Visionary

I’ve had glasses since I was eleven, mainly for distance vision. I think that makes me myopic, if I correctly understand the term. However, that’s only in one eye; the other one sees perfectly well. So I’ve only ever worn my glasses to see things that aren’t right up close – like the TV, the screen in a movie theatre, the teacher and blackboard at the front of the class when I was a kid …

For a long while, it was fun to wear glasses part-time. My parents could never understand why I just didn’t put them on in the morning, wear them all day and be done with it. But they didn’t understand just how cool I looked with my glasses perched atop my head, ready for action. I mean, I could see quite well most of the time, so why would I bother with wearing glasses when they weren’t strictly necessary? Besides, this way I could have the best of both worlds, I figured: glasses when I wanted to look smart, no glasses when I wanted to look pretty.

That went on for all my teenage years and well into adulthood. And it was good. I sometimes wore my glasses, I sometimes didn’t. If I didn’t wear them, most of the time I could simply squint enough to see whatever was far away. Some days I just shoved them on my head or in my bag and never wore them at all. Some days they were on and off constantly. It depended upon what I was doing. It didn’t bother me.

But then, at some point in my mid-thirties, it did start to bother me. Alas, my eyesight began to change, to worsen. I found that I had to wear my glasses more often in order to see more things around me. I discovered that even though corrective lenses were not listed as necessary on my driver’s license, I preferred wearing my glasses when I drove because I really could see much further and more clearer with them on. I started to wear them most of the time when I was teaching, because without them, I literally could no longer see that pesky little kid at the other side of the classroom – you know, the one who was very likely poking the kid beside him or at the very least, copying his work. I couldn’t allow myself to miss that stuff – I had a reputation as a teacher who didn’t miss a trick!

Then, when I went back to university to upgrade my teaching degree in my late thirties, I realized that I could no longer clearly see the paper I was writing on when I was wearing my glasses. Sure, I could see the lecturer and the notes on the board at the front of the class, but my paper was a blur to me suddenly. I had fallen prey to middle-aged vision! I had become farsighted as well as nearsighted! To my horror, I was now a candidate for bifocals!

I eventually went off to my friendly ophthalmologist, who confirmed that I had indeed developed some farsightedness to go along with my nearsightedness. This was not odd, she assured me, it was part of the aging process. Not to worry, with a different prescription for my glasses, I’d be seeing quite well very soon. The only catch was that I would now have to wear my glasses full time, because now I would need them for both near and far vision.

And that I wouldn’t do.

So, I got contacts. I tried bifocal contacts, but my close-up vision was compromised too badly and I couldn’t see clearly enough to read. Then I got monovision contacts, meaning that one eye is corrected for the close-up vision, the other for the far-away vision. That worked great – once I finally learned how to put the damn things in my eyes! Was that ever a steep learning curve! I used to actually have to get up about a half-hour earlier in order to have time to get the contacts in my eyes, I was so pathetic at it. Many days I went to work with red eyes from having spent most of that half-hour trying and trying and trying to get the things to stay the hell IN my eyes. It’s a wonder I didn’t have permanent eye infections back then!

Anyway, I eventually got the hang of it and everything was fine for years – till I thought that I was having a lot of trouble getting my left contact in. I speculated that it was probably because I’m right-handed, so maybe there was something about using my right hand to get the contact in my left eye. I wondered if perhaps it was because I usually put the right contact in first so I kept my hand at that angle rather than changing it slightly for the other eye. I finally decided that it was just my imagination, that I really wasn’t having any more trouble with one eye than the other. I was just being stupid.

Then I had my regular yearly visit with my ophthalmologist this past Monday. And it turns out that my left eye has developed enough astigmatism that my prescription needs to be altered. And what is astigmatism, you ask? It’s got something to do with the curvature of the cornea being irregular which causes vision to be blurry. (Yeah, I know that’s a lame definition. Google it yourself, if you want more precise information.) It’s more prevalent as we age, and is actually fairly common. It’s also usually quite easy to treat. I now have a toric contact lens in my left eye. I have no idea what “toric” means or what it does to compensate for my cornea’s irregular shape, but I can sure see a lot more clearly with that left eye now!

So yes, I really was having more difficulty putting that left contact in, because the surface of my eye had actually changed shape. The contact couldn’t stick as easily as before because it wasn’t the right shape for the changed cornea. I wasn’t being stupid!

And I suppose the moral of this story is this: if you can’t easily get your contact lens in one of your eyes any more, it may not be your imagination. It may be your astigmatism.

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14 responses to “Visionary

  1. As I approached 40, everyone kept telling me it was all downhill after that and that the eyes were the first thing to go. I thought it was just the usual ribbing about getting older. The day after I turn 40, I noticed that I was holding things at arms length to see them. Turns out, they weren’t kidding after all!

    • Nicky – I know! Isn’t it utterly amazing about the vision thing and turning 40? I know so many people who had great vision until pretty much the day they turned 40. I think it’s a conspiracy … maybe Oliver Stone or Michael Moore can do a documentary and get to the bottom of it.

  2. I know what an astigmatism is because my sister works at an opticians. I feel smart now 😉

    • bevchen – You are smart – smarter than me, certainly! I said to my ophthalmologist, hopefully, “That’s to do with the shape of the eyeball, right?” She said yes. Then I went home and googled it. I still don’t quite get it, but apparently I have it.

  3. I am shortsighted too and have worn glasses since I was 11; I wore contact lenses for 20 years but gave up when my youngest was a baby as she didn’t sleep through the night – eventually I just couldn’t get them in any more! Recently I have had to get varifocals. I did think about going back to lenses but I am not sure I can actually be bothered with the fuss anymore; glasses are easy to deal with. The alternative, I suppose, is getting my eyes lasered – and I might be too squeamish for that.

    • Alienne – Laser surgery kind of creeps me out, too, plus I’ve heard too many stories about the compromised night vision. I do have two friends who have had it, though, and they’ve been quite pleased with their results. I’m going to stick with my monovision contacts for now, and we’ll see how things change in the coming years. I may get tired of poking things in my eyes at some point, or (more likely) I’ll need the varifocals, too. *sigh* This aging thing …

  4. I have to wear readers and have had to since I was about 40. But I don’t need glasses for seeing or driving. So, I have about 35 pairs of readers stashed all over the place. I buy them at the drugstore, so they’re cheap. When I was a little kid I had to wear ‘corrective lenses’. I hated that. Horribly uncool and it remained so until Buddy Holly came along and rendered big dark hornrims trendy. Orbison was the frosting on the cake.
    I’ve never worn contacts and don’t like the idea of sticking something in my eye. When you were little and had the one good eye, did you ever think of sporting a monocle? That would have made you even more avant-garde than I know my li’l sister already is.

    • mrwriteon – PG also has the drugstore reading glasses, and they’re working just fine for him. He looks so cute in them – picture a younger, thinner Eric Clapton! And yes, a monocle was definitely a possibility when I was little, except my parents vetoed it. I still don’t know why …

  5. I’ve had strong astigmatism since I was 6. Basically I couldn’t see far nor could I see close up. If I was without my glasses I was blind. Then my arms started to shrink and I needed progressive lenses. Had I lived in prehistoric times, a saber-tooth tiger could have walked right up to me and had me for lunch.

    • Jazz – You might want to get your hearing checked if you don’t think you would even hear that saber-toothed tiger walking up to you … or a body guard.

  6. I’ve had astigmatism for years in one of my eyes, left one, I think. It was described to me as being less ball-shaped and more rugby ball-shaped. I had a Toric contact lens for that eye and a normal one for the other. But I fell out of love with contacts, I found them too drying, even when I started adding shed loads of drops, so I went back to specs. And now I find that I need trifocals – or, as they’re actually called ‘varifocals’. I have three areas – at the bottom is my close up reading bit (which, to be honest, I don’t actually need, I can see in focus up to a distance of about 3 feet), the middle section is for, say, reading a laptop while sitting on the sofa, and the top bit is the long distance section. I got used to them within about 3 days. I wish I was brave enough to consider laser treatment, though but I can’t help thinking of all the things that can go wrong. Indeed, I have a very close friend who had her eyes done back in the 90s and now she can’t see properly at night! I think I’ll stick to my trust face furniture!

    • Mrs Jones – Sometimes my eyes feel quite dry, but most of the time, they’re just fine. Yeah, laser vision correction isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, is it? I’ve heard a LOT about night vision becoming a real problem if you have that treatment, so I’m like you: I’ll stick to the eyes God gave me (though embellished just a bit!).

  7. Doesn’t it suck getting older? I’m just starting to have some issues seeing up close and it makes me a little sad. I’m impressed that you could master the different contact lenses that way, most of the people I talk to have real problems with the different prescriptions for each eye.

    • Kimberly – Poor vision runs in my family, so it was always pretty much a sure thing that I would have glasses sooner rather than later. The close-up vision thing was a bit of a surprise, even so. And a few people have told me that a different prescription for each eye was hard (if not impossible) for them to get used to, but that certainly hasn’t been my experience. After all, does anyone have great trouble getting used to glasses with a different prescription for each eye? That seems to work well, so theoretically so should different contacts.