While looking in the mirror, as I do each morning, I began to notice a small oddly shaped object in my visual field. I brushed it off at first, thinking it was nothing more than an oddity that would remit in a minute or two. The trouble was that it didn’t.
My husband was in with our son putting him down for a nap when the rainbow colored, elongated, oval shaped object began to increase in size and impact my vision with more force. No matter how insistently I tried to blink it away, rub it away, and will it away even with closed eyes the object remained. It continued to take over creating a ‘C’ shaped visual impairment on my left side looking almost like the colored zig zag static created by a 1990’s VHS prior to the feature film. My mind began racing, “its Mother’s Day, I can’t die on Mother’s Day,” “Please god I can’t leave my son,” “Matt.”
At this point, thoroughly convinced I was dying, I began to check for other concrete symptoms of stroke. I am a Sport Psychologist who spent time working in a Neuropsychology clinic, I was acutely aware of what could be happening and I started running through the checklist. I began checking my balance, looking for facial droop, testing my coordination, reciting rhymes and words to check my ability to produce speech all while feeling overcome with an overwhelming wave of fear and helplessness. Thankfully, all of these checks were normal though that did not seem to quell my fear or slow my heart rate. I looked at the baby monitor almost willing my husband to get out of our sons room, I didn’t want to scare our very perceptive little boy because by now, the fear was written all over my face, highlighted with streams of tears now flowing freely. Fifteen minutes had elapsed when I decided I couldn’t let it go any longer. I slowly opened the door to my son’s room looking directly at my husband. Instantly he knew something was wrong.
As calmly as I could, in as few words as possible, I clued my husband in to the internal panic I was experiencing. After 30 minutes the object disappeared only to return for another episode about 45 minutes later. Symptoms again followed the same pattern and my panic and fear increased tenfold. The idea of calling 9-1-1 was discussed many times, but with no other symptoms we decided against it.
By the time it was over I was convinced I was suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, that I had experienced a visual impairment due to a brain tumor, that I had cancer, and I believed in some way shape or form my days were limited or my life would be significantly changed. In both the moments of sheer panic and those in the aftermath of what would later be diagnosed as silent ocular migraines I felt a helplessness that I had only felt at one other juncture in my life.
While pregnant I experienced unexplained physical symptoms which landed me in the hospital several times. At both of these points in my life once given the all clear I found myself with a rejuvenated awareness of my surroundings, a new mindfulness, and an appreciation for my family and my life. I hugged longer, I expressed thankfulness, I approached things with positivity, and I didn’t let the small things get to me. Over the past 2.5 years this had shifted right back to “normal” after some distance was placed between me and the events in my pregnancy that had shaken me to my core.
I sit here now after this most recent incident and am left wondering why it takes events like these where we are psychologically pushed and shocked to find clarity about the things that matter most. As I reflect on these experiences I feel called to break the cycle of forgetting, dulled memory and reverting back to “normal.” I am left with a desire to make this sense of mindfulness, present focus, and thankfulness my normal. Perhaps we all have the opportunity to choose to recognize what is in front of us without a catalyst; without a shock to the system; and with intention, and with purpose.
Perhaps we can choose to live a life filled with recognition without experiencing an event that illuminates or in my case reminds us that tomorrow is never guaranteed. Simply by reflecting on the possibility that that what you do in these moments, here in the present, is most important we give ourselves the opportunity to enjoy and treasure the small moments in our lives that become mundane. Each moment we have an opportunity; so take a deep breath, practice gratitude, forgive, love, and live.