One of the first symptom I can remember was my vision quickly shifting on the side, like I would be talking to someone and suddenly with the corner of my right eye I would notice all the vision field quickly shift an inch to the right. As if my eye had stopped working for a second and when it started again, it would pick up from a slightly changed angle.
Or, another way to look at it (pun intended) could be: as if somebody close to me had activated one of those “time stopping” machines (think Twilight Zone), and then had used me for something (maybe smacked me because I had done something wrong to her/him) and then failed to put my head in the exact same position I had it before the time stopping machine stopped time. And then she/he started time again and I see things shifted as a result.
This last opinion has not been validated by the discovery of any time stopping machines. Also the fact that it’s happened to me a few times already and that one of my friends once told me she had experienced the same thing, makes me believe there might not be a time stopping device involved, but maybe it’s just anxiety. Or maybe time stopping happens a lot more than we know.
Needless to say, vision shifting would always, and still does, freak me out.
But that’s not the only weird vision symptom I’ve experienced in my “life with anxiety”. Let me try and recall some other vision problems I’ve had in the past or I’m still experiencing on occasions:
1. Spiderweb Tunnels. If I stare at a bright background I see, what’s the best way to put it, a moving spiderweb. If I sit in front of a window and outside is a sunny day, staring at the sky causes this spiderweb to appear, as if I am moving backwards through a tunnel made out of black netting.
2. After Images. You know the game where you have to stare at an image for 30 seconds and then look at the wall and you’ll see that image reflected on the wall? The reflection is an “after image“. My problem is that many times I get after images after looking at something for a few seconds. When the after images happen more often or are more severe the visual disturbance is called Palinopsia. Anything bright makes the after image more likely to happen. The sun blinds me for minutes on end. I think sunglasses would help, but I don’t own any at the moment.
3. Visual Snow. This one is real freaky. It took me a while to figure out what it was and what was it called. Now the name makes total sense. Think of an old black and white television. Think of turning the knob and finding a channel that didn’t work or that it had static. Remember the whole screen with black and white lines and an ugly background noise? That’s what visual snow looks like. You can almost see it if you close your eyes and press hard on your eyelids. I’ve experienced the day I delivered my baby and was in the recovery room. It was dark, and when the nurse would come by to check on me I couldn’t see her face, nor her body, but her whole silhouette was made out of this visual snow. I even told her. I tried to explain to her that I couldn’t see her, and instead I saw this static TV effect, but I don’t know if she understood or even cared. Today I know what caused it then: high blood pressure. I was in the recovery room because of the high blood pressure (a risk factor for preeclampsia) so they were keeping me under supervision, and that’s why I had the visual snow (usually my blood pressure is on the low side).
4. Blurry Vision. This one is easy. A lot of people have experienced blurry vision on occasion. I wear glasses, and I used to be able to “not” wear my glasses up to a year or two ago, but today without my glasses I will have blurry vision more times than not. And it’s not only because my vision is not perfect, I get more or less blurry vision depending on my overall health status (the sicker I feel, the worse the blurry vision).
5. Floaters. I’ve had these for years, and I’ve never really let them bother me. Lately, it seems there are more than usual, but I’ll listen to the eye doctor who says: Floaters are nothing to worry about, unless you suddenly experience a whole new lot of them, which could indicate a retina detachment. So unless they multiply overnight, I shall not let them worry or bother me unnecessarily (wow, that so doesn’t sound like me!)
6. Sparks. These freak me out. No matter when, no matter how many. I hate to see a spark of light in my vision. I always think it’s a neuron somewhere in my brain that has exploded and died, leaving me with one less neuron in the brain, and a step closer to stupid. Plus, when I get more than one in a day, I fear that it could be something neurological, like a pre-emptive strike of an epileptic attack (no, I don’t have epilepsy) or my vision about to fail me and me going blind (my eyes are pretty healthy).
7. Magic Carpet. This is what I like to call this symptom, since I have not found a real medical term for it yet. This is what happens when I sit on this one rug to play with my baby and when I look directly at the rug, the design of the rug jumps all over the place. The rug looks something like this one on the left.
8. Aisle Nightmare. When I don’t feel well going to the supermarket can be a nightmare. There is no way I could pick a new shampoo out of 20 standing in front of me without having my eyes feel like they just can’t focus on one thing at the time, and instead trying to take in all of the 20 shampoos at the same time. I feel like I constantly need to refocus, and not long after I start getting dizzy and panic.
9. Scintillating Scotoma. Also known as Optical Migraine. This is another freaky vision disturbance I experience on occasions. It doesn’t scare me anymore like it used to, but the very first time it happened it was very weird and definitely scary. A scintillating scotoma is the field of vision in one eye getting worse and worse quickly, with zig-zag like flashes on the corner of the eye. It can last from 10 minutes to 1 hour or so, and it’s pretty disturbing. It’s supposed to be a kind of migraine, and usually it doesn’t come with pain. But I’ve read a lot of different people having a lot of different symptoms with it. I usually get a bit dizzy and foggy and I feel a lot better once it passes. I’ve gotten a few of those while I was pregnant, and, once again, a fluctuation in blood pressure was to blame. There are a few different videos on YouTube trying to visually show what a scintillating scotoma looks like (from the inside), and from the variations present, it looks like not everybody sees the same exact thing. Mine is closer to this video: Scintillating Scotoma but mine is in black and white, and it obscures almost all of my eyesight on one eye.
10. Illusions. These are my latest monsters. These scare me more than all of the above put together. An illusion is when you walk in a room and feel like there is a person sitting in the corner, but when you turn to look at that person you realize it’s just a jacket thrown on the couch. My doctor put a name on these. At first I was afraid I was hallucinating, but that’s different. Hallucinations is seeing things that are not there. Illusion is thinking of seeing something when it’s really something else. My doc said illusions are a symptom of anxiety. I hate these. Hate. Hate. Hate. They really make me feel like I’m losing my mind.
The main thing to remember about anxiety and visual disturbances is that they are not dangerous.
Also, like my eye doctor said: The eyes blocks out a lot of information that is out there. To which I like to add: The anxious person makes sure that she catches all of it so that she can freak out about it.
The one positive about this is that my attention to detail is amazing. I can spot subtle differences that a “chill” person might not see. I know if there is a mosquito or a fly in the room. I’ll spot the new beauty mark on my baby the very next minute it was created. I wonder if there is a great paying job where this skill would be useful, I would totally ace the interview. ;)