Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Back to the beginning, part 1

I'm not exactly sure when I first noticed the problem. It's not like I ordinarily go around closing one eye at a time to see how the other eye is doing. I tend to think it was sometime around the autumn of 2006. My vision started getting a bit more blurry than usual. Hm, time to get new glasses, I thought. The low slanting light of autumn was causing more glare and discomfort than I ever remembered noticing before.

At some point I must have closed my left eye for some reason. Maybe I got something in it and closed it to rub the irritant out. I don't remember. I don't remember the first moment, the first discovery. All I remember for sure is that it wasn't gradual.

I'm nearsighted, have worn glasses since 5th grade. My right eye has always been weaker than my left, but I could always see out of it. All of a sudden I was was shocked to find out that my central vision in that eye had completely disappeared. My peripheral vision was still okay, but about 40% right in the center simply vanished into a undifferentiated gray fog.

Oh my God, I'm going blind. That was my first thought. Macular degeneration? Cataract? Diabetes? I found a site on the Internet that purported to show what the world looked like to a person suffering from any of those things. None of them matched my central gray foggy nothingness.

A reasonable person would have hustled themself off to a doctor post-haste. A reasonable person would waste no time when it came to a question of saving their sight. But I am not a reasonable person. I am a person ruled by fears and phobias. And I have an utter phobia of doctors. I think that this is the Universe's way of laughing at that particular quirk of mine.

So I dawdled. I procrastinated. I indulged in wishful thinking. "Maybe if I ignore it, it'll just go away." Hah! Even I knew that hope was completely preposterous. 40% of the central vision in my right eye had simply stopped. This would fix itself on its own? Don't be ridiculous.

So I grieved. I mourned. "I'm going to go blind" I wailed to myself. I'm a visual artist, fer cryin' out loud. This is like Beethovan's deafness. What could be more horrible?

I spent my days driving around, staring out at the world. "But I can still see that - and that - and that ... " I would argue with myself. Looking at leaves, cars, the curb, license plates. I could still see. I could still see details. I could still see sharp edges at the borders of things. Even though sometimes it felt like I was seeing double, I could still see. So maybe it wasn't really that bad? I would think hopefully to myself. Oh yeah, sure, right! I would immediately scoff right back. Face the music, kiddo. You're going blind.

I was sure it was macular degeneration, because you lose central vision in that, too. I am over 50, after all. That's when it tends to hit, I read. There's no cure, but there is a treatment to slow down the vision loss. The treatment sounded so painful that I had to stop reading. And the illustration I found on the Internet looked nothing like what I've been experiencing. Central vison was replaced by a solid black hole. Mine isn't black - it's foggy gray - maybe that's not what I have -

So then naturally my hypochodriacal next thought was that I must have a brain tumor.

Even though I can't stand going to the doctor and will avoid it at all costs, I am a terrible hypochondriac. I think this stems from ten years of no health insurance and constant fears of being unable to afford health care. Each little ache and pain immediately turned into "Oh my God, it must be cancer, I'm gonna die." Those ten years were fortunately unmarked by any illness or injury at all, other than a bad cold or two, but the fear never really left me.

So here I am with this weird and annoying foggy gray spot where my central vision used to be, terrified of what it might turn out to be, terrified of losing my driver's license and with it my job, and so I don't go to the doctor. I don't go and I don't go and I don't go.

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