Disturbing changes to vision: Any advice?

David Williams, modified 1 Year ago at 10/25/22 3:56 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/25/22 3:56 PM

Disturbing changes to vision: Any advice?

Posts: 3 Join Date: 10/23/22 Recent Posts
Hi Everyone,

I wanted to see if anyone has any advice for a problem I have encountered in practicing meditation.

Since I was a teenager I have had a problem with my vision that is known as 'visual snow'. You can see a pretty good illustration of what it's like here:

https://visionsimulations.com/visual-snow.htm?background=stairs.jpg

It isn't usually as bad as the example above during the day time, but that gives you an idea of what I'm talking about. It seems to be one of those conditions where the more you pay attention to it and worry about it, the worse it gets. For a long time now it hasn't really bothered me. I didn't notice it most of the time. Then I started to practice meditation, mainly  in the hope of it improving my anxiety and related problems. I tried to practice it a lot, and I did minfulness meditation for between 1 and 4 hours every day. I also tried to be mindful during my daily life as well.

The annoying thing is that the meditation did seem to be helping. While meditating I would often feel calm, and I even had a few times where I would feel a sense of deep peace just resting in the present moment. During my daily life, I would have little 'mindfulness breaks' where I would just try to be mindfull while doing something like drinking a cup of tea. Again, this was helpful: these little breaks were often very peaceful and calming, and it felt like I was actually starting to live life again, rather than being franticly lost in my thoughts all the time. I also learned to get better at not identifying with my thoughts and disengaging from my worries.

Then, what started to happen is that as I tried to be mindful during my daily life, I would notice the problems with my vision. I then got into a cycle where I would notice problems with my vision, find it disturbing and then notice them even more. That brought me to a point where my efforts to be mindful, rather than being calming, would just bring my attention to problems with my vision. These problems with my vision have been a big source of anxiety in the past, and I can find them quite disturbing. So I decided to stop my meditation practice, and return to what I usually do to deal with anxiety - just try to keep as busy as possible.

After a while my vision got better, at least to the point where I wouldn't notice it much and it didn't bother me very much. But this still left me back where I was before: struggling with anxiety and related issues. So after a while I tried to start meditation again, although this time I have been practicing lovingkindness, as I have heard people say that it is less likely to prroduce unwanted negative effects. This time I've only been meditating for about an hour a day but something similar seems to have happened: I've noticed positive effects from the practice, but problems with my vision have come back.

To be fair, I don't know for sure if this is because of the meditation - the days have started getting darker which makes my vision worse and I was also ill with flu when my vision started to get worse again, so those could have been the triggers. However, I do have a suspicion about what might be going on. Although I haven't really been trying to practice with being mindful during my daily life this second time round, I have been trying to disengage from my thoughts when I notice I'm lost in them, as I do when I'm meditating. Again this has seemed to have an impact in reducing the amount of time I spend worrying during daily life. But it seems like as I've learnt to reduce my time spent worrying about stuff, my anxiety is just finding something else to latch onto. It's as though if it can't find conscious thoughts for me to worry about, it will find aspects of my present experience to be concerned about.

So it would be good if anyone has any thoughts and advice. I'm not really sure what to do. I really want this problem with my vision to get better, but I also want to change my mind. So far meditation is the only thing that seems to make any noticible difference in that regard, and I don't want to live the rest of my life a nurotic mess (by the way, I have tried other methods of reducing anxiety, they dont't seem to make a dent).

Thanks for your time,

​​​​​​​Davinder
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Chris M, modified 1 Year ago at 10/25/22 4:31 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/25/22 4:26 PM

RE: Disturbing changes to vision: Any advice?

Posts: 5246 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Davinder, welcome.

I'm curious about how you distinguish between your generalized anxiety and the specific anxiety relating to your vision. In my meditation practice I've learned that the same mind processes create all types of suffering (anxiety is one form of suffering). Can the same meditations be used to calm both types of anxiety) in other words, maybe you're creating a category of anxiety just for your visual issue that might not actually be different in how it is produced than any other anxiety.
David Williams, modified 1 Year ago at 10/25/22 5:01 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/25/22 4:52 PM

RE: Disturbing changes to vision: Any advice?

Posts: 3 Join Date: 10/23/22 Recent Posts
No, I don't think the anxiety I have around my vision is different to anxiety in any other form. That is sort of why I said it seems as though my anxiety is finding something else to latch onto. I don't know if this makes any sense, but it seems to me that anxiety is just that part of your mind that finds and focuses on problems. Usually these problems come up in the form of thoughts that I ruminate over. But as I try to bring the practice of disengaging from  thoughts into daily life, I find myself ruminating less and less. So it seems like when the anxious part of the mind can't focus attention on endlessly ruminating over thoughts, it goes and finds a different problem, in this case is my vision, and then focuses on that. Maybe that's not what's going on, but that's the most sense I can make of it.

So yeah, maybe the right thing to do when I find myself focusing on my vision and getting anxious about it, is to just be mindful of that. I just feel unsure about doing that.
Olivier S, modified 1 Year ago at 10/26/22 4:42 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/26/22 4:36 AM

RE: Disturbing changes to vision: Any advice?

Posts: 950 Join Date: 4/27/19 Recent Posts
 Hi David,

Just to add a 2cts worth, you can also be sensitive to the fact that you're anxious and investigate the thought processes, beliefs, expectations, etc., which go into making the anxiety a rigid thing. Understanding the causes in the present moment (which can be : "I believe this is a problem when it is not") can help liberate it. Just "being mindful" may do the trick, depending on what you mean by that, or may have no impact at all except making you more aware of your anxiety. There can be a tendency to think that mindfulness is a "bare attention" to stuff, but that's not an inherently skilfull tool in and of itself that can be applied in any situation. Discernment is needed.

For this sort of stuff I find that psychological introspection and discerning the causes that provoke the experience of anxiety in the present moment can really be helpful. Once you're aware of what's involved in the anxious dynamic, it's also possible to actively change these conditions, a bit like what they call "cognitive restructuring", or similarly, a bit like noticing hindrances and applying antidotes, or intentionally "gladdening the mind". We can actually change our perception, and a powerful way to do that is to change "the view", ie the beliefs and judgments about what's going on and what we are, etc.  This implies as a prerequisite, being aware and having insight into these dynamics. Notice the negative emotion, ask what you're doing that's making it manifest, and stop doing it. If you're actually concerned about having a problem with your eyes, I would go check with an eye doctor - who knows, maybe you do have a problem ? -, and if everything is fine, then the next step would be this sort of practice.

FWIW, I also have this sort of visual snow, and also constantly see my eye floaters, even in the nighttime, and even in my mind's eye, on the days where I have done some visual meditations. When I was a teenager there was a period when I would get really worried about these strange distortions of vision (which I wasn't sensitive enough to identify as eye floaters, so it would just manifest as weird movements in the things I was seeing. Also, there was a belief and expectations about what "vision" was supposed to be like (i.e., stable and unmoving, with clearly defined objects and colors, etc.), and this belief created a sense of dissonance compared with the reality of visual experience (complex, blurry and weird). It was actually a sign of sensitivity coupled with rigid beliefs and fearful reactions.). Now I'm much more aware of this sort of visual stuff, and I like it. Often times, when I meditate, my whole field of vision starts warping and drifting and moving around without me moving at all. Sort of strange at first but very fun now !

All best wishes,

Olivier
 
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Chris M, modified 1 Year ago at 10/26/22 8:18 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/26/22 8:15 AM

RE: Disturbing changes to vision: Any advice?

Posts: 5246 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
So yeah, maybe the right thing to do when I find myself focusing on my vision and getting anxious about it, is to just be mindful of that. I just feel unsure about doing that.

​​​​​​​I found that the most effective practice was to examine the experience of anxiety as deeply as I could, as Olivier has described. It's really the teasing out of how the mind produces all phenomena, anxiety being just one example. A deep, in-the-bones knowing of those mental processes was revelatory. This is not just mindfulness but a more active investigation. I started with sound but once that process was seen others, like anxiety, followed over time.

BTW, I assume you have seen an eye doctor from the way you described what you called "visual snow." I researched it, and it's a known but not-yet-treatable syndrome.
Adi Vader, modified 1 Year ago at 10/26/22 11:35 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/26/22 11:35 AM

RE: Disturbing changes to vision: Any advice?

Posts: 304 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
Many years ago I was put on an antidepressant that had at the time recently hit  the market. I dont remember the name. One of the very very rare side effects of that medication, which I got but which affected a very very small percentage of people, was problems in vision, very similar to the gif you have linked. This had nothing to do with the physical eye but to do with the way the brain processed visual data.

Generally read through all the side effect information of any medication you might be taking, if at all you are taking any and consult your doctor- if at all such might be the case.

If this is not applicable, please ignore.
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Helen Pohl, modified 1 Year ago at 10/26/22 1:00 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/26/22 1:00 PM

RE: Disturbing changes to vision: Any advice?

Posts: 101 Join Date: 8/10/20 Recent Posts
Personally I just thought this was what vision was like, a sort of visual tingling overlay, more visible when looking att plain-coloured areas of the visual field.

Less in strong light, outside. Sometimes when I come out of meditation and the room is in dusk/dark it's extreme. =)
David Williams, modified 1 Year ago at 10/26/22 2:10 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/26/22 2:10 PM

RE: Disturbing changes to vision: Any advice?

Posts: 3 Join Date: 10/23/22 Recent Posts
Thanks for your feedback. It would be good if you could explain a bit more about what investigating the anxiety would involve. I would agree that the anxiety is related to an expectation about how vision should be, I could identify other beliefs that probably contribute to the anxiety as well, but I wouldn't know what to do after that. Given you can't really turn beliefs on or off what can you do?<br /><br />In terms of other processes, again I'm not really sure how understanding the processes helps the situation. For instance, I think I have already spotted one pattern - the fact that the problem is made worse by getting into a negative feedback: Noticing problems with my vision makes me anxious, which makes me focus on them more, which makes me more anxious...But realising this pattern doesn't really help, as noticing things and getting anxious aren't under conscious control.<br /><br />P.S. I have seen doctors about the issue, and nobody could identify anything wrong. Problems with vision are actually listed as a side effect of my medication, but then again, almost every health issue that is at all psychosomatic is also listed as a side effect. Also, I have tried to come off my medication but had a relaps, so I don't really want to go down that route for the time being. The problem also first arose after I had already been taking the medication for years.
Robert L, modified 1 Year ago at 10/26/22 3:35 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/26/22 3:35 PM

RE: Disturbing changes to vision: Any advice?

Posts: 71 Join Date: 2/10/19 Recent Posts
I recommend going to Youtube and searching: Kenneth Folk direct path. Watch the whole series. He does a great job describing how to investigate anxiety.  The meditative technique that he describes can be done on cushion and off. I won't do it justice by trying to write up a description.
B C, modified 1 Year ago at 10/28/22 10:07 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/28/22 10:07 AM

RE: Disturbing changes to vision: Any advice?

Posts: 7 Join Date: 5/2/21 Recent Posts
The initial post is trippy! I have been experiencing the same kind of "heightened" awareness of my visual shortcomings also since taking up serious meditation. I have several eye floaters that I never even reliased where there until I really began focusing on the moment to moment arising both visually and mentally. Since I "found" the floaters they are impossible now to ignore. I can even see them with my eyes closed! I can accommodate them into life as there ain't a whole lot else I can do... Knowing I'm not the only being on earth meditating worrying about my eyes is absolutely comforting. Your not alone my friend. We might not be able to do anything about our eyes but we are not alone! !!!
Ab Gal, modified 1 Year ago at 12/21/22 3:56 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/21/22 3:56 PM

RE: Disturbing changes to vision: Any advice?

Post: 1 Join Date: 12/21/22 Recent Posts
I know very little. But I saw a Reddit post yesterday that reads as follows on visual snow:

CoachAtlus: You can tune in and out of it. If you're practicing a lot of vipassana, it's going to arise more naturally. If you practice more samatha and focus on smooth stable aspects of the visual field, things will seem more concrete. Basically, you gain the ability---within reason and depending on what else is going on in your life--to flip back and forth between perspectives. It's no big deal. It was pretty cool, actually, when I was first practicing and I'd wake up in the middle of the night in a dark room and it was like everything was alive with sparkling bits of static or color. Christmas come early...
Freya , modified 1 Year ago at 12/21/22 7:41 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/21/22 7:40 PM

RE: Disturbing changes to vision: Any advice?

Posts: 64 Join Date: 8/15/21 Recent Posts
Hi

I can empathise, I have this.

Interestingly one of the reasons (amongst others) I started so much meditation this year was to rewire my brain and get rid of it as it started for a second time in my life a year ago. First time, I had it for about 7 years. 

Anxiety makes it worse, and also people with anxiety are more predisposed to get it in the first place. Being ill also makes it worse.

The positives within this condition is you can tell visually when you are tired, ill, stressed, anxious. You can use it as the barometer of health in your body. If you can see it worse that usual you'll know you need to slow down and look after yourself more. 

Bear in mind it can also go. You won't nessecarily have it for life. 

Look up HPPD, lots of people get it from hallucinogens and some like you have it from prescription medication. 

Floaters often accompany VS. 

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