I went to my doctor’s office last week to deal with a sinus infection I obtained from the flu. I already felt incredibly tired just getting to the office and was not prepared for what I felt next; it’s not something I consciously notice that often anymore. I was ushered into a room that was on the 10th floor with a great view overlooking our hills and the city. I was asked to take a seat on the patient table, which I did. I looked up as the nurse assistant closed the door and my eyes went bonkers. There on the wall in front of me was a bright yellow paint and a chair with bright yellow circles centered in the middle. The entire bank of windows, on two sides of the room, were covered in blinds that were open with slats, but not raised.
I tried to stay seated on the table but got up after only two minutes. I felt dizzy and my head was now aching. The circles and slats were jumping up at me! When my doctor came in, I explained why this was not a great room for fibromyalgia patients. He said he thought it was a nice room. When I explained about patterns and my perception, along with the consequences, he reacted as if he had never heard of this before. Overwhelmed with being ill for some time and the new infection, I let it go. However, it struck me that most general physicians do not know about this symptom, despite the reality that for us, it is a very important symptom.
The manner in which certain patterns effect my pain and create a sense of being overwhelmed is something that I deal with every time I go out. I have learned to take in visual information in pieces, I have also learned that when I already feel flared it is time to create a boundary when shopping.
Department stores are at the top of my list for pattern overwhelm. Whenever I enter one, I quickly go to the area I wish to look in and ignore the rest. If I plan on being inside one of these overwhelming areas for longer than a half hour, I already know I won’t be doing much else. Patterns create headaches for me. They also literally make my eyeballs feel like they are bouncing to a disco beat. This makes it next to impossible to make a decision about what to purchase or even which way I want to turn next. They make me feel uncomfortable, they make me feel like I am losing my balance. In short, they make me feel horrible.
Any task that I need to do when my pain is higher than a level 3 is increased in its difficulty when it involves stacked, colorful, patterned objects. Groceries, driving (especially at night), department stores, walking, even sitting all become twice as hard or even simply unbearable. As I stated, I have learned to compensate. However, considering how much it effects me, why doesn’t my physician know about this symptom? This question leads me down another path of exploration. My cognition issues after being rear-ended.
I still have cognitive issues, three years after being rear-ended. It mostly involves multi-tasking, multiple “things” going on at the same time that demand my attention, and problem solving. I can solve problems but I need additional time. Sometimes, until the next day or longer. Getting back to the patterns exploration, I have been told that my PTSD caused my cognitive issues, but never that my fibromyalgia might also play a part as my eyes already struggled not feel overwhelmed. For the majority of the last three years being overwhelmed was a 24 hour a day feeling. Of course this was not all my eyes, not at all, but what if they played a part that I could have managed? It would have been good to have a doctor talk to me about this symptom of my existing fibro and direct me to create a tool to help manage it. Ah, doctors. I just have to smile.