Melanie Griffith Reveals Epilepsy Diagnosis, Stress of Antonio Banderas Marriage

The actress opens up about a history of experiencing grand mal seizures, including several while staying on a yacht outside of Cannes: "Every seizure that I had was at a point when I was extremely stressed."
Courtesy of John Salangsang/BFA.com

"My brain is so fucked up." 

So said Melanie Griffith on a Women's Brain Health Initiative panel Wednesday night in Gagosian Gallery, while seated in front of a giant piece from the current exhibit "Adriana Varejão: Interiors" that featured a room filled with cubes and tiles in varying shades of yellow. 

If someone is going to deliver such a statement, this would be the event to do so, complete with a dramatic backdrop and a thought-provoking conversation alongside a noted brain researcher and industry allies like longtime friend Sharon Stone. The panel was designed to focus on the organization's mission of combating women's brain health disorders, complemented by personal anecdotes and experiences from panelists including Griffith, producer Paula Wagner, Crystal Lourd, and brain health expert Dr. Pauline Maki from the University of Illinois at Chicago. WBHI president and founder Lynn Posluns kicked off the panel with opening remarks following a rooftop cocktail party. 

Griffith's description of her brain was not meant to be a joke and came as part of a revelation that she has been diagnosed with epilepsy, a condition she currently has under control, despite the years it took her to stabilize. 

She detailed her personal journey by telling the crowd — among them Jennifer Tilly, Rufus Wainwright, Rachel Roy, Monique Lhuillier, Jamie Tisch, Eric Buterbaugh, Elizabeth Wiatt, Laurie Feltheimer, Daniela Villegas, Cheryl Tiegs, Garcelle Beauvais, Catherine O’Hara, Tara Subkoff, Lady Victoria Hervey and Christos Garkinos — that she had experienced a string of grand mal seizures. 

"They said it was an anomaly — they didn't know what it was," she said, referring to her doctors. "The last two that I had I was on a boat outside of Cannes — on a big yacht — and I was extremely stressed out. Every seizure that I had was at a point when I was extremely stressed."

Griffith did not reveal any specifics about the dates of the seizures, but it is known that she was in Cannes several times over the past decade, most recently at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2011 with then-husband Antonio Banderas. She and Banderas announced a split in June 2014 after 18 years of marriage, and while Griffith never mentioned him by name, she did mention the marriage.  

Back to Cannes: "I had two seizures, one they took me off the boat. I had this major grand mal seizure, and they took me to the hospital in Cannes and then brought me back to the boat. And then I had another seizure and I went back. They did the EEG and started to look at it seriously. When I came back [to the United States], I was diagnosed with epilepsy and nobody had said to me over a period of 20 years, no one paid enough attention to even diagnose me."

She clarified the latter statement by saying that one would presume she could have an easier path to get a diagnosis due to access to a higher level of care. Still, she has found stability thanks to a drug called Lamictal and has not had a seizure in four years. It's no coincidence that she's been divorced during three of those years, she said.

"I got divorced, which is the real healer for me," she said as the audience erupted in laughter. 

"It can be," quipped Stone, who kicked off the night's discussion with a revelation of her own. She detailed the journey she's been on since having a stroke in 2001. 

"I'm not stressed anymore. It's been three years," Griffith continued. "As women, we take on family, we get the husband, we have the life, we have the children, we take care of the house, we also go to work, we can't sleep at night because we are up with the kids. I don't think I've slept for 35 years. I still don't sleep; it's totally fucked up my sleep cycle."

Stone added that as women, "We have to do everything. We make sure the house is running — even if there is staff in your house, you are the one making sure that all the stuff is running."

Griffith then ended her personal tale by saying that she recently got the all-clear from Health Nucleus in San Diego, a facility known for genomic testing.  "They did all the tests on my brain. They couldn't find the epilepsy; they couldn't find anything wrong," she said. "It's pretty much that it was stress. My brain is fucked up. Really — you know? I thank God that I'm in a position where I was able to, like, find out where I could go to that's the newest high-tech place to find out the most information that I possibly can. If I was living in poverty with four kids and I couldn't make ends meet and I had a fucking seizure. What do you do? How does the average person, man or woman, get the help?"

Stone answered that question: "That is why it is so devastatingly important that we really think about health care and think about what matters." 

And that includes women's brains.

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