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.
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.