The Year of “I Don’t Know”

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“Today is my birthday…and…I’m getting drunker.”

– Darrell Hammond, A&E Biography of Tiger Woods on SNL

On this day last year, I was sitting at a hibachi grill with my family on my birthday in an environment that should be full of entertainment and celebration. However, my focus was on my eye that had been constantly twitching for a week or two at that point. Little did I know that the next year would be the most stressful year of my life.

I’m calling the past year of my life “The Year of ‘I Don’t Know’.” I think it’s a fitting name because uncertainty was the topic on my mind almost everyday. If you read my post “9 Months of Hell,” you got a good look at my mental state in January. I was stressed, exhausted, desperate, frustrated, and just not sure what was going on with my body. The several neurologists I saw generally said the same thing. “I don’t know.” My optometrists and ophthalmologists said my eyes looked healthy overall. The GI tests I had done didn’t show anything of significance. Another “I don’t know.” I was taking a low dose of antidepressants at that time to help me fall asleep 3 months prior. I couldn’t work out because pressure kept rushing to my head and causing the vein next to my eye to pulse and the back of my head to feel tight. I couldn’t watch TV for too long because panning cameras would disorient me. The things I enjoyed in life were hindered and that was really tough.

Since January I’ve only had one other test: muscle and nerve testing. They shock you and stick a thin needle in various parts of your skin and have you flex certain muscles, creating an electrical current. It sounds like static and tests the health of your nerves and muscles. Honestly, it didn’t feel great but the science behind it is fascinating. “There are no signs of neuromuscular disease.” While previous labs and tests showed no signs of anything significant, hearing that from a doctor helped turn my mental state around. Stop trying to self diagnose. Stop thinking the worst. Essentially, I needed to get myself stop caring as much and try to live my life normally.

Fast forward to April 26, 2020. I am in a much better spot.

  • My interior right eye and vein stopped pulsing/twitching. My struggles with panning cameras and unpredictable motion got better just a week ago. I was singing a high note in Coldplay’s “Yellow” when a muscle in my mid back relaxed. This seemed to improve my vision where I can now watch TV without struggling to focus on motion.
  • I am no longer taking medication, although during my craziest times it finally allowed me to get better sleep.
  • I gained the 15 pounds back that I lost during the summer (maybe more during this pandemic since my wife is a great cook).
  • I have more energy and don’t feel as fatigued.
  • I am able to workout again which has helped with muscle mass and just feeling better about myself. I remember my one brother-in-law telling me, “Just keep exercising.” I will definitely keep doing that.

While things aren’t perfect, all in all, I am a much more sane, happier me.

The past year has also prepared me for what is going on currently with the COVID-19 pandemic, including the following:

  • It has given me a hell of a lot more patience while understanding why people are getting restless self-isolating.
  • I am more grateful on a daily basis for the things I took for granted.
  • I now understand anxiety and why some people take medication for it. You feel like you are moving at 100 mph and when you try to tell your body to stop, it doesn’t care what you think. This pandemic isn’t going to help mental health for many, including frontline workers. I’ve talked to several friends working directly with COVID patients who have used words like “surviving” and “dark place” to describe how they were feeling. These folks have to face uncertainty everyday with the lives of many falling in their hands, putting their own mental and physical health at risk. Meditation helped me deal with a couple months of my struggles and I strongly suggest it to folks having a hard time at the moment. You learn how to deflect your issues during that time, slow your body down from that frustrating 100 mph speed, and manifest positivity and what you want out of life. No you don’t get transported into a cloud like in the movies, but you do feel better afterwards.
  • Lastly and maybe mostly, pushing through the last year has given me more empathy for people and more positivity looking ahead. I think that’s one thing that people sometimes have a hard time focusing on being blinded by the details and obstacles of everyday. Try to understand others and stay away from the negative vacuum that is easy to get sucked into. Everyone’s different and that’s what makes life interesting.

While a lot of the world is struggling right now, I hope that people know that through these hardships there will be an exit out of this tunnel. I try to be transparent so that my experiences help someone else out who is having a rough go and give some bit of hope. I didn’t think there was that exit during the worst of my issues, but here I am on the other side. Uncertainty is rough, though, but you’ll get through it. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes hope. It takes sacrifice. It takes support. Keep on keepin’ on, friends. You can do this.