Friday, November 25, 2011

The Cause of My Alarm

A few days ago, I wrote of a particularly terrifying experience of being overcome with the realization I was about to faint while driving 60+ miles per hour on the freeway and the anxiety attack that followed.

This happened twice in the span of about 12 hours and to say I was shaken by the experience is to put it quite mildly.

I want everyone to know just how much I've appreciated all your comments of concern. I too was very concerned. Just writing it out brought all the feelings of panic back and it took something a little stronger than chamomile tea to calm my nerves. Please know these episodes were not taken lightly.

Hence the trip to the doctor's office - something I'll avoid unless it's absolutely necessary. In this case, I felt it was necessary. Unfortunately (or actually, fortunately) everything was normal. Tip top shape (relatively) as it were.

I've not had a full on episode since Monday morning's commute but each time I've gotten behind the wheel this week it's been with trepidation and has always ended with me breathing a shaky sigh of relief to have reached my destination safely. I'm still suffering from some feelings of imbalance and lightheadedness while I drive but nothing at all compared to what I experienced Sunday night and Monday morning. I'm also convinced some of what I'm feeling is now largely an anxiety-driven response.

I consider this good news. Additionally, the really great news is that I figured out what is causing the lightheaded feelings which are, in turn, causing the flutters of anxiety.

I'm getting car sick.

No! I'm dead serious.

Wednesday morning I awoke after a solid 8 hours sleep - my second good night's sleep in a row - and noticed a dull, aching feeling behind my eyes. Not really pain per se but just...fatigued as though I hadn't slept at all. Mentally and physically I felt pretty good. It was just my eyes.

And I thought to myself, "Self? This has been going on for awhile - weeks. You've been spending an awful lot of time at your computer of late - both at work and at home. You've been putting a kibosh on your weekend socializing to stay home and write...perhaps you've strained your eyes."

Ladies and Gentlemen? Epiphany.

Common side effects of eye strain include (bold indicates symptoms I've been experiencing - some for as long as 2-3 months):
  • Spasms/twitches around the eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Car sickness
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Tired or sore eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Burning eyes (even when closed)
  • Heaviness of the eyelids/forehead
  • Fatigue
  • Reading problems
  • Lack of concentration


So! Today I tested my theory by asking Acr0nym to drive me around while we ran errands (OK, he always drives when we're together so I didn't actually ask him). We'd been on the road for less than 5 minutes when I began to feel the effects of the motion and I was 100% convinced. Eye strain.

Luckily, unless there is a hidden underlying condition going on here - and I have considerable doubt that there is based on the clean bill of eye health given to me in late July, eye strain is easily cured and preventable. Here are the steps I'm taking or am prepared to take:

1) Sunglasses have become a permanent accessory. Anything that makes me squint is a strain on my eyes. This includes the very bright Colorado sun.

2) I've installed a halogen desk lamp (thank you, Acr0nym, for wanting to discard this lamp during your de-cluttering project and letting me give it a lovely new home) to improve the lighting in my work area which was admittedly poor.

3) I'm taking frequent breaks from the computer. 5-10 minutes on, 2-3 minutes off.

4) Making sure I stay well-hydrated.

5) Ensuring I get plenty of sleep each night.

6) Applying a cold compress to my eyes regularly.

7) Installing a desk lamp at work to eliminate the need for overhead florescent lighting (thanks again, Acr0nym, for your most welcome cast off).

After only just a couple of days putting a few of these into practice, I successfully navigated my way up to Acr0nym's house with no lightheadedness and only a couple of flutterings of the "what if".

I feel better.

Now, I can focus on getting my anxiety back under control. woot.


alienbody said...

Whew! I've been spending way too much time online, so I will keep these tips in mind. Can you now tell me what causes me to get extremely dizzy when I look up at tall buildings or architecture? I think it was all the wild, crazy spinny rides I went on as a kid.

Livvy U. said...

I had NO IDEA these were the symptoms of eye strain! Gosh, explains alot for me, too... Thanks for this and I'm so glad you've taken such positive action, Livvy

Masked Mom said...

You must've been so relieved to put all the pieces together. Here's hoping the anxiety eases up as well.

Ernie Hendrix said...

Very good news that you've been able to find out the cause of your anxiety attacks!! Hope you are feeling much better. Getting the proper rest makes such a major difference in many things!!

(Ms) Ernie