A person leaning over the edge of a giant crater.

Losing My Vision and My Mind, Too?

I say I have lived my life sort of in reverse. When I was in high school I was an intellectual. As an adult, I have become a jock. One of the things I do is ski. Poorly, but I ski.

Something was wrong with my vision

It was the end of January 2016. I had a perfect day on the slopes. However, in the next few days, I realized there was something wrong with my vision. None of my corrective lenses were working. Not my contacts or my glasses. I was having trouble reading and doing anything else requiring sharp vision. I am an avid reader and I wasn’t even able to finish the last 30 pages of a mystery novel.

Unable to see or recognize faces

There were other things wrong as well. I was not seeing faces. I could not recognize people halfway down the hallway. And even weirder, I was seeing some really STRANGE things. Only seeing parts of things, I was “filling in the blanks” and “inventing” reality. (More on that later.)

Rapid vision loss

My retinologist really did not believe me that my vision had failed so rapidly. After all, I had dry AMD. I was 62 years old. Rapid deterioration like mine was not supposed to happen to people like me!

OCT scan revealed macula damage

My OCT scan told the story. What had been a divot in my macula was now a crater! To me, it looked as if my macula had been bombed.

In addition, my acuity really had plummeted. My vision had gone from 20/50 to 20/125. I had become legally blind seemingly overnight. (More on legal blindness later, too.)

I was suddenly legally blind

The day of that appointment things came to a screeching halt. I was now legally blind. Legally blind people are not supposed to drive. My job required reading and writing. I had to take medical leave. Always independent and active, I was stuck at home with my thoughts. I wasn’t even able to distract myself with reading.

That's when the panic attacks started

It was just about then that the panic attacks started. Delightful things panic attacks. I knew exactly what was happening. I knew the symptoms. I was textbook. Sudden episodes of intense fear triggering severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Pounding heart, sweating, trembling, dizziness, I had all of those. (BTW, it is nice to see the Mayo Clinic and I agree on the diagnosis ;) )

What was even more “fun” was that they were attacking me in my sleep! Two and three times a night I was waking up in a cold sweat, thrashing and ready to scream. Let’s add sleep deprivation to this mess; why don’t we?

Out of character for me

Not knowing me, you don’t know how out of character this was for me. People who know me were surprised and a little scared.

I put that last paragraph in here to emphasize ANYONE can have a panic attack. I knew exactly what it was. My rational mind became the observer. On some level, I was saying “Oh, my. How interesting. A panic attack.” However, knowing that did not do me a cursed bit of good, my amygdala (fight, flight, or freeze center in the brain) was off to the races.

Finding support

The point of these last few paragraphs is this: I went for help. I got excellent support from friends (and especially one good friend who made our blog a reality). I went to my doctor and got anti-anxiety medication. I also have gotten all sorts of services that will be the topics for lots of other pages I plan to write. (Lucky you; huh? ;) )

Up next

But for right now, I promised two topics: Charles Bonnet Syndrome (aka seeing really weird stuff) and legal blindness. C’mon back if you’re interested!

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