Grey Out, Black Out

Sometimes smart people do very stubborn and dangerous things. Usually those stubborn things involve doctors or dentists. These days I am very conscientious about my health. But that wasn’t always the case.


My senior year of high school, I was 17 and walking out to the parking lot at the end of the school day. I was in excellent physical shape and not doing anything remotely exertive. I started feeling weird.


I can’t even describe that initial feeling to you. I couldn’t tell what was going on. I just felt…tired. So I sat down for a few minutes. The feeling passed and I never bothered with mentioning it to anyone.


The following year, in Miami, I was working in an unventilated storage unit. It was hot and humid and miserable and I started feeling a bit dizzy. So I sat down and again the feeling passed. I figured I was just overheated and again promptly forgot about it.


After a few episodes similar to this, my symptoms started to escalate. I began to have the sensation of my vision tunneling. The tunneling began to be followed by a complete grey out. The edges of my vision would darken and begin to contract until I couldn’t see anything. But I was still conscious. It even happened a few times while I was driving.

This is from Wikipedia and is exactly what it looked like. Except for the cows.

This is from Wikipedia and is exactly what it looked like. Except for the cows.


Yes, I am saying that I would sometimes be driving, in a moving vehicle, completely blind. And I doubt I am the only one this has happened to. It’s a kind of terrifying thought.


By the way, this phenomenon is a common occurrence in aircraft test pilots.


But I didn’t think too much of it by that point. I had grown accustomed to these weird experiences. I still didn’t think they were serious enough to inspire me to even schedule a doctor’s appointment.


Until it started getting really bad. One day A (my bf at the time) found me collapsed and leaning against the side of the house after doing some yardwork.


So I scheduled an appointment with a general practitioner. He couldn’t see me for two weeks, but there was no rush. I assumed it was my blood sugar giving me issues.


But my situation escalated faster than I could have predicted. The next day I was at work, driving down a very busy major road. I was in the far right hand lane of a six lane highway.


Suddenly, my vision began to tunnel. My face was getting warm and I could both feel and hear the blood circulating in my head. My heartbeat felt like it was pulsating in my brain. I started having trouble breathing. I had never felt an episode with so much intensity before. And then, I completely lost consciousness.


When I woke up, I had crossed four lanes of traffic. I was in the left hand turn lane. I was inches away from the guardrail. The guardrail that surrounded a 12 foot deep, water filled median.

But it kind of felt like this.

But it kind of felt like this.

I somehow had not hit anyone. But I was really scared. So scared I began to cry. I didn’t drive again for four months.

My doctor agreed to see me the next day. I lost consciousness twice the next morning trying to get ready for the appointment.


But I was still so sure it was my blood sugar. Eating always made me feel better after an episode. I could not have even begun to imagine what else it could have been…


It never occurred to me for even one second that I had a serious heart problem and was having a series of mini strokes. It turns out it didn’t occur to my doctor either.


When my blood sugar tested fine he told me I was just having panic attacks. But not to worry, “lots of women have them.” Yes, he literally said that to me. I was floored, and went from zero to bitch in 0.3 seconds.


I explained to him that while I was sure lots of women had panic attacks, I was not having them. I demanded that he run more tests and refused to leave his office. Unfortunately, when I get really upset I get teary eyed and start to shake.


I was terrified he was going to send me away and I was going to die. Or worse, black out again while I was driving and kill someone.


When the doctor saw me crying and upset he decided to change his tactic. He pulled me into a back room with a female nurse and asked me if I was being abused. I was in an abusive relationship, but again, that wasn’t the issue at hand.


Finally, he ran an EKG on me. Mostly, I think to exhaust every option to satisfy my bitch-o-meter.

An EKG, but way more healthy than mine.

An EKG, but way more healthy than mine.

When the EKG printed out the results, he visibly paled. He handed me the printout and told me to “go immediately to the hospital. If you don’t have your purse or insurance information, go without it. Do not stop to eat, do not go by your home, do not go shopping. Go to the hospital.”


I was scared and upset and worried that I was dying. But also? I felt vindicated. Having a panic attack, huh? What a misogynistic asshole he was! But who had the last laugh?


That’s right, me. I said there was something wrong with me. And not only was there something wrong with me. There was something seriously wrong with me. In your face, Dr. Asshole.

Needless to say, that douche immediately stopped being my primary care physician.


16 thoughts on “Grey Out, Black Out

  1. While I was reading this, the part about having tunnel vision and greying out while driving suddenly made me feel very panicky — and I had memories of driving and suddenly not being able to see and having to drive blind for several long seconds until my sight came back. I do NOT know if this is a real memory or it is a dream. Surely if it was real I would have done something about it — seen someone, right? Or was it so scary I somehow blocked it out?? I sound like a crazy woman talking about this — I’m going to assume it was just a dream and then just be more aware if it happens again (and figure out if it is reality or not). But the whole thing is rather freaky.

    PS — yes, your doctor is a douche bag. My doctor once told me that this chronic leg pain I was having was just “in my head” due to my depression and that it would go away if I would just go on meds. Turns out, it was caused by a degenerative auto-immune disease that I’ve had for over 20 years and no doctor had ever caught (even though I went to doctors often because of it). My ophthalmologist was the one who told me I should see a rheumatologist because the iritis I kept getting was not something healthy people got repeatedly. I had to go see my PCP just this week for a physical and took wicked pleasure in letting her know that the pain was NOT in my head — and how sad it was that an eye doctor had to tell me what was wrong instead of my PCP. Of course, now I have to find a new doctor, which is a pain in the ass.

    PPS — I’m glad you are still alive!

    • I did the driving blind thing more times than I care to admit. So maybe you wouldn’t have done something about it. I think I have finally found a good doctor. It’s taken me 10 years of my adult life to do so. We are paying them to take care of us. And while they may have gone to medical school, WE are the experts when it comes to our own bodies! I want to start a website regarding that. Doctors are fallible. As you’ll see in my next story regarding this subject, I would have died had I listened to the doctor in this story. But I’m glad I didn’t listen to his original diagnosis. I’m glad I’m still alive too.

  2. This is so so scary. That doctor was most definitely an ass hole– that sounds like a line straight out of Mad Men. I’m glad they gave you an EKG. I’ve had similar experiences, though not often, and I always attribute them to a blood sugar issue. It seems to happen a lot in the shower. But that driving story is just… Gah, I’m glad you’re okay.

  3. These episodes are incredibly scary. I also thought mine was a blood sugar issue. It wasn’t. I’m not trying to freak anyone out or anything. But you may want to mention that to your doctor.

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  5. Maurnas, your story is scary. It’s terrifying. I did like how you put the doctor in his place. I once told a doctor it hurt when I moved my arm in a certain way. He said (like he thought I was joking) “then don’t move your arm that way.” Needless to say, I never went back to see that doctor again.

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