Saturday, September 28, 2013

Well, Now I Know

My eye, as sketched by me. 
Thanks Dr. Strong. This explains a lot. All my life, I've had to sort of turn on and turn off my eyes. I never failed an eye screening or struggled in school or to read, because I was really good at making the switch from double to single vision. I do remember that sometimes it was easier to just let everything go double and I would think of it as "turning off my eyes" for a while. I think everyone does this sometimes, but I pretty much had to do it all the time: decide to have single vision. I don't know if that makes sense, but it's really true. Because I adjusted easily and never exhibited any symptom or difficulty that would attract the notice of a teacher or doctor or parent, I was never diagnosed with any eye trouble whatsoever. My actual vision was always good, great in fact. Double vision is different than visual acuity. When I finally did get glasses a few years ago for garden-variety presbyopia (old eyes), things continued pretty much as they always had. Double vision doesn't show up in a regular eye exam, so no eye doctor ever mentioned it. It was such an automatic part of my life that it had become utterly sub-conscious and it never occurred to me to bring it up. Honestly.

Earlier this year, however, I started noticing that I couldn't keep the double vision under control. It was becoming the norm instead of the exception. I could still work to see things singly, but it was increasingly difficult and was causing fatigue, headaches, and sometimes, I actually couldn't refocus. I got a little worried.

I first assumed I'd sabotaged myself with too much work and started using timers to monitor time spent reading, using the computer, or doing handwork. I experimented with new light bulbs and lamps; adjusted screen resolution and brightness. No relief at all, and it was troublingly random. It seemed to have nothing to do with general eye fatigue or how much sleep I was getting. Doing the dishes could bring it on. And I was noticing it while driving.

I then assumed my glasses prescription was wrong or had suddenly changed. I went back to the eye doctor just 5 months after my last visit and he updated my prescription a tiny bit (remember, my corrected vision is awesome-don't worry all you potential photography clients out there!), and sent me on my way, but the double vision persisted. Finally I spoke up. He was immediately concerned and told me that double vision is never normal.  (Hello? Why did I never know that? I feel like that should be one of the posters in school rooms, right next to the Eleanor Roosevelt one about feeling inferior. Hey Kids-Double Vision is Not Normal, Even if You Can Turn it On and Off and You Always Pass the Vision Screening!). He referred me to a specialist eye care group, and I went yesterday for a two-hour eye exam that left me utterly exhausted.

Vision is important. You know? It's a big deal. During the exam I got so tired and then really emotional as my eyes responded more and more sluggishly and the doctors did more and more tests and I felt like I was failing them and started to think that maybe I really am losing my sight. It was a strange moment. Finally, in that blaze of unfiltered light as seen through fully dilated pupils, I drove home with a diagnosis.

The good news is that there is nothing medically wrong with me. I have no disease or degenerative condition that's going to rob me of sight in the near future. The interesting news is that my memories are correct and I've had this condition my whole life, but my 47 year-old eyes just can't do the extra work of keeping my eyeballs in sync anymore. I have a strange condition that's fairly common but that I've never heard of called 
Convergence Insufficiency. 

It's a neuromuscular thing that basically means my eyes don't work together properly because of muscle control. It is rarely diagnosed in a regular eye exam. In fact, kids who have it are most commonly treated for learning disabilities from ADHD to Dyslexia to even more profound problems (that they probably don't actually have) which has it's own sad set of consequences. Fortunately for me, I have a very quick mind and am a very good actress. No, really. It's true. I was never a star student, but I refused to give any teacher a moment's pause (I'm both a second child and an oldest daughter and we just don't make other people WORRY about us, you know?) and lived pretty much on that  righthand slope of the bell curve in terms of educational outcomes. I honestly do remember being frustrated often enough and feeling like I had to fake it a fair amount. It's so strange to think that it never once occurred to me to tell anyone about this or ask for help (See the previous parenthetical note.). I just soldiered on and flew under the radar. I feel like a lot of kids do that for a lot of reasons. I know my kids did in various ways. They've all come to me now and told me of frustrations or struggles that I had no idea about because everything seemed fine.

But I digress. I will say though that if your child is struggling to learn in some way and you're just not sure you have your finger on the problem, look into Convergence Insufficiency. I've seen figures indicating that 15% of children have it and don't know.

So, now I have ahead of me about 3-4 months of fairly intense vision therapy. I'll have 1 or 2 weekly in-office sessions of about an hour's length each, and several minutes of daily home exercises. The doctor says that even though my eyes are aging, the therapy is well-tested and effective. My chances are excellent for a complete cure!

If you were keeping track, there really wasn't any bad news. This is not a big deal. It's been a weird and hard few months, and yes, I'm not really seeing these words (yay for above-average touch-typing and word-shape recognition skills!) but as soon as the office of Berger and Taylor opens at 8am, I am making my first appointment for therapy. The thought of seeing clearly again fills me with hope and makes me realize just how heavily this relatively small thing has been sitting on my shoulders. As I mentioned, I felt so fragile and upset yesterday during the exam and I was frustrated with myself for being such a wimp. Finally, finally... the thought coalesced into consciousness that I have been terrified at the prospect of losing my sight. Terrified, friends. I guess that's understandable, but I don't like to complain so I've pushed the fears pretty far down and repeated aloud that others have struggles far more challenging than a little blurry vision. But I was scared. I really was.

Deep Cleansing Breath.

Now I can move forward. It's always so much better to have a problem to solve than a nameless issue to simply worry about.


  1. So good to have an answer! (and that it doesn't include blindness!)--Ever since "Little House on the Prairie" and my first pair of glasses (4th grade), I've had this innate fear of blindness too. I seriously used to feel my way around our basement, since it was the only completely dark place I could find, to practice counting footsteps, etc., and even now, am pretty adept at showering/moving around my bedroom/kitchen w/o contacts in and in the dark (which is pretty blind). Nowadays, though, in having found more pain than LHOtheP, blindness doesn't worry me nearly as much :). LOVE your telling of it all!

  2. Glad to hear everything's ok, and that it's treatable with some therapy! Good for you! I too understand the fear of going blind. As I grew more and more nearsighted I became afraid that eventually it wouldn't be correctable at all. Hence the LASIK almost 10 years ago. I'm glad you don't have to worry about it anymore!


Thank you for sharing your insights!