My Journey with NMO Part 4: Darker Reality
Last updated: March 2023
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
Has NMO impacted your ability to keep a job?