Don't take life too serious.

This time, I knew I wasn’t crazy.


I walked across campus, to the computer lab, expecting to ace this final. I walked in to the building, squinting my eyes because it was so sunny outside. As I walked in to the classroom, it looked like someone turned the lights almost completely off. I just thought my eyes needed more time to adjust. I had no idea my brain was beginning to go haywire.

I sat down in front of a computer. There were letters missing all over the screen. I could barely make out sentences. I began noticing little white circles that rotated, everywhere I looked.

I tried closing my eyes for a few seconds and taking a deep breath. I had absolutely no idea what was going on and it was starting to freak me out.

When I opened my eyes, the room was still dark. There were now colors streaming and flowing in my view. I could see everyone else around me getting ready to start the exam. Everything looked and was normal. Except me. I didn’t know what to do. If I left, I would be walking out on a final, in the last semester of my college career.

I took another deep breath and walked up to the professor. I tried to tell him I wasn’t feeling well. When I spoke, it sounded like I was muffled and had no volume control. I couldn’t tell if I was whispering or shouting. When he spoke, I could barely hear him. All I could make out was him telling me that there would not be another opportunity to complete the final. He didn’t understand.

I grabbed my bag and left the room. I walked as calmly and as quickly as I could to my car. My eyes were tearing up both in fear and because the sun felt unbearably bright.

I made it to my car and just sat inside for several minutes, trying to figure out what the hell to do. I grabbed the car manual out of the glove compartment and flipped it open. Letters all over the pages were missing. It was surreal. The vicious brightness was starting to dissipate but colors were streaming and waving in every direction I looked. It was like I was having a bad trip.

It most definitely was not the best decision I ever made, but I drove to my apartment, a short distance from campus. I called my roommate and she was meeting me there. I prayed that the cars in front of me moving meant there was a green light ahead, because I could not tell whether red, yellow or green was brighter.

I am not one to usually pray; however, it’s like they say, when shit gets real, you pray. And I did until I parked my car.

Amanda was waiting for me when I got in the apartment. I was scared and tearful and embarrassed. I tried to explain to her what was going on. We decided she would drive me to the health clinic on campus. I previously did consider this but, what would I do, walk through the doors and shout, “I’m seeing weird glowing colors streaming by me with white zig zag lines everywhere. Everything has an intense brightness to it and  I feel slightly deaf. And oh yeah, there are letters missing when I try to read something.” Um, no.

As we were driving, everything started to look a little less intense. The green of the leaves began to look less florescent and the sun began to burn my eyes less. I wasn’t seeing the colorful, wavy lines anymore and the zig zags turned to just a few white dots. It began to look like a slight flurry, but only in my peripheral view. My heart began to slow down and I no longer felt like a jack hammer was going off inside me.

Before, I was feeling like something was physically wrong with me and I may actually die. Now that everything was starting to look and feel normal again, I felt like I was losing my freakin’ mind. I lost it in front of the physician.

He explained that I had a panic attack and what I experienced was “normal”. Really? Ok. He referred me to an anxiety support group they ran on Wednesdays at noon. I have never felt so confused and helpless. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was more than a panic attack.

I went to one group. I learned some deep breathing techniques and moved on. It was months later before it happened again.

I was shopping, just browsing through clothes and I noticed the lights suddenly felt dim. It started the same way and became intense fast. I called my doctor, who advised me to get to the office. I was far less panicked this time around and actually felt confident that I was ok to drive. Hindsight, again, not one of my smartest moments.

After a physical and neurological mini-work up, my doctor asked me if I ever had migraines. I told her yes, since I was about 14 yrs old. She asked me if I get a migraine after these “episodes” and I told her no. She told me she believed I was experiencing an aura and that it is usually followed by a migraine. It does happen where people get the aura without the migraine, but not very often.

Following that, I had an EEG and an EKG, both showing nothing out of the ordinary, including no seizure activity. My doctor basically told me, you’re ok, it won’t hurt you when it happens, but you should probably try to avoid driving when it does. And no, there is nothing you can do to prevent it. And no, there is no way to know if an “episode” will happen, as there seems to be no direct triggers.

In the past 10 years, I’ve had “the aura” somewhere between 20 and 30 times. It scares me less now. Sometimes I can function through it, sometimes I just have to lie down and close my eyes until it passes. It usually does in about 30 minutes.

Weird, right?

Has this ever happened to you? Do you think this could be a spiritual “episode” in any way? Do you think I’m crazy for considering that? Please tell me what you’re thinking on this one.


26 thoughts on “This time, I knew I wasn’t crazy.”

  1. I immediately thought “aura” when you described the lights and squiggles. The first time it happened to me, I was working for the telephone company, and in those days, there was a doctor on staff, so I got medical attention right away. But this doctor didn’t know about auras, so he shrugged his shoulders and I was sent back to my desk.
    After two or three more episodes followed by migraines, I connected the dots and consulted with my family doctor. Yup, common as borscht, as my hubby says. More than that, I was able to correlate migraines with my period. I called them hormone headaches. Once I had my hysterectomy, they stopped.

    1. It’s a relief to hear that someone else knows about and has experienced the aura. It is pretty difficult to describe actually. I do think that initial time I threw myself in to a panic attack because I was so scared. But since then, I don’t have that kind of fear when it does happen. Unless I am somewhere and it starts and I know I have about 10 minutes before I won’t be able to drive or even have a normal conversation with someone. It’s kind of difficult to do when I don’t see half of their face. That’s why I would much rather ride it out by myself and asleep if that is an option.

      1. The way you described your first aura episode, I can imagine that you would have been frightened! When you know that a migraine might follow, even more reason for dread.

        What I was wondering: what was the outcome of your final exam?

      2. I was able to take the final… When I went back to talk to the professor later and actually explain what happened (with a note from the doc so he didn’t think I was crazy), he let me take it. And yes…I aced it 🙂

  2. That’s super weird and sounds really scary. I think if that had happened to me I would have completely freaked out. I would have imagined a brain tumour or a blood clot on the brain and made someone ring for an ambulance. As for whether it’s spiritual I don’t see any reason why not…

    1. I immediately went to a brain tumor. Its funny you said that actually. I have to say though, it was almost just as frustrating when everything came back normal.

  3. First of all, I love reading your stuff. It seriously feels like I’ve known you for years. Second, I had something similar happen the other day. I have never had a panic attack that I knew of, but I do have bad anxiety. I didn’t think of it as a spiritual experience, but I will now! Mostly, I was dizzy and that freaked me out. Spontaneously dizzy for no apparent reason in the middle of my work. So much so that I had to come home and lay my ass down. I was not amused. It hasn’t happened since. I hope it doesn’t happen again. And, I hope that you get some relief. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words, really.

      The idea of it being a spiritual episode literally came to me as I was writing those questions. I’ve just never thought about it that way. I am know though. And am almost anxious for it to happen again so maybe I can pay attention in a way I never have before.

      Its never been a pleasant experience me. Quite the opposite actually so I understand your fear of it happening again. All I can say is breath. It sounds so silly but it is truly effective.

  4. As I was reading, Dawn, I was thinking, “classic migraine”. Yes, I have had these episodes, too, and for a long time people told me they weren’t true migraines because I wasn’t in intense pain (just scared shitless that I was going blind!). For me, they were often stress-related, and I soon learned that when I first realized there were chunks missing from my field of vision if I could go lie down in a pitch-dark room for awhile (and hopefully sleep a bit), they would back off. For some women there seems to be a hormonal element, and after menopause they come much less often (as in my case).

    My scariest experience was driving on the freeway, bringing my baby girl home from daycare after work one day. I didn’t feel like I could see well enough to find a safe place to pull over and wait it out, so I just kept driving and praying, driving and praying. We made it home, obviously, much to my relief.

    I have done prescription migraine meds in the past and had what I thought were serious post-medicine “hangovers”; I have discovered that they are really post-migraine hangovers, and just make me feel really rotten for a couple of days afterwards.

    Probably my best advice to you is not to be afraid of them, because fear just begets fear. Hugs to you today. – Fawn

    1. Its so strange to have these symptoms and not the usual headache that follows. I get migraines, but never WITH the aura. Its so strange. And you’re right, panic seems to just add to it so much. If I can lie down, I do. I otherwise I just keep reminding myself that it will pass.

  5. I recommend that you read “Hallucinations” by Oliver Sacks, or at least the sections on visual hallucinations. I believe there are sections on migraines and epilepsy that you may relate to or think, “that’s not me.”
    I found it reassuring to learn that hallucination does not equal crazy. I have partial hearing loss, but “hear” things all the time. It seems that when a sense is impaired, your brain can make things up to fill the void.

    1. Hmmmm. You’ve definitely peaked my interest with that reading suggestion. I’m kind of at a point where I want to understand it better. It’s hard to fathom that there is really so little known about why this happens.

      I’ve always recognized the idea that when one sense fails you, another is likely to make up for it. But you saying “It seems that when a sense is impaired, your brain can make things up to fill the void.”…in this context, I never thought of it that way. I’m trying to kind of wrap my head around it a bit.

  6. Thank you so much for giving this problem a “Name”!
    Aura? Well, I am 80 this year so I am proof these episodes won’t kill you, early, huh? But I remember the sheer panic I felt the first time it happened! I have been having these vision episodes for about 30 years now. I began having “panic attacks” about age 40, but have since learned to control them.
    Sometimes I go a couple of years without the vision episodes. I have never had a migraine headache. I have had very few headaches in my life but never migraines and never related to these “aura” vision episodes. My episodes last about twenty minutes average. If I am driving, I do not panic. I can see well enough to drive through all the crazy, flashing lights that take over and race across my field of vision. If I were on 1-95, I would get off at the next exit until my vision returns to normal. I curtail my driving at night, anyway, because of my age. I am a widow and have learned how to plan my life so I am not forced to drive at night unless it is a dire emergency.
    I recently had an extreme episode (lots of red flashing lights) at my computer and the result was “black half-moons” on the whites of my eyes next to each iris. I went to doctor and he said I had had an “ocular migraine”. The black half-moons have not affected my sight at all. They are still there and not going away after about 6 months. I asked him what caused it and he said my age and a ‘thinning’ of the tissue surrounding my iris and there is no treatment for the problem. The doctor did not give me enough time or ask me questions concerning these vision episodes I have been having for half my life! All he did was remember to send me a very large bill for his “in-depth” eye exam. He brushed me off quickly, so I will not return to him.

  7. Really weird indeed! Also really interesting! I enjoyed the way you told this piece. I’m drinking my morning cup of tea as I read and it’s almost like you are here telling the story in person. Thanks for sharing and have a great weekend!

  8. Spooky…I must admit I thought it was something neurological. Not a panic attack though…doesn’t sound like one. But yeah, made me think of something that might be impact on the optical nerve. Hope everything is okay though. Must be very scary to experience it!

    1. It can be very scary, especially if I’m in public and it happens. I’ve learned to roll with them and it doesn’t happen too often so ….. It still dreams me out though!

  9. Yep. I’ve had chronic migraines since I was 9 and the auras make me so nauseous. Since I’ve changed my diet, I haven’t had them in months. I used to get them several times a month. Now, not so much. There could be things that trigger them such as food. For me it was meat. There can also be other triggers. For example, if I take a steaming hot bath, I’ll get the aura and an extremely bad migraine. There’s just certain things and you just have to try to remember each time before it happens, what you were doing.

    1. Mine always seem so random. I’ve never been able to figure out a trigger but if i panic, it definitely makes it worse. I never considered my diet though….hmmmmm.

  10. Okay… what I was thinking as I read this ‘is this fiction or did it really happen to the author’… I had put up a lot of links to stories to read from Speak and Moon… I didn’t know which one as I read, and started off thinking it was fiction. I became claustrophobic as I read and the feeling of panic for the girl became so real. I see it was not fiction. No, you are not crazy… just unique maybe.

    Did they let you retake the test?

    1. Yes! I was able to re-take the test and yes, I passed with flying colors…no pun intended 🙂

      I’m actually a little flattered that you originally thought this was a piece of fiction. And yeah…I’m definitely a bit unique 🙂

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