Somatizations Part I: when floaters overpowered me

Sharing the experience

I firmly believe that mental health is a real need for everyone. When it lacks, our emotional stability, happiness and even quality of life gets jeopardized. In my personal experience, I had everything to feel happy, motivated and hopeful. Despite that, in a short period of time, something “broke my mind” and my feelings and wellbeing dramatically changed to start being most of the time desperate, anxious, sad. After some years of mental suffering, I managed to get over, thanks to seeking the “right help”. I would like to share my experience to hopefully help others going through a similar situation. The bottom line for me is clear: we are all vulnerable to suffer from mental distress at some stage of our lives and asking for help to specialized professionals is definitely the best and faster way to overcome these difficult moments.

I am a mid-aged woman, mother of three wonderful and healthy children, married, professional and with a successful career. I always had a knack for learning, ability to successfully pass exams, get high marks at school, etc. During my teen years, I kept myself “on the right track”, being an “easy girl” for my parents, staying out of troubles and focused on my studies. Nevertheless, despite this apparent image of self-sufficiency, with the age of 25, I encountered the first mental symptom that started to crack my self-confidence and wellbeing. 

At that time, I had already finalized my undergraduate with the highest marks and I was just in the final steps to become financially and physically independent from my parents. I just needed to study some more months and take a public exam to access a post. Taking into account my “easiness to get good marks”, I felt quite confident that I would be able to get my desired goal of getting one of the highest-level civil-servant vacancies in my field. On that position, I would be able to access a nice apartment to start a new life, being independent, have time for hobbies, friends, etc. I knew that I had put off too much my hobbies and pleasures to be focused on my career and, hence, it was highly time to get my well-deserved reward in life. 

Unfortunately, the transition to my independent adult life would not be as easy as I imagined. There were only 6 months ahead to take the exam. Everything seemed to be under control. I was getting good marks in the preparatory tests. I felt happy and confident about my capability to get the job vacancy I longed for. However, I started to feel the first physical discomfort. Many would follow…

"I started to think I could have been suffering some kind of progressive and fatal disorder and doctors were not able to diagnose and properly treat "

My first symptom was “knee pain”. At the beginning, I was not too worried about it. I thought “I should have hurt them with something”, “I am sitting too long and maybe that is hurting my knees. Despite taking common pain-killers, my knee-pain increased more and more. I went to the doctor. He sent me for a knee MRI. Surprisingly, the doctors found nothing to explain such a big pain. My knees were objectively OK. However, I could not tolerate the pain, especially when I tried to sit and get concentrated on my exam. I started to get desperate. If I did not manage to get over that pain, I would not be able to get a good mark in the exam!

The situation became worse and worse. I started to find painful doing any activity, even walking. I started to think I could have been suffering some kind of progressive and fatal disorder and doctors were not able to diagnose and properly treat.

It is difficult for me to describe in words how all of that changed my reality. From being happy and excited to see how close I was to finally achieve my independence, I started to feel miserable, anxious and scared for having a fatal disease, and not able to enjoy anything at all.

Even though I was not used to tell anyone about my “weaknesses” or concerns, I thought that the situation was serious enough to ask for help. Firstly, I talked to my parents and close friends. They listened to me carefully and tried to convince me that my symptoms and concerns were disproportionate. My knees looked fine and the MRI and the doctor’s exam had confirmed it. “Maybe the problem is that you are too anxious about the exam”, they told me. “That was true” I thought. “Might I be exaggerating the problem?”, “Could all that physical pain be just in my mind?”. It was hard to believe. I had never been a hypochondriac or anything like that. I started to self-doubt. Was I losing my mind?

I forced myself to stop thinking all the time about my knees and to return to be focused on my exam. I asked my parents to buy me a new (and more comfortable) desk to study in another room of the house, more isolated from noise. I thought that a change in location might help me feel more comfortable so that I could forget about the knee pain and my anxieties. My new desk looked perfect: modern, spacious, white color. “This will definitely help me get back on track”, I thought.

It was summer and lot of natural light came in through the window. I felt somehow alleviated being in that new room as I was able again to study with little interruptions. Unfortunately, that positive feeling would not last too much… Just few days later, I was trying to memorize a text when I saw some strange dark spots moving on my book pages. I focused my vision on them. Those tiny spots or “floaters” seemed to be inside my eyes as they moved in the same direction of my eyes’ movement. “What the… is this?!” I thought. I removed the book and stared at the white desk surface. I could see multiple small filaments that seemed to be inside my eyeballs. “How annoying!” I claimed while observing how the flies were moving from one side to the other over my book. “What is happening to me now?”, I thought, “How on Earth will I concentrate on my studies with these floaters inside my eyes?”

"From being happy and excited to see how close I was to finally achieving
my independence, I went on to live 100% of the time in anguish"

These tiny filaments that I could suddenly see in my vision field made me tremendously anxious in such a way that I became obsessed and started to see them everywhere. No matter if I was studying in my room, walking outside or even driving. I could not stop checking all the time if I still had those floaters inside my eyeballs. “I have to get rid of those floaters straight away!” I thought, “Otherwise, my future plans of getting my desired job and get independent will be at risk!”. I talked to my family again. My father was far from being worried. I remember his first comment: “I see floaters in my vision from long time ago, but they have never bothered me”. “Really?” I thought, “How can anyone live with dark spots moving in their vision field and not feel anxious and miserable?” To me, having floaters moving continuously wherever I looked at was one of the most irritating and annoying things I had experience in my life. I went to the Ophthalmologist. I remember how the doctor examined my eyes carefully and, after 10-15 minutes, he asked me to take a seat and started to give me a detailed explanation about ocular anatomy, where floaters came from and, the worse part of all: floaters cannot be treated so I just had to learn to live with them…

It is difficult for me to describe how I felt the next months. They were full of mental distress, sadness and despair. I searched the internet and found stories from other people who had floaters. Some experienced them like me, with great anxiety to find a cure or remedy to not see those spots all the time. Others, however, described this phenomenon just as interesting or even funny, not causing any trouble in their lives at all. I spoke to some friends too about my new disease. Most of them had no idea about this issue but it seemed not very relevant or significant to draw their attention more than one minute. 

They used to listen to me for few minutes to rapidly change the topic to something more interesting. I remember how the lack of empathy from many of my close friends and relatives made me feel even worse, lonely and not understood at all. There were others who, like my father, did know what I was talking about. They used to say “Oh, yes!”, “I have them too!”, but then they usually laugh at the insignificance of the matter and end the topic with: “Calm down, you’ll get used to it and you will stop seeing them”.

But no, the reality was that I did not get used to them. The issue of my eye floaters took over my mind. Surprisingly, my knees didn’t hurt anymore! Funnily enough the eye floaters had invaded my mind so that any other problem didn’t seem important to me anymore. Despite all this distress, I forced myself to sit every day and try to keep concentrating on my exam again. I pushed myself to keep reading and trying to memorize concepts while having those moving spots on top of the letters, constantly grabbing my attention. It was a torture. A torture that nobody could see, understand or at least feel sad for me.

To continue reading this article on somatizations, click on the following link: Somatizations part II.

Marisol. Lawyer.

The authorship of this article belongs entirely to the patient who wrote it, having transferred it to SAMON for its publication. Some personal data may have been modified for the privacy of the author.

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