I know, I know, that’s not really a line from the “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Christmas carol, but that’s the tune that popped into my head when I was thinking about writing this.
I went to the eye doctor on September 15th, 2014. The date is only significant because it’s almost exactly four years after the last time I went: September 23rd, 2010. I got a new driver’s license a few weeks ago and I was pretty sure that the glasses I was wearing this time are the same ones I was wearing the last time. One point for me!
I didn’t have a reason for not going, I just never got around to it. I could see well enough, so why go through the hassle? Well, I got tired of not being able to see straight. I have a nifty form of astigmatism that makes my eyes focus in different places. If I let my eyes relax, everything splits into two. (Upon getting my eyes tested this week, I found out that one is slightly diagonal, too.)
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m very sensitive when it comes to my eyes. Or maybe “squeamish” would be a better term. It can be ridiculously hard for me to do really simple stuff. I’ve been in a handful of plays and I can barely put on mascara. I usually end up caking a bunch on the ends of my eyelashes, then use paper towels to pull off the excess. Eyeliner? Not gonna happen. I can’t handle letting stabby things like pencils get that close to my eyes.
The eye doctor had an assistant who did some of the initial testing. After some of the basic “What’s the lowest line you can read?” charts, it was time to put in some eye drops to dilate my pupils. Wonderful.
I’m not sure what’s happened with eye drop technology in the last four years, but thankfully, I didn’t need to keep my eyes open afterward: she just pried open my eyelid, dropped some liquid in there and it immediately ran down my cheek when I blinked my eye closed. In the past, that would have meant more eye drops, which would have led to more suffering. And I was suffering.
I think I took as many breaks as I got drops. She told me to look up at the ceiling, I could hear the surge of blood rushing into my ears, my eyelid would immediately try to close if anything got near it, then I’d have to stop and rub my eye for a minute. Then she said the most irritating thing I’ve heard in a very long time:
“I know how you feel. I’ve seen people have this problem plenty of times.”
My relatively polite response?
“No, you really don’t.”
I don’t remember where I read this, but one of the worst things you can say to someone is “I know how you feel” because you don’t. You can’t. My grandfather died while I was in college and I had to stay at school for a majority of a week until I could fly home for the wake. I think I told three people before I left. Back in 2005, we had a dog who had some nasty disease and we were going to put her to sleep. I went to the vet, sat down next to her with a box of tissues and bawled my eyes out for forty-five minutes. If any of you read through this paragraph and thought, “I know how you feel”, you’re full of shit.
I know people who are afraid of heights. I sometimes get a sense of vertigo when I’m looking down from the edge of a skyscraper, but that’s not the same as being scared of climbing three steps up on a ladder. Maybe I know that you feel afraid, but I have no idea how you feel.
It’s incredibly frustrating because it’s so simple. All I need to do is hold my eye open just a little bit. It’s a tiny drop of liquid, nothing more. I see people put eye drops in all the time, but honestly, it makes me cringe a little, thinking about how my body would react if I tried doing it myself.
Eventually, the assistant left to go get the doctor. He came into the room and even though it had been four years since my last visit, he quickly remembered me having the same problem back then, too. “Try to hold your other eye open and look toward the ceiling.” I tried as hard as I could, but the blood started surging in my ears again while the other eyelid stayed closed tight.
We managed to get through most of the tests that involved shining bright lights directly into my eyes. Not all, but most. He decided that was good enough. There wasn’t much point in trying to do any other tests if my eyelids were going to clamp shut every time we tried to keep them open. Ultimately, my eyelids would win. Thankfully, when my appointment was over and he handed me my new prescription, the only thing he said to me was “Say hi to your dad for me.” Much less irritating.