Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2018: My "reset" year

10 days into the New Year...I have made some pretty loft resolutions.

As I reflect backwards on the year before, I also dream about the year ahead.

My "backwards" year sure was eventful... discovered I was pregnant, took two trips to Canada and one road trip to Idaho, dealt with a house flood, birthed a baby who was born unexpectedly early with hours and days spent in and out of the hospital (not knowing if he would live or die), potty trained, my oldest starting preschool, attended two professional ballets, turned 35 and adjusted to being a family of 5 while both my husband and I work full-time. (And these are just a "few" highlights of 2017).

It was probably the toughest year I have endured to-date. EVERY WEEK offered a new challenge which allowed us to press deeper into God and sacrifice so much of ourselves to serve others and take care of the "things" (material and relational) God has gifted us with.

In 2018, my resolutions are big... focusing first on God. Trying to live more radically for Him by getting rid of the excessive physical clutter to make room to mentally focus on relationships.  My desire is to be more intentional about serving those around (my husband and kids included) by a willingness to be "inconvenienced" to obey the calling/directing of the Holy Spirit. It is a big resolution that can only be fulfilled IN Him.

My other "big" resolution is to take just a little better care of myself. It might seem silly to you but I realized I sacrifice so much for my family that I forget to take care of my basic needs... so at the risk of TMI, here are my other 2018 goals: washing my face every night; brushing and flossing TWICE per day instead of just once; being more active (I have been walking laps around my backyard as the kids jump on the trampoline...not exactly how I pictured working out but at least it is exercise); drinking more water and less coffee; and shaving my legs more (silly, I know).

So, here is to a "reset" year. Striving more fiercely towards God and taking better care of myself to being more intentional. It feels good to write these things down, to remember where God has taken me and where He wants me to go.

What about you? What are your big (and small) resolutions in 2018?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Learning to See: Is seeing really a luxury?

"Why am I so nervous," I asked myself as I drove to the VT doctor. What I was going to experience was just a normal eye exam… But the results would have many more implications than just an annual visit to my regular eye doctor.

As I anxiously drove to my appointment, almost absentmindedly, I was surprised to see my van (driven by my husband) directly in front of me! I was coming from a grading session at Starbucks (the joys of long hours of grading that finals week gifts me with) and my husband was coming from home with our boys. Our youngest was getting his eye examined first before my appointment.



Meeting up in the parking lot was a blessing...getting to see the smiles on all three of my boys' faces (my husbands included) brought me much comfort and relief. We all made our way into the building, to the elevator and up to the second floor. I was grateful our oldest was still in "pretty" school so that we did not have to manage all three kids.

We were greeted by the same wonderful receptionist I met a few weeks ago. His warmth made us feel at ease as we settled into the waiting room right next to the train table. All four of us sitting on the floor, enjoying the crashes and bangs of the trains competing for space on the little wooden train tracks.  Before long we hauled all of things (and two kids) into the exam room.

I was asked to sit in the dreaded exam chair, holding our youngest for the brief eye exam. Within minutes my husband and I were told that our youngest would most likely need glasses and same with our oldest son. No surprise given my eye history and dominate genes. Soon after this exam, our oldest certainly needed food as it was nearing 11:30 (his lunchtime). My husband left with the boys to get food as well as to pick up our daughter from school.

After they left Then... the real "fun" began.

For many people, getting an eye exam is easy...something not thought about or dreaded over for weeks prior to an appointment. For me, it is torture. It requires concentration. It requires vulnerability. It requires confession that I cannot do or see the things the doctor is asking me to do or see. It requires so much focus that I can leave with tension headaches and tight shoulder muscles from strenuously focusing on the "smallest line you can see" or trying to get my eyes to see double vision (which I can with much concentration and focus and thought).


 So, it began. My current eye glass prescription was measured before beginning the exam, then the real test came. Throughout the exam, I often felt like I was failing.
"Do you see one or two lights?"
"I don't know," I said confused because my eyes (separately) were fighting among themselves for dominance while my mind was trying to convince them to simply do the job they were made to do. 

Early in the exam, tears started streaming. Seriously, who can't tell if there are one or two lights? Sometimes I see two. Sometimes I see one. Sometimes I see two but for a 1/2 second which causes even more confusion. In that moment, my eyes were constantly shifting and fighting against each other. How stressful.

We moved on from that portion of the exam to the torture brought on by the phoropter. My prescription was dialed in and the exam commenced. It started as you would expect a normal exam to begin. "What is the smallest line you can make out." "Can you please read me the letters." "Which one is the most clear, one or two (the turning of various lens strengths through the phoropter)."

I took several deep breaths knowing that "I can do this part." BUT... soon the exam was directed towards seeing things I struggle to see.... "Can you make your eyes see two?" "Are the images on top of each other or side by side?" "Can you make them horizontally align?" "Can you make them align if I do this (switching around the settings on the machine)." I was beginning to get frustrated. The seemingly easy tasks took so much focus that I felt my eye becoming exhausted as if I just had a personal training session at the gym...the first one in 10 years! Imagine that...just from a "simple" eye exam.

As I got through the far away "stuff," the doctor pulled down the chart that dangles just a foot or two (I'm not exactly sure how far away it is) in front of the phoropter. This is the work that is the most difficult. The thick chart had a triangle cut out in the middle. The triangle housed another chart with rows of small letters. At the base (or the tip) of the triangle, a few inches away, was a white plastic screw made for a flathead screwdriver. This screw was much easier for me to focus on than the letters so this is were my eyes first drifted, as my eyes resisted the letters (until I was called upon to focus on them....not by choice). :)

The same exercise as before was requested..."Can you make your eyes see two?" "Are the images on top of each other or side by side?" "Can you make them horizontally align?" "Can you make them align if I do this (switching around the settings on the machine)." This was the most difficult part of the exam for me. Not only were my eyes tired from the other portions of the exam, seeing the chart up close has always caused a lot of visual stress. It seemed like "ages" until this part was done and I was relieved when the doctor pulled the big eye seeing machine away from my face and said we were all done.

He turned from me, typing heavily on his keyboard near the dreaded exam chair. I tried to peak over to see what he was typing but it was all gibberish to me. A short minute later, he swiveled his chair towards me, clasped his hands together, I'm sure trying to formulate the words he was about to give me. I tried hard to focus on every word he was saying. I cannot remember the exact order of the things he said, but here is what I do remember him saying:

"I have been doing this for 50 years. Out of those 50 years, your eyes are the most screwed up I have seen."
"It is not your eyes that are screwed up. It is your brain."
"You have to be prepared that if you go about this, this will be a journey with a CAPITAL J. It is not something to be taken lightly."
"I could see you doing this [VT] for 12-months, easy, maybe even more. Two sessions a week for the first 2-3 months followed by weekly sessions after that."
"There is a possibility of another surgery to correct your vision." 
"We will have to get you seeing double vision on a regular basis first, before we can start working on anything else."
"Your case will be like opening Pandora's box. We just have no idea how you will respond to vision therapy."
"If you would have come 3-4 years earlier I could not have helped you but technology has made it possible!"

The real kicker, after hearing (and trying to process all of this) was the cost:

"It will be about $14,800 for your therapy. Insurance 'may' cover some of it. We always bill insurance. And if for some reason we decided that the therapy is just not working for you, we can refund a portion of that money."

Okay...wow. Talk about having your life flipped upside down within a matter of minutes. I believe that he was speaking in the kindest heart possible and the news was delivered in a friendly and personable manner. I never felt like I was being made fun of. I left the office with mixed emotions...on one side eager to get started and on the other baffled at the seemingly horror that my eyes really are "that bad".... the worst he has ever seen in 50 years. I should have left the office wearing some kind of badge of honor, right..."the worst eye ever over here?" Instead I left the office feeling conflicted and frustrated at the diagnosis. He did prescribe a new power for my glass, which I took directly my my regular eye doctor. I am hoping this will allow me to see better than my current prescription which is still slightly blurry out of my right eye.

I felt overwhelmed (I still do). I don't know what to think about all of this.

Today I received a call from the financial/billing office to discuss scheduling my first VT appointment. Reflecting on the "cost" (or rather sacrifice) that VT would entail, my husband and I are just not exactly sure if the time is right. To be honest, we are both a little hesitant about this. It would not only take a weekly (or twice a week) commitment, it would require time at home to do these exercises. And this does not account for the physical "side-effects" VT may cause as my eyes begin to change.

So, during my chat today with the billing office, apparently the $14,800 cost needs to be paid upfront...UPFRONT. Are you FLIPPIN' KIDDING ME? Yes, let me just reach into my money bag and write you a check. A "perk" of paying with a check...or get this...CASH...upfront is a "5%" discount. HA! Funny. I was given the option of putting the full amount on my CREDIT CARD...okay, I don't know about you but I am not about to MAX OUT my credit card and leave no option in case an emergency happens in my family. That option is out. The third option is like a medical credit card which has no interest for 12-24months (depending on what you are approved for) and monthly payments...roughly $1300/month.

We just do not have that much "wiggle room" in our budget to afford such an expense. Ha. Ha. Ha. It is kinda a joke, right? $14,800 up front and insurance "may" cover some of it. I guess I need to make a call to them?

So here I wrestle.

My vision is what it is. It is what God allowed me to have from infancy. Up to this point in my life, I have done fine. I can do most things I want to do. I am not putting anyone in danger, really, by seeing the way I see. I know my strengths and my weaknesses. I have learned to adapt. Cosmetically, I know it can be hard to look me in the eyes (especially when I am tired) because of my wandering eye.

The other part of me is curious, like a scientist on the verge of conducting a monumental experiment...wondering, if I don't try then I will never know.

Regardless of my curiosity, I think the actual dollar cost has won out and has made the decision for us. If I am not in danger, if I am not endangering anyone else, then this is simply a luxury. A luxury that we cannot afford. So my journey, it seems, has ended almost as abruptly as it began. I am still the same me, yet with a deeper understanding about a part of me that has remained hidden from the public for many years.

So, thank you for joining me in this journey of exploration. Maybe one day, I can continue this portion of my blog, "Learning to See." Until then, I will "SEE" you around...not sure whether it will be with the left eye or the right one, but I will see you.

~B~

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Learning to See: My alted view

Around a table with some friends, I vulnerably confessed that I see only in 2-dimensional view. This, of course, brought up a lot of questions (which I was more than happy to answer). Seeing that I was struggling to communicate a few aspects of my vision, my darling husband chimed in.

"Think about a photograph or picture," he said to our friends, "This 'flat' view is what she sees."

Even though I read that description in my recent read, "Fixing My Gaze," it really did not dawn on me that I see things in a 'flat' way. I pondered this for a few days and brought the topic back into conversation around the dinner table with just me, my husband and kids.

After inquiring more about my husband's thoughts, he asked me to look at the pictures on our childrens' placemats. "What do you see?" he asked.

I began to describe to him what I saw, how I knew my son's head was round or that the fence was in the background. I mentioned the shadows on the faces and the obstructions of various items that told me where things were placed.

To my surprise, for the first time, I truly understood how I see this world as flat. My husband began to describe what he saw in the pictures compared to what he saw around him. I was shocked.

Could I really be missing out on this amazing thing called 3-D (or binocular) vision?

The conversation made me realize just how unique God has made me and how He has allowed me to see in such a spectacularly different way. It made me realize that there is something I can gain from this experience called vision therapy. It made me more curious than ever.

So...tomorrow I go in for my initial in-take exam and get "THE NEWS." I thought I would be more nervous than I am. I think talking about it, confessing it, reading that wonderful book about it has made me curious and slightly excited to start this journey. I have no idea what will come of it but I won't know if I don't try! I look forward to posting shortly after my exam tomorrow (well...maybe after all my students' finals are graded). :)

Thanks for joining me!
~B~

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Learning to See: Seeing Hope

My "disability" (if you want to call it that) does not define me. It is not my identity. Maybe that is why I have never really talked about it before or taken the time to really process through what it means in terms of my daily life. It is interesting when you "put yourself out there." The one thing that was once unique and private is now very much public.

It is good. It allows me to OWN IT! This is just one aspect of me ... I have a vision problem.

In the light of eternity, however, those typed words (I have a vision problem) really mean so very little.

FEARS DISPELLED
The fear I posted about in a previous blog are real fears but in my fear (as I typed those words, emotions, and feelings) I lost sight of God. I was focused on ME, on MY problem, and on my inability to "fix" the eyes that God has given me.  (I am SO thankful that I can see!)

Scripture COMMANDS us not to worry. As written in Jesus' words:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life...27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?....33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-34)

Scripture also says that, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalm 139:14). It is about who God is and how HE made me---eye problem and all. This one aspect of my life does not define me rather it is Christ in me, the hope of glory that should define me (Colossians 1:27).

As Jesus was comforting his disciples he said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me." (John 14:1)

So, I have been ever so gently reminded that God is the ONLY one who can truly restore this area of my life (physically and emotionally). Yes, I have to do my part. Yes, He can use the doctors and therapist to help in this process. But in that, I have to be cautions not to have an unhealthy preoccupation regarding the degree to which "I" can fix my eyes (or how the therapist or doctor can fix my eyes). Instead, I need to see this as an opportunity to: 1) surrender. I need to surrender my fears, anxieties and the thoughts that I can solve this problem separate from Christ; 2) trust. I need to learn from and lean on Jesus. No matter the outcome, God is still good! Despite all the effort I could possibly muster, if God wants (or needs) my vision to stay as is, I need to trust and accept that...even before I truly begin this process; and 3) proclaim who Jesus is in my life and what He has done throughout the process (in my VT session especially), thanking Him for yet another opportunity to know Him in a unique way and proclaim Him to a perhaps unreached group of people....it is my new mission field.

PREOCCUPATION
I think preoccupation is another reason why I have not talked about my vision so publicly...because I did not want it to become a preoccupation for me or for others. Once you put something out there into the world through vulnerability, other people can begin to only see you and label you as your "problem" or "disability," forgetting the MANY other aspects of the person who was brave enough to share an area of struggle. 

Personally, I enjoy talking with others about my new found understanding of my vision. It is exciting, scary and invokes a sense of adventure (and unknown). Because of this ability to share, others have come to me and have shared "hidden" areas of struggle. In that, we can mutually encourage each other. It also reminds me that I am not the only person in my circle of contacts who is struggling with something. It brings unity.

However, the danger is still there of preoccupation. Do people see me? Do they see my vision problem? Or can they see beyond that to Christ, the Creator of everything?

I honestly don't know if there is a way NOT to become preoccupied, even in the slightest, with my journey of vision therapy. If I decide to comitt to vision therapy, there will be a slight preoccupation (in addition to a whole lot of sacrifice)...one-45 minute session per week on top of 20+ minutes per day of exercises and activities for 6-12 months. Not a commitment to take lightly.

HOPE LIBERATES US
Fear and preoccupation set aside....Hope!

Hope in the person on Jesus, liberates us. It allows us to confidently move into the direction He is calling us whether it is comfortable or not. In this, it doesn't matter if I succeed or fail at this vision therapy thing...what matters is sharing Christ's transforming work as I move through therapy. That is it. It is that simple.

Everything we do or say...everywhere we move, it is (or should be) our mission to testify to the goodness of God. Because of my limitation, I have been able to experience God's world in a unique way...and I am double blessed *if* vision therapy works because then I will have ANOTHER unique way to see the world God has created...what a gift, right?

My prayer is that this experience will bring me closer to God. I pray that I will see Him move in unexpected way, answering prayers about my vision in unexpected ways. I pray through my testimony of His faithfulness, as I journey through, others will grow in their relationship with Jesus (or perhaps even start one!). I pray that I will be able to commit and persevere (two things that are challenging for me) and in that, set a Christ-like example for my child.

I am about 1-week away from my vision "in-take" exam. In some ways I wish it was here so I can hear the news about the "plan" and in others, I dread the day...wondering if the next 6-12 months of my life will be "preoccupied" with this monumental task... we will all just have to wait and see.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Learning to See: No pity, please

As I lay in bed, after posting my whole-raw-self today on my blog, I became curious as to how those reading these posts may react.

I am still the same person I was prior to posting this "new" news. I am not asking for accommodations. I have never and will never ask for special treatment. Up to this point in my life, I have been (and will continue to be) a full-level contributing member of my family, church and community. I have figured out since infancy how to interact with this world around me despite my "disability."

I am an overcomer. When I need help, I have learned to ask. When I need accommodations, I either find/make a way and if that doesn't work, I ask.

By no means do I want to be treated differently or with "kid-gloves" because of my recent vulnerability to my blog post readers. Again, I am the same person!

We all have our struggles and we all overcome our struggles in different ways. Like me, some keep "secrets" quiet for a while revealing it over time (blogging as a way to process); and others never share. Either way, it is okay. The point is: we all struggle with something. Maybe for you it is a speech impediment your conquered in grade-school yet are still slightly self-conscious about or maybe you struggle with overeating or an inability to do math....what ever your struggle, I pray no one judges you for being open and honest as you share and work at overcoming too.

So, join me. Simply join me in my journey of discovery. Find relatable topics that might apply to your life or to someone you know. Feel free to post encouragements, share these blog posts, ask direct questions to me of things you don't understand or things you might want to hear more about. As you can see, I am more than open to share. :) But please, do not judge (if you do, do so only to yourself...it takes boldness and bravery to be vulnerable).

I appreciate the positive feedback I have received so far. All of these emotions and feelings are so raw. I am glad to have a place to journal them, creating a document to pass along to my children and also a journal that just might encourage others to be bold and brave too.

Good night.

Learning to See: VT- My Fears

How can you explain to someone who has lost a leg that they will be able to walk again? That it is actually possible to walk, run, jump. Perhaps go to places they previously were not able to go to due to a missing limb. How do you explain that performing daily activities could be easier, less complex, even less daunting then they are currently.

It might seem impossible. The accommodations and adaptations have become second nature to this person. Navigating through the world has become bearable. Pathways formed and an understanding, even a full acceptance, of these limitation are now just the norm of life. In some ways it seems more difficult to explore the vast options and possibilities that an artificial limb could bring.

This is the best way I can describe what I am sensing right now.

Is there really a different, perhaps better, way to view the life I engage with daily? What does it mean to see 3D and how is that different from how I see now? Is it possible for my eyes to really work together? Could there really be a day when I don't have to "pull-in" my right eye because someone doesn't know if I am look at them? Could it be a reality that I could ACTUALLY catch a ball? Or even see a fast moving baseball once the batter has hit it (with my current vision my eyes can't keep up with the ball so all I see is the initial contact and then players scrambling to catch what I presume is the baseball [or football])? Will there be a day when I can go see any movie, any time, regardless if it is 3D or not? Will I be able to unlearn the emotional stress my eyes have brought me as I drive to new locations or in the rain?

There are so many unknowns as I begin this journey. Is it really worth it? Will things really change?

I guess I will never know unless I try.

This is not a journey to be taken lightly. It will require a one-45 minute session every week for 6-12 months. It entails daily homework/visual exercises. It requires a financial sacrifice since my insurance does not cover this type of medical therapy. And in the midst of dealing with the medical problems with our youngest, is this the best time? Will I be able to fully commit? Will the outcome be worth it?

More than anything, it is humbling to admit that I cannot do something. It is humbling to learn to see in the same stages that my 7-month old is learning to see as his eyes develop in infancy.

It is scary to think about living in a world that is visually different than what I have known all my life. In my previous VT experience, my life was disrupted. It was just me, living alone in all of my singleness. I could "afford" to look stupid doing my daily exercises. I wasn't endangering anyone if I fumbled down the hallway, running into doors, or stumbling out of bed because I misjudged where the floor was. Now the stakes are higher. Can I afford these same type of "mishaps" with an infant or toddler on my hip? Am I emotionally strong enough to face the ridicule of my toddlers as I wear an eye patch around the house? Once my eyes begin to work together, what if my new 3D vision "clicks in" while I am driving my kids around and I become disoriented?

These fears are real.

After reading several accounts of adults who had monocular vision and completed vision therapy, they describe anywhere from 6 months to a year of re-learning how to live in their worlds after VT was complete. How I would love to talk with them and ask them if it was worth it. Some experienced my fear of having their 3D vision "click-in" at inopportune times. Others commented on taking leave from work or reducing their workload, even laying with eyes shut for most of the day, so that their eyes and minds could make sense of their new worlds or simply recover from the new stresses of using both eyes.

Up to this point in my life, I feel like I have been the medical exception to everything. Taking a new medication? Of course I will have EVERY side affect no matter how small. Going in for a medical procedure and there is a 1% chance of a complication happening...yup, that is me. I will experience it. This is yet another reason why I am so fearful of starting this journey. No one can predict how my brain and eyes will react (and at what rate) to this new therapy. Maybe I am making a bigger deal out of it than it needs to be. Maybe I am obsessing over it too much. I just don't know. It is exciting, scary and unknown all at the same time. I am curious, intrigued yet afraid.

So, the next step? I have an official exam in early December. At that point the doctor will have a better idea about the condition of my eyes and how drastic my monocular vision really is. We will hopefully discuss a treatment plan. Then the decision...should I begin VT and embrace all it might bring...the good, the bad, and the seeing.

Now, I wait. I pray. I seek God for direction. I give thanks to God and his use of Dr. Ford who performed my initial surgery to help me see when I was a toddler. I wonder. I ponder.

Just like you, I have no idea what the ending will be. If you are following me in this, I invite you to pray too. This is a big, scary leap I am about to voluntarily take. I hope I don't fall, fail or force myself into something just for the sake of trying it again. Yet if I don't try will I always wonder?

...Stay tuned. Next blog post after my exam in early December.

Learning to See: VT- My 1st appointment

So, there I sat. Waiting for the daunting consultation with the optometic physician to discuss my well kept secret about my eyes and the notion of once again trying vision therapy (VT). It is not a topic I discuss often. I presume most of my friends, even the closest to me, don't know much about my wandering eye or my avoidance of driving, avoidance of engaging in certain activities or why after an all-nighter with one of my kids my eye seems to just "check-out."  I often wonder what my online students think when I post an online lecture or announcement. No matter how many times I record and re-record, my right eye always seems to bounce back and forth or it stays in right-field, so to speak.

I pondered all of these things as Dr. Kadet approached me with his warm smile and friendly face. My heart leapt out of my chest as I stood up and walked back to his office. Almost immediately I started to cry. Dealing with my eyes since I was an infant has always been an emotional thing...especially filtering the horrific comments of my school-aged friends growing up or addressing the stares and looks as I tried my hardest to physically appear to give someone eye contact (even though I was despite appearances).

I sat myself on the edge of the seat against a bank of windows in Dr. Kadet's office. I was near the horrifying phorother machine, which just by sight brought so many hard emotions. The doctor closed the glass door as I took a deep breath and held tight onto the water bottle given to me by the receptionist. The doctor sat across from me and asked me to tell him about my eyes. Just at the words, tears started to stream down my face. As he passed me a box of tissues, I briefly mentioned my preemie son and the stress that the last 7+ months had entailed. I mentioned the recent trip to the eye doctor as she reported my newest prescription was "as good as it can get."  I mentioned my fear of going blind in my right eye because it has become less engaged and can hardly focus nowadays and when it does it tires easily. I told him my fear of being only 35 and the unbearable thought that I could lose my vision if I did not do something now...the fear of missing out of seeing my kids grow up, the fear of not seeing my grandkids one day, the fear of living in total darkness if blindness was my fate.

He became very interested in my preemie son and began asking questions. I guess preemies are at a higher risk for vision difficulties and given my history, he offered a free screening at his office through the Infant See program. Discussing this initially helped redirect my anxiety and surprisingly calmed my nerves. It was wonderful to have the attention taken off of me as I discussed my son. I agreed to bring my son in before we again addressed the initial reason why I came, my vision.

I gave a brief history and background. He asked me if there are things I want to do in my life that I am unable to do now. I paused. Hot tears streamed down my face. I told him about my two sons and my daughter...how I want to be able to play catch with them or basketball, even soccer. Perhaps even ride a bike. I mentioned the instant stress the occurs when someone tries to toss me keys or any other object. I mentioned the recent increase in stress driving at night, in the rain and on the freeway...all of which requires so much strength, energy and focus I can often end up in neck spasms and tension headaches. I wear my "ugly mad face" most days resulting in my husband asking me if I am mad...no, I tell him, I am just trying to concentrate.

Over the years I have found ways to adapt, avoid or just plan make fun of myself as a way of dealing with my monocular vision. Without consciously realizing it, I have given up on or avoided many things simply out of fear.

I told the doctor that I feel ashamed about how I see and how I avoid certain situations; how I feel dumb or stupid because I cannot perform certain tasks (even as simple as looking at someone in the eyes). No one understands, I told him, I feel alone in this. He graciously listened with great compassion and empathy. He then proceeded to tell me story upon story of other adults with monocular vision, their experiences, stresses, and successes from VT.  For the first time, I did not feel alone in my lifelong struggle of dealing with my eyes. I was not weird! Someone else gets it! Understands it! Can put words to what I have been feeling all of these years! I think he could visually see this revelation. As he did, he stepped out quickly and handed me a book, "Fixing my Gaze." Within a few days of my appointment, I had the whole book read. I could not put it down! This writer, who also dealt with monocular vision from infancy to middle-age, experienced almost to a "T" all of this things I am still experiencing! Upon completing the book, I felt empowered yet afraid to start the journey of VT.

As the appointment continued, the doctor began to ask about the many ways I make accommodations in my life as I navigate my world. I had mentioned how I follow my husband through a restaurant holding his hand (instead of letting him be a gentleman by letting me go first). I discussed my fear of opening unknown doors, knobs or gates. Without spatial reference, I often miss new knobs or perhaps it takes me a few extra seconds to examine the handle and the hinges before being able to open the door. Inserting keys into locks is another daily task I struggle with...not with the car so much but on the mailbox, front door or shed. These seemingly simple tasks take extra focus and concentration. When opening up a locked door in front of people, most people don't even notice the extra few seconds. If they do, I have learned to distract with conversation, pausing, while trying to force the key into the proper position. This creates an instant "hot" feeling flushed throughout my body...maybe I will be "found out" or maybe they will notice and make fun of me....silly, I know. These are just a few examples of how my monocular vision effects my movement in life. More examples are posted in my previous blog post, "Learning to See: The Back Story."

The doctor validated everything I have experienced from birth to present. Quickly, I felt free to share the "stupid" things I do to manage my world daily. He laughed at the appropriate times. Showed concern at others and kept reassuring me that it is not my eyes that are messed up...it is my brain. For some reason this made me laugh. After our 30-minute consultation, I stood up to walk towards the door. I went to shake his hand in gratitude. Instead he reached over and hugged me saying, "we hug in this office." It was the best hug. In that hug, I felt empathy, compassion and a friendship that was forming. It felt safe. It felt authentic. It felt like we were in this together.

For the first time, I left an eye doctor's office feeling hopeful. His love and passion for his field of study is evident. He, along with the book he gave me, is one reason these words are typed in this blog. He encouraged me to write a "book" about my journey, to document where I have come from and what I am going through as I begin VT. He made me feel that all the accommodations or "tricks" I have learned over the years are amazing...that I am somehow amazing for overcoming monocular vision and being successful despite this disorder or birth defect.

Although I am fearful as I move ahead, I am also curious. What does it really mean to see in 3D? What does it feel like to drive without fear or what does it feel like to confidently open a new gate or door without even thinking about it?

...stay tuned. More to come.