Red/Green Glasses

My first vision therapy activity is simple: my doctor told me to stare at the wall while wearing red/green (3-D) glasses. images I have been wondering for the past couple of weeks what I’m supposed to be seeing. Sometimes the line of color is down the middle and sometimes the colors cross or I see bands or segments of color. Sometimes one eye or the other takes over. Red/green glasses are the choice because they don’t really mix and it’s easier to tell which eye is being used. As I’m looking at the wall, I ask myself why I’m seeing the colors the way I do, in such variety. I also like to flip my glasses around to fool my brain a little. The colors are more vivid when I switch eyes.

I had my family members put them on and describe what they see and it wasn’t particularly helpful. They described a splotchy mixture of the colors or an odd blending. My view is constantly in flux and for now that’s my normal. I had a really good therapy session today and I am very encouraged. We are working on my peripheral vision to encourage my left eye out and avoid the double vision I was starting to get by doing vision exercises on my own. I think maybe what I have done so far on my own was somewhat helpful in moving me along the pathway to stereovision, but I wonder if a more direct path would have been more advantageous.

I’m likening my choice to learning to play the piano (since I’m a piano teacher). I have been that woman who tries to teach herself to play the piano because “it can’t be that hard to figure out, right?” Meanwhile all sorts of technical issues aren’t being addressed because there is no one observing and correcting the progress and teaching the best (or easiest) techniques. (There’s also the issue of providing the best equipment). As a piano teacher I evaluate where each student is and give the specific exercises or repertoire that student needs. That’s what my vision therapist does and I’m finally the student!

This week I get to do exercises in the mirror. I have known of this idea from my study, but resisted doing it because I don’t like to look at my crooked eye. Obviously it will benefit me to get over that one quickly! Immediate feedback on what my eyes are really doing is what I need so my brain can re-wire! I’m pressing forward.

All in the Family

I’d like to see some conclusive research on the incidence of strabismus in families. I’ve read that it’s not an inherited trait and conversely that it is inherited. It appears to be inherited in my family: 4 of my five siblings (all brothers) also have it! One of my brothers also has a son with strabismus. I’m thinking more members of my family are affected, but not diagnosed.

In an informal survey, I asked my brothers how they see and they said that like me, they use both eyes, switching quickly back and forth, with one eye dominant. We have both types of esotropia in our family. One brother has infantile esotropia and underwent three surgeries as a child to visually correct it. The rest of us have accommodative esotropia, which appears between the ages of 2 and 3. Being nearsighted, I was placed in bifocals the month before I turned 3 while my brother with infantile esptropia had 20/20 vision and received patching therapy after his surgery. Another was nearsighted and has amblyopia but didn’t like being patched and didn’t have any positive results from the little treatment he received.

As far as reading goes, basically we all got really good at accommodating our monovision. I think I’ve always had some fusion close up because reading has never been a struggle for me and I am a voracious reader. My brothers are not avid readers, but did fine in school. We all have college bachelor’s degrees and 4 of us also have graduate degrees. They are not experiencing the pronounced eye turn I am, so are apparently not worried about improving their visual function.

Strabismus also makes physical activities, especially sports a challenging endeavor. I have two brothers who excelled in basketball anyway. One brother even played college basketball on the junior college level and played for years in the county recreation league, often as the league high scorer for the year on the championship team. I often wonder how he was able to accommodate so well.

I recently discovered that my youngest daughter is also strabismic. She is currently in therapy along with me. Who would have thought we would be doing mother-daughter vision therapy? That gives new meaning to the idea that it really is all in the family!

Catching my vision

There’s nothing quite a daunting as an empty computer screen, especially after nearly twenty years. I consider myself a writer. I did a bit of writing in my undergraduate college years, including music reviews for the school newspaper, and concert program notes. I wrote a 100-page thesis for my graduate degree, and promptly stopped writing. I guess you could say life got in the way, but that’s really just an excuse. It’s time to be done with excuses.

I believe passion is the key, the driving force that gets us moving in the direction we are meant to go. My life’s various passions have brought me to this point in time when I am finally ready to share my latest journey. You see, I’m strabismic and I don’t see the world like most of you. My life is mostly two-dimensional. During most of my life I didn’t think much about it. The fact that I was somewhat clumsy and bad at sports just gave me more incentive to excel in academics and music. As a young child, when I went in for my yearly eye exam, I would guess on the vision tests. It was many years before I told them I could see the music staff with one eye and the notes with the other. Then they would skip the rest of the tests, knowing I couldn’t do them. Yet, according to the opthalmologist, my vision was fine–as long as I wear glasses. I had bifocals from age 3 until I was 15 and started wearing hard contacts.

It’s been a mid-life crisis for me that in the past few years my eye turn has become more pronounced, to the point that I notice it in the mirror. Adults usually don’t say anything; they’re too polite. ┬áBut I started substitute teaching two years ago, and children are quick to notice and ask questions. So part of their elementary education now includes a little explanation about how my eyes don’t work together, but I’m doing therapy to teach them how. (My therapy has been self help for the past seventeen months, but now I’m working with a professional vision therapist.)

Since roughly one in ten people share my vision challenge, the children usually remark that someone else they know has funny eyes. And often they will also tell me that it doesn’t matter because “you’re pretty anyway.” While that may be true, the important thing for me now is to move forward in healing my sight and provide support and information for others. I’ll be posting more specifics about my vision therapy and the study that has led me to this point. Telling my story as it’s occurring is scary, but if my journey helps just one person to gain the knowledge and drive needed to heal their sight, it will be worth the sharing.