Saturday, July 25, 2009

Have You Seen The Big Purple Eye?

Back in 1970 I was sitting around minding my own business when my brain blew up. There was no warning at all. Little shards of sanity went all over the place. No one ever said anything about panic attacks, and I didn't have the slightest idea what was wrong with me or whether it had ever happened to anyone else. It's not like now when there are articles about all that stuff everywhere you look. If someone could just have said, "yeah, I know what you have, and it's called this, and you're not the only one," I would have felt much better about it. I would still have been screwed, but I would have felt better. As it was, I had to apply alcohol to my brain for about fifteen years until the condition sort of cleared up on its own.

In the same general time frame, I saw a girl my age in church who had become gray and sticklike and I asked my mom what was the matter with Susan, because it looked like she was going to die. "She just doesn't eat," my mom explained, shrugging. This made no sense to me at all. It's not like they'd quit selling peanut butter cups. Nowadays we're all familiar with what was wrong with Susan, but not then.

We have so much more information available to us now. When I was growing up, there were always a few kids who were definitely not right, but you didn't know just what was wrong with them. Now every one of those kids would be assigned a syndrome or condition of some kind, and they'd have support groups and pills and websites dedicated to their welfare. Oprah would do a show about them. Just about every oddity is covered.

But there are still just a couple things about me that remain mysterious, and in the interest of locating someone--anyone--else who has similar issues, I thought I'd take this opportunity to put them out there.

One. Sometimes, for no reason at all, I forget how to swallow. And I'm talking plain, tepid water. I toss back my little bloop of water and it suddenly hangs up in my throat, not budging, and I have to bend over and wait it out until it sort of dissolves and continues down the hatch. There's no predicting it, and it only happens a few times a year. One time it finally happened with beer. I took a sip, and it drove just beyond my tonsils and threw itself into park. I immediately realized that the bubbles were going to be a problem, so I ran outside rather quickly and bent over. Concerned, Dave followed me out, but I'm not able to vocalize in that condition, so I was flapping my arms about, trying unsuccessfully to communicate that I was fine and everything would be all right in a few seconds. Then, suddenly, while I was still flapping, foam began coming out of my mouth and dripping on the porch. I think it freaked him out a little. He's had plenty of CPR training but didn't have a clue what to do about sudden-onset rabies.

Two. Then there's the thing with my vision. At night, when I look into the darkness, I can often see a big purple eye floating out there. It's like the CBS logo without the pupil. First time I saw it I was about six. It was a little scary then, that first time, and I said something about it to Daddy. I don't remember what he said, but I suspect he didn't think I was really seeing a big purple eye.

I was. I do.


  1. Murr

    I have the swallowing thing too...very strange and scary - happens with carbonated and still water. It starts to go down then just freezes and while you try not to panic, you just freeze and thumping on the the brestbone (haven't tried the arm flapping). I'll have to look into this a bit more, nice to know that someone else has had this occur to them.

    Enjoy your blog thoroughly - love Oregon (Dad's from Medford) and the hubby and I spent our honeymoon in the Pacific Northwest (live in NC).

    Take Care

  2. Thanks. And don't panic! purple eye, though, huh? Dang.

  3. No purple eye, sorry. But when I close my eyes at night sometimes I see the most vivid color! Never know which color it will be. Saturated, full-on deep rich colors. I asked my husband if he sees any colors. He says "no, just black". How sad.

    Altoids make me sneeze and my throat closes up and I gasp for air. But I keep biting into them and it happens every time! If I die with an altoid in my throat it will be my own fault.

  4. I used to see the purple eye, as a kid. Think it is a function of the vessels in the retina, or some such thing. Haven't seen it in decades, or have learned to ignore it.

    Used to see molecules, or so I thought, though I couldn't convince older siblings and parental units of that. But they were tiny and whizzed around and bumped into each other and left tiny trails in the air, especially in the bright sunlight. Maybe photons. I recall reading some explanation of that phenomenon years ago, but can't recall it.

    Never had trouble swallowing though. Think it is probably some sort of nerve glitch. They have oils for that.

  5. No purple eye but you're not alone with the forgetting how to swallow thing. It happens when I'm sitting relaxing and I realize there is an awful lot of saliva building up in my oral cavity so...time to swallow and clear the area...but it's like I don't know how. Perhaps you are taking some strange medication? That's what I blamed mine on because it seems to have cleared up now that I'm not taking those meds anymore. I kind of like the purple eye syndrome - let's call it a syndrome until we find out if it's good enough to call a disease :)

  6. I don't think it will make you feel any better (hopefully not worse) but I can give you the name of the syndrome for the arm flapping trigger: Globus Hystericus.

    "Globus is the term given to the sensation of a lump in the throat causing difficulty with swallowing when there is no physical cause. One can't, of course, know there is no physical cause unless it's been excluded."

    It's more common than you might think; it falls in the category of syndromes where I rub my chin and say "we see this". Not necessarily helpful, but a recognition that you're not alone (and maybe not crazy).

    I can't help (not that the preceding was helpful) with the purple eye.....


  7. Bruce. Don't think I didn't notice you said "not alone and MAYBE not crazy."

  8. ok, so i'm a little late on this one, i was out of town. congratulations, you have managed to put in writing something that EVERYONE has experienced, one way or another.!! my dear, you have just described one of those awkward moments we all must sooner or later face. panic attack, is the gentle "modern" label for suddenly not "knowing " how to remember how to do anything
    !!!! glad you got through it relativally unscathed!

  9. Sounds like a hiatal hernia. This is a random occurrence where it is difficult to impossible to swallow. It's an inherited condition. I have it from my mom's side of the family. My grandmom had her esophagus stretched to try to alleviate it, but I don't think it worked.

    No clue on the purple eye. Sounds like an after image, but without first looking into a bright light.

    Tiny flecks moving before the eye are either floaters (tiny blood clots actually in the eye) or a phenomenon associated with shortness of breath. I have both and the specks that have bright trails are associated with shortness of breath.

  10. I have to say that my "molecules" are not the same as floaters, which are larger, and move with your eye movements, and I have NEVER had shortness of breath associated with them. These "molecules" seem to move quite independently of my eye. I have had the occasional floater, but these are not the same at all. And I am remarkably healthy.

  11. Elizabeth BrewsterJuly 28, 2009 at 4:20 PM

    The Purple Eye is the all-seeing visitor from the planet Xornon, in the Zopsis Galaxy, sent to Earth to record information about Earthlings. The only way to block this Eye is to make a tinfoil hat, put it on, and (while wearing NOTHING ELSE), run in circles in the backyard while yelling "Xornon!"

    Do let us know how it goes...

  12. No, wait, don't do it until we are all over at your place tomorrow night. We can even help you yell, "Xornon". I'll bring my camera.