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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Life In 3-D

I’ve had the glasses for two weeks now and I’m still getting used to them.  They are bifocal and the line drives me crazy at times.  I can’t use them at the computer but that’s OK.

The first week I had them, it seemed like inanimate objects jumped out at me.  Walking through the big room at the health club, the exercise machines lunged at me with their various handles, seats, and weight bars sticking out.  Anyone paying close attention would have thought I had a nervous condition.  That was when I realized what’s different now.

Now I have more depth perception.  I hadn’t noticed it had decreased.  Now that it’s back, I feel like I’m roaming around inside a 3-D movie.

The adjustment period comes as no surprise.  Adjustment periods have become a regular occurrence in my life.  It’s nice to see more detail on the ground when I’m walking.  It’s a relief to recognize faces and facial expressions at a greater distance.  I still don’t see well and it isn’t what it was as the beginning of 2003.  But it’s an improvement and I’ll take whatever I can get.

The glasses will do fine for now.  But, I’m still optimistic about what the future holds in medicine.  Will I one day have a retina transplant?  Will stem cells repair the damaged parts of my eyes?  Maybe it will be a bionic retina that restores my vision.  All of those things are being tested and perfected.  Maybe there’s a “dark horse candidate” I’m not aware of that will come to my rescue.

One thing is for certain.  This 3-D movie that has become my life will continue to have plot twists and surprises. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Expanding My Horizons, Literally

On Friday I picked up my new pair of prescription glasses.  I’m gradually working up to wearing them all day.  There’s a noticeable difference in how well I can see with them on.

They’re tinted, which cuts down on glare inside as well as outside.  My eyes are just that sensitive to glare.  A couple of years ago, I started wearing sunglasses when using the computer.  I’ll probably have to continue doing that, because the new glasses are bifocal and the line is right where I look when I’m writing.  That’s OK, I use Zoomtext, a magnifier program, and would still need it even with the glasses.

Yes, even with correction, I still can’t see normal.  But, I can see better than I have in eight years.  I’m starting to walk with a little more confidence.  It’s easier to read numbers on my cell phone.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll even get to start using the address book instead of keeping phone numbers in my head.  A little less clutter in there would be a good thing.

The little bubble of isolation I’ve lived in since 2003 has grown larger, encompassing people at a greater distance.  I can see faces, expressions, and recognize people that last week would have been beyond the veil of blurriness I’ve come to know and despise.  Social situations have sometimes been painful and awkward for me since my vision unexpectedly worsened in 2003.  It’s just harder to connect with people when you can’t make eye contact at a distance more than two or three feet.  It has made me feel alone in a crowd more often than I care to think about.

Several times today, I lowered the glasses just enough to peer over them, to measure the difference in what I can see.  My vision isn’t quite at the pre-2003 level, but it’s improved. 

So, this marks a new era in the never-ending, constantly-changing saga of Jim’s Vision.  Now, I’ll spend the next several weeks (or months) getting accustomed, once again, to a different level of eyesight.  This time, it’s an improvement, so the adjustment period will be full of positive discoveries and surprises.

I always love it when my world expands.

Next on the ‘to do’ list: shopping for a car and planning that cross-country road trip to the west coast.

Just kidding. J

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Bittersweet Symphony--That's Life

A few minutes ago, I was brought back to peace by a song I heard on Pandora.  In my book, I mention several times when I heard a song at a low point in my life and it turned me around or even lifted me up.  Maybe I should make a playlist on my computer of all the Top 40/Pop/Rock songs that have inspired me or spoken to me in a meaningful way.

It’s been a tough week.  That’s why I’m a bit late in making a post.  On Monday, I had a much-anticipated appointment with an eye surgeon about a fairly new procedure that would implant a lens into my right eye, the one that was severely injured eighteen months ago.  At the initial exam a couple of weeks ago, an assistant held something in front of my eye and I could read the 20/100 line.

I know that doesn’t sound very good to most people, but that’s better than that eye has seen in almost twenty years.  My hopes soared, in spite of the little voice in my head warning me not to get my expectations too high.

The surgeon had serious doubts that the procedure would help and that there was a high risk of it failing bad enough to lose all the sight in that eye.  He looked into my eye and described the damage that occurred in 2003, when my vision got much worse.  It reminded me, once again, of how much easier my life had been before then, even with 20/200 vision.  It was easy to walk around, recognize faces, read, and so much more.  Most people couldn't tell just by observing me that I had any vision problem at all.

Since 2003, I have to struggle on a daily basis.  Now and then, the struggle just gets to be too much.  I let my mind travel to dark places, like despair.  As much as I have to deal with, I give myself permission to go there when the circumstances lead me there.  But it’s a temporary visa, with a very short expiration date.  “You don’t have to go home (the status quo) but you can’t stay here.”

The doctor wants me to try a pair of glasses that will help my vision.  I have mixed feeling about this.  Until I was about fourteen, I wore Coke bottle thick glasses due to being severely nearsighted.  Without correction, my vision was much worse than what I have now.  But, kids can be cruel, and they were.  I was relieved to finally get contacts and the ugly duckling story became a part of my biography.

The glasses I’m going to get won’t be nearly as thick as those monstrosities I wore in the 1970s.  And they’ll be tinted.  When I used the lenses in the doctor’s office, I could see faces at more of a distance.  That alone is reason enough to try them.

My spirits have gradually refilled with helium this week, slowly rising, defying the heavy gravity weighing them down earlier.

And today, I heard a song from the late 90s.  I liked it well enough at the time it was a hit, but didn’t pay particular attention to it.  In 2000, I caught the movie Cruel Intentions on HBO.  It’s basically the same plot as Dangerous Liaisons but set in a modern-day New York prep school. 

Spoiler alert: At the end of the movie, the good character, who was the intended victim of two mean characters, is triumphant.  Not only is she unscathed, but happy, and best of all—at peace.  In the final scene she's driving away, suggesting she's leaving all the pain behind her.  The song Bittersweet Symphony is playing.  Since then, whenever I hear it, it makes me think of good overcoming evil, or the peace that comes after overcoming anything bad.  I hope you listen to it and remember it when you’re on your way to recovering from one of life’s tough spots.

I haven't given up on the notion of some medical procedure improving my vision one day.  That day just hasn't arrived--yet.  But I have faith that it will happen.  Something good will happen and I'll triumph over the loss.  Until then, I can still be at peace.