Illness symptom: Missing moments of time

March 22, 2016

A symptom of my current illness is that when it’s at its worst, I feel like I miss moments in time. The way I describe it to doctors is like this:

When I was young I remember reading that the frame rate of motion pictures was something like 24 frames per second (fps). At that rate the human eye can’t detect the flickering of images, it looks smooth to us, so motion pictures are shown at that rate, or faster.

Now, if you can imagine that you view the entire world around you at the same rate, what happens when I’m feeling bad is that I miss some of these moments, some of these frames. So if I’m looking forward and a dog runs across my field of vision, I might see him at one point, and then in the next instant (to me) he’s run farther than he should have. To my brain he should have run to point X, but somehow he made it to Y or Z and I completely missed X. It’s like out of 24 fps, I only saw 20 fps, I missed the other four.

Another way to say it is that if I’m looking straight ahead and then begin to swivel my head to the left, I might be aware for the moments at 90 degrees, then 89, then 88, 87, then 84, then 81. I completely miss a few of the angles.

In either case, either (a) I didn’t see some of the frames, or (b) I have no memory of seeing them. (It definitely “feels” like I missed them, like I wasn’t conscious for that moment, but I recently thought of the second explanation, so I don’t want to exclude it as being a possibility.)

A reason for mentioning this is that if you have these same symptoms, feel free to use those descriptions with your doctors. In general it seems like most doctors don’t have the patience to listen to this, so I usually just tell the first story, the one about the dog. If you just tell them the second one they’ll start asking about dizziness and vertigo, so I only tell that to doctors who don’t understand the first description.

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