My Journey with NMO Part 4: Darker Reality
Let's revisit where we left off: My vision had been diminished by an attack, after four months my disability insurance through my employer was over, and I said that I was ready to go back to work again. It was the week of Thanksgiving and I was going back at the worst and most busy time: the holidays. I wasn't ready at all.
I wanted to be ready
Things should be looking up by this point right? Being back to work and driving again sounds great. Honestly, it was all another step back and a big mistake. I wasn't ready to work again at the busiest time of year in a mall. I could barely drive and should have never got behind the wheel of a car again, but I did. I wanted to believe I was ready and I made everyone around me believe it as well.
A new friend entered my life
This is when I first met my new friend: their name was Anxiety. Anxiety showed up on my first week back to work when I was on break. I went into a JCPenney to look for some new clothes, which I'd been waiting to do for so long. Being on steroids never does me good, and I had gained weight. I was 130 lbs before my NMO attacks and by this point, I was 180 lbs.
A nightmare of a shopping trip
Back to shopping: I found some things and tried them on. I proceeded to leave the dressing room and felt like I'd entered a busy airport. Trying to make my way through the crowd was like a horror movie. I wasn't used to my new distorted vision and I panicked. I dropped the clothes and tried to fish my phone out to see if one of my employees could come and find me. I was searching in every pocket but had no luck. I'd lost my phone and I knew it had to be in a dressing room.
A harsh awakening
What felt like hours was only minutes. I freaked out while looking for my phone. It was rough, but I did eventually find it, and I cried in the dressing room for a few minutes. I finally got the nerve and made my way out of the dressing area and found an exit that led outside to a parking lot, which wasn't where I was trying to go, but it was fine by me. I made my way back to the other side of the mall where my store was, entered my store, and finished my shift. I've never felt such terror as I did that first time that I couldn't see properly in a large crowd. Situations like that still sometimes frighten me, but not as much as that first time. This was a real awakening to what my life would become with NMO.
I landed in a ditch: both actually and metaphorically
I was quite literally looking at my life in a new way. A harsh reality hit me again a few weeks later while driving. That winter's first snow had come unexpectedly while I was at work. Driving was a struggle and a danger already for me, so driving home in the snow sent me into a panic. I made it out of the mall and down the road to the first light where I turned. There were cars whose paths I could follow in front of me and I could see no lines on the road. Within seconds I was in a ditch on side of the road.
A miracle came my way
My heart raced and I freaked out. Could I go to jail? Is it illegal for someone with such bad vision to be driving? I thought to myself, "most likely yes," and I decided that I needed to get home. I sat there until I finally saw one car slowly driving by. I acted fast and got myself and my car out of the ditch and followed them. What happened next was a miracle. That same car drove in front of me and into my apartment complex. I was home! That cold and snowy mid-December day was the last time I drove. I'm so thankful that no one got hurt because of my bad judgment.
A prisoner to my own disease
Not driving put a whole new damper on my life. I had to rely solely on my fiances to bring me places. I lost my freedom. I lost what I tried so hard to do: drive. Just like that, I knew there was no turning back. My vision wasn't coming back. I'm no longer free. I was now a prisoner to my own disease. I thought to myself, "I can't do this. I don't want to do this! This is not my life and I want out of it." Depression and anxiety slapped me in the face that day. I was so bitter and so angry towards everyone. Why couldn't I just be normal?
I wasn't proud of who I'd become
NMO was taking the best parts of me and it made me into someone that I wasn't proud of. But a new year was approaching and I knew I had to make it better. But that was the last time I asked for a better year. Setting expectations became a thing of the past. Disappointing myself just made things harder, but this would be the last time I would make that wish.
Did you have to stop driving after you were diagnosed with NMO? Share your experience with us in the comments
How are you doing?