While typing away on my accursed clinic computer a couple of years ago, all of a sudden I could not see the bottom left of the screen. It was gone. Boom! No black hole. It was simply just not there.
It started to spread. Then, it was replaced by blurring that wound around to the center of my visual field in a sort of spiral with crisscrossing stripes of scintillating grays.
The realization hit me. My retina had clearly detached.
I was going blind!
There are two things that terrify me more than anything else in this world:
Losing my teeth and going blind.
I struggled to maintain composure as I wrapped up the visit with the patient and ran to the phone where I dialed the ophthalmology office down the street. I send them tons of patients. Surely they would find a way to work me in!?!??!? Of course it was 3:45 in the afternoon. Odds were not looking good.
After several holds and line transfers and some begging on my part, I was finally told to get my bo-hiney straight on over. By then, my vision was back to normal. I almost said, “Never mind!”
But I didn’t.
I didn’t want this spell to be the warning with the “big one” just waiting to strike the fatal blow to my vision and my livelihood.
My partner agreed to see my last couple of patients.
I sat anxiously in the sub waiting area while my eyes dilated. Try being bored for 45 minutes when you cannot focus on anything smaller than a two by four. Everyone around me was trying to avoid making eye contact with each other, but without the ability to see our smart phones, it was… awkward. There was nothing else to focus on, except the ceiling.
“Well, doc. What we have here is a case of ocular migraine. You are going to be just fine.”
My heart sank. I was a wee bit disappointed, I realized. I wanted it to be real. Real but fixable. An ocular migraine? That had always seemed like something “crazy” people complained about… Sometimes, until you experience something yourself, you cannot fully appreciate the reality of it…
Wait. Was I crazy?
“How stressed have you been lately?”
I paused, thinking. Stress? I mentally scoffed at the notion of stress.
The optho stared at me, waiting.
“No stress.” I smiled sweetly at her.
I sounded convincing because I actually believed it myself.
She shrugged. “Well, it may happen again. Or maybe not.”
On the drive home, with my nifty disposable wraparound sunglasses, I thought about all of this.
First, I know what ocular migraines are. I talk to patients about them. I diagnose them. It struck me how when it is you (or someone close to you) how quickly you loose sense, reason, and perspective. A good reason for the quote from Sir William Osler: “The doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient.”
Second, and more importantly, I was stressed out. My body recognized it before I did. In the midst of my denial, it decided to send me a message.
You can’t go on like this!
I might not have permanently lost my vision per se, but I was blind to my stress level.
If you ignore it, it doesn’t exist. Right?
Nope. It is still there.
Moral of the story? Give yourself a break. Not to say that I have. Yet. Maybe someday. Oh. And brush your teeth.
(If reading this gives you a strange sense of déjà Vu, that is likely because I originally posted this last year.)