

Foot traffic and wait times at the parks is at its lowest between mid-January and early February. I recommend booking your vacation during these dates and to avoid weekends and holidays at all costs.

The parks open at 09:00AM* and close at 07:00PM* with variations on possible early park access and/or holidays.

Once the sun begins to set, almost everything is brightly illuminated. Especially City Walk. Which can be beautiful, but also a potential trigger for epilepsy. Seeing as you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the parks and City Walk is the main exit, it’s best to plan your trip around the daylight.

  1. Bring A Crowd

Gather ‘round, friends! These parks are extraordinarily massive! Bring friends or family you’re comfortable spending time with to explore together. It’s quite easy to get distracted and accidentally lose track of your group.

If you’re traveling with photosensitive children set expectations before going to the parks. A majority of the rides are not photosensitive friendly, so make a list of the ones that are and plan your trip around them. Everyone deserves a day of adventure!

  1. Be Prepared

On average you’ll walk anywhere from five to seven miles spending a day at one of the Universal parks. As I’m sure you know if you’re reading this that two of the biggest triggers for epilepsy can be exhaustion and dehydration. Bring what you need, or may need, into the parks with you. I always carry my backpack while traveling and inside is an extra pair of clothes and emergency meds, alongside a water bottle secured tightly to my side. Also, my medical alert tag proudly strung around my neck.

Once again, these are just a few of my suggestions and you should acquire a professional opinion before making plans. If there’s anything I may have missed feel free to comment below or reach out to me on Instagram: @iMarrowsJ. Wishing you the best and I hope your next adventure is full of wonder and excitement!

© John Marrows Some Rights Reserved

Today’s a difficult day for me. Air travel. It’s nothing new, in fact as a nomad I travel constantly from state to state depending on what seasonal job openings there are. With epilepsy it’s not impossible to get a driver’s license, but I’d say it’s more on the rare side if someone with epilepsy drives. Having photosensitive epilepsy (affected by flashing lights) is rarer than people think if they’ve never met someone with epilepsy. Only around 5% of people with epilepsy are photosensitive. If you’re interested I explain my epilepsy in more depth here: Formerly Known As Petit Mal: My Epilepsy

“Ambulances for me, are like irony on wheels.” from BBC Three Video-Things Not To Say To Someone With Epilepsy

My Advice

When I’m traveling there’s a few guidelines I like to follow to make traveling with epilepsy less stressful and more enjoyable. Note that this is the system that works for me, everyone’s epilepsy differs, and their needs may vary.

Plan Accordingly: The best time to purchase a flight is around fifty days out from the departure date. I recommend choosing an aisle seat if possible. Giving you plenty of time to organize things you may need such as extra medications for longer trips.

Sleep Well: A lot of flights, especially if you’re on a budget like me, may be more financially friendly if they’re early departures or red eye flights. No shame in being budget smart but be sure to get an adequate amount of sleep the night before if you’re not a fan of sleeping on planes. (Around 8-10 hours.)

Come Prepared: While traveling I usually have one checked bag and my backpack as a carry on. In my backpack, alongside my laptop and my current novel obsession, I have my emergency medication and an extra pair of clothes folded neatly inside a plastic grocery bag.

Medical ID Bracelet or Necklace: Having some sort of medical ID with your name, home address, primary care physician or emergency contact number could benefit you in case of an emergency.

Communicate: Admittedly, the first time I tried to converse with people sitting next to me I was quite embarrassed. However, more times than not we end up having an intelligent conversation on epilepsy and they speak about their friend that has epilepsy or a family member. Communicate to them that there’s a possibility of you having a seizure and what they can do to help. We’re all human.

My Experience

Out of the dozens of flights I’ve taken, I’ve had two seizures at the airport before boarding and none while airborne. (Knocks violently on every piece of wood. Ha-ha.) By becoming more comfortable and actively speaking about my epilepsy to others, I believe that air travel has become less stressful overall. Taking the time to note what I need to be safe and relaxed while traveling instead of worrying what others might think was the most difficult, but most important note I remind myself every time I fly.

I hope this finds you well and that you don’t let your epilepsy deter your traveling desires. If there’s any travel tips I missed or some that you’d like to add, feel free to comment below!

© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

Formerly known as petit mal seizures, absence seizures are caused by an intense, and abnormal, electrical activity in the brain. Most of the time neurons (your brain’s nerve cells) communicate with one another through bursts of tiny electric indicators. With seizures, these indicators become irregular. Some seizures have interrupting activity within the entire brain (generalized seizures), while others may affect an isolated part of our brain. Petit mal, or absence seizures, are a form of a generalized seizure.

Wow, thanks science!

If you’re not a medical professional, pre-med student, or my neurologist (who am I kidding, I don’t have health insurance), here’s the simplified version in case we ever meet for some reason. Ha-ha. *cries on the inside from loneliness*

Absence seizures typically last around ten and thirty seconds, sometimes one minute and three minutes, and are more common in kids ages 5-15. It’s not always easy to point out unless you know the person has epilepsy, but essentially the person will just stop whatever they’re doing and seem to stare into space. Regularly referred to as “spells”, they vary greatly in frequency from rarely ever, to several times per hour. Personally, mine can last up to about two minutes and more commonly come in clusters (one after the other), if I’m not taking proper care of myself. Besides loss of consciousness, I also lose control of my bladder. After one occurs, I’m usually just a little groggy and tired. If there’s a day where I have multiple seizures I’ll most likely be wiped out for the next two or three days. Some triggers I’m able to control include dehydration, sleep deprivation, and hunger. Triggers that are out of my hands, and the main causes include being photosensitive (flashing lights) and anxiety (racing thoughts). Obviously, if I’m not eating well than it’s more likely to happen. There’s a lot of foods I avoid because they potentially can trigger a seizure. (I’ll save that list for a future post.) Growing with my epilepsy I’ve learned to manage it quite well and know where to limit myself when it comes to things like getting enough sleep and having a few beers with friends. What’s currently frustrating is that my epilepsy subsided in my late teens/early twenty’s only to resurface now while I’m starting to get my career goals in order.

A gentle reminder that everyone’s epilepsy differs with triggers, length, type, and frequency. This post is not a one stop shop for epilepsy education and awareness. Yes, this blog post is informal, but I’m comfortable speaking on my disability and sometimes joking on it eases the seriousness of the topic for people that already aren’t comfortable. (Example: The lady sitting next to me in the airport during one of my seizures. Sorry, and no, I wouldn’t just pee on the seat at the terminal because I’m some lazy millennial. That’s a story for a different day.) Honestly, I do appreciate you reading this and hope that if there’s a disability you’re uninformed about that you’ll find the right resources to better educate yourself on that community. Also, if you have any questions on epilepsy I’ll be glad to do my best to answer below or point you in the direction of factual resources…or pastors that think I need to be exorcised.

© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

This personal blog entry will go over one of my suicide attempts in detail. This attempt, I’d say more than the others, was the closest I’ve come to death. I’ve left a note with every attempt, except the one described below. I’ll also be sharing a peek at my newest tattoo, its meaning, and why I got it where I did. Depression still effects my daily life today, but I am in a much better place. I’ve been sober from my drugs of choice for over eight years now and am extremely proud of that. If you’re having problems with addiction and/or depression I recommend reaching out to someone you care and trust to help you seek professional help.

The Attempt: August 14th, 2010

The moon shines brightly through my shatterproof window as the crickets chirp their songs under the stars on this cool summer evening. Awaiting space at a drug rehab facility, my withdrawal symptoms in this behavioral health center become less and less bearable by the hour. Awaking again from a night terror, my sheets are covered in urine and sweat. In attempts to clean myself up, I begin to sit up immediately vomiting to the side of my bed. Baffled at my roommates heavy slumbering, my feet finally reach the smooth, cold concrete floor. Weak, I shuffle sluggishly, a disgusting mess, towards the restroom. With a quick glance in the mirror I’m reminded of the disappointment my mother consistently reminded me to be as a boy. “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” I can hear her ask in the back of my mind as I dry heave over the sink. Nothing’s coming up at this point, I just wish it would end. It’s in these moments we reach out to deities we may not even believe in just in the hopes someone will help come save us from ourselves. Splashing a bit of cold water upon my pale lifeless face, I can’t help but shiver. My body is oversensitive to any touch, but my mind still feels empty like my depression has become such a constant that this gloominess seems typical. Heading back to my bed I pull my blankets back aggressively stripping my sheets from the drenched mattress. Rolling them tightly, I march intently towards the restroom tying a makeshift noose. Securing a knot on the other end I throw it over the door, then close the massive slab of a door quietly knowing the overnight staff don’t have rounds for at least another half hour. Taking a step onto the toilet I place the improvised noose around my neck. Upon this porcelain throne my emotions take over and I know if I don’t jump soon, I’ll back out. I jump. The sheet holds tight within the door frame as my body twitches against the door violently. My consciousness begins to fade as my drained body becomes less animated by the moment. My eyes close with my leg giving the door behind me a few more kicks. A seemingly endless field is presented in front of my unconscious mind that feels more comfortable than any place I’ve ever been. The sun is bright upon the wheat that flows gently with the warm breeze. As I begin to walk into the field I’m pulled away quickly awaking on the floor in the restroom with a few mental health workers gathered around me.

My Tattoo: Semicolon Rhythm Strip

The semicolon tattoo is quite common within the community of suicide survivors. I’ve seen them done in a variety of different ways, especially around the wrists. I wanted something unique to my attempt and story. In equal importance, the location of my ink took a great deal of thought. I wanted it to be visible, but also not if need be. Afterall, it’s my story, the tattoo is on my body. After years of knowing I wanted the tattoo, and months of planning its design, I decided directly above my heart was the perfect place. Every morning I wanted to be reminded of the pain I’ve overcome and that the sadness I may be experiencing is only temporary. If you’ve ever seen the lines going up and down representing a patient’s heartbeat that’s called a cardiopulmonary monitor, and some refer to it as the rhythm strip. My tattoo has a small piece from a rhythm strip with a semicolon directly succeeding representing a temporary pause in my life (suicide attempt), followed by a rhythm strip more than double in size representing that there’s so much more life to live.

IMG_20180430_155428318.jpg

I’ve been able to come to grips with everything after this attempt and am working to become the best version of myself. Whatever that may be. As for what I saw as my brain began to shut down…that’s still a mystery. I’ve never been able to find a field that’s quite like that, but I do believe it means something. I do not believe in an afterlife. I believe being open and honest in discussions like suicide and depression, that it will help others that may be suffering feel less alone. You’re not alone.

 

© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.