Nicolai Patricio: it all started 11 years ago

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It all started 11 years ago, when I went through a phase of intense stress, trying to prove myself in a new job. Some time after that I started to notice floaters when working at the computer. Firstly, I thought it was just dust, so I went to the bathroom to wash my eyes. After several unsuccessful attempts, I realized that the shadows in my eyes weren’t going away, I started studying them by staring at the computer screen or the white walls in the bathroom. I became really worried at this, so I googled something like “shadows in the eyes” and found a Wikipedia page with very little information. However, there was a paragraph saying that there was no cure for this disease called Eye Floaters. Realizing that I was stuck with this condition was very hard for me and caused me a lot of stress and anxiety. I just couldn’t imagine living my life with these shadows constantly floating in front of my eyes.

From doctors and my family, I got the usual “You’ll be OK, don’t worry. Just start trying to get used to it.”. But I couldn’t see that there was a way for me to get used to these shadows constantly floating in my vision. It felt impossible to live like that! On top of this, the floaters were constantly growing in size. Every month, there was a noticeable increase in their number and size, which made it much harder for me to ignore them, as I was constantly worried how my vision would look in the next month.

This became a constant struggle throughout the years. I didn’t limit myself much because I really didn’t want to be a slave to the disease, but my enjoyment in life was severely compromised and I developed a tendency to avoid situations where the floaters were very noticeable.
I realized that I was having ups and downs in terms of my ability to cope with the condition. There were times where I hardly noticed the floaters and others where they were causing me so much stress that it felt like I wasn’t able to live with them anymore and that sooner or later I had to get a vitrectomy.

I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what caused these phases, but it seemed that when I was excited about my work and focused on it, my attention shifted away from the floaters, making me notice them much less.

But even when I was very busy, there were times where a bad phase would come and cause me a lot of frustration. I have blamed my obsessive personality, that once I focus my attention on a problem, I have a hard time forgetting about it until it is solved.
Recently, however, I’ve been having one of the best phases over these last 11 years. I go out and I see them everywhere (they are huge cobwebs), but somehow my mind isn’t bothered, to the point that it just “turns them off”. I’ve been avoiding thinking about it, because I’m afraid of getting obsessed about floaters again and start another one of those bad phases, but I feel that I might have a helpful tip for our community.

We don’t have a cure and we will probably not have one very soon. But we know that the way our mind works plays a huge role on how the condition affects our life, so I think we should study ourselves and share our conclusions on what we think triggers anxiety towards floaters.
This positive phase that I’m going through is making me think that one of the things that, as a floater sufferer you should absolutely NOT do, is study your floaters. Don’t study them, not even for one second! I believe that focusing your vision on the floaters to study their shapes and movements and worrying about new ones appearing in your field of view, is an exercise that will make you notice them much more because you’re training yourself to recognize them at every moment.

Another important aspect of my recent experience with floaters is that, after not studying them for a while, I seemed to have stopped seeing the various floaters as individuals with their own shape and moving pattern and started seeing them as just one thing. I read about techniques to help a person calm down and focus when talking in front of a crowd and learned that when speaking to a large number of people, the speaker shouldn’t see the crowd as a mass of individuals, because that can be quite overwhelming. Instead, the speaker should look at the crowd as just one person, as that helps manage the perception that the speaker has of the situation and helps him to relax and focus. I think it might be possible to apply this technique when dealing with floaters. I have started seeing the shadows in my eyes as just one thing and not “the big one”, “the long string on the right side of my right eye”, “the dark dot”, etc… I feel that this shift in the way that I think about them has helped me a lot!