The Rewiring, Part 4: Visual Menagerie
by Diane Whitmore • October 10, 2018
After my injury, I had a series of visual effects, and a lot of spare time to muse on them. What follows is a description and some attempt at recreating what they looked like.
The vertigo was awful, even lying in bed. When I moved my head, the world started to spin clockwise, then jerked back repeatedly like the broken second hand on an old clock.
Closing my eyes would make my stomach turn, so the best strategy was to remain still with my eyes open and wait for it to stop. It would pass after a minute, until I forgot not to move, and then it would start again.
I spent a lot of time in bed looking up at my pebbled ceiling. One day, it started to move. Just a little bit at first — a small spot in the corner of my vision — but it gradually became a vat of bubbling cottage cheese, its surface convecting and spreading in slow motion. When I would shift my gaze, it would stop, then reappear in a new location.
Another weird thing would happen when my eyes were closed. If I looked all the way to the side, I saw fireworks: one starry shower in each eye, both off to that side. The lights would stream from the periphery toward the center. When I shifted my gaze, the fireworks would reappear in the corresponding location — up, down, or at any angle.
On a bicycle, you must keep track of visual changes as you balance and find your path. When I would ride, the foreground would suddenly become distracting and strange, appearing larger and moving faster than the background.
Big Blind Spot
I like to look up at trees. One afternoon, under a stand of eucalyptus, I swept my eyes to the right and noticed a blurry spot to the left and below center. It looked like green and brown leaves as I shifted my gaze, but the coloring was coarse, as if it were hastily drawn by a toddler.
It turned out that my blind spot was enlarged, which I confirmed using an Exploratorium exhibit. Unfortunately for me, it was because my optic nerve was being squeezed by fluid pressure in my skull. This was an alarming but treatable condition.