How I See Things

How I See Things
Cartoon-like drawing in shades of dark to medium purple. Eyes with beautiful eyelashes, looking through a pair of glasses.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Flickering Eyesight

So, I have known for a long time that my eyes don’t work together. It has taken me almost 50 years to be able to describe what I see to people. For most of my life, I just dealt with it and didn’t really think much about it. I actually thought that I looked through my left eye only, for most of the time, and that my right eye was just along for the ride — it being on my face and all and generally pointed in the right direction.

I know some people, we can look at them and know they don’t “see normally.” Maybe their eyes aren’t both aimed the same way. Maybe they are wearing an eye patch. Maybe they have said to you, “I am legally blind.” For whatever reason, you know they don’t see normally. They either told you, or you can tell.

I haven’t really ever known or acknowledged that I had an eye problem.

I went to Dr. Magic Optometrist, and he diagnosed me for probably an hour. He performed test after test on my eyes, determining which problems I have. At one point, I was so exhausted, physically, that I just started crying. Yes, I started crying at the eye doctor. It was hard work, trying to describe what I was seeing, to an eye doctor who has seen everything.

He was patient and kind and handed me the tissue box. He explained that patients of his often have to use the tissue box. 

During my appointment with him, describing what I see, I realized that I don’t just look out of my left eye. I actually alternate - very quickly - out of each eye. One at a time. Flick. Flick. Flick.Flick. Flick. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Back and forth. 

I described this a bit to a friend of mine, who came up with this analogy. This analogy describes what I see better than I was able to. I am grateful for my friend who understands what I say so easily. 

Picture a stage with actors and props and it looks like the TV set of the TV show, “Friends.” Or some other sitcom that is familiar to you. 

There are two cameras. One is slight to the left of the center, and one is about 3 inches to the right, and maybe raised up about 2 inches. It’s got a different angle on everything, and it’s not perfectly centered. 

Ok, so the director of the show starts filming. But instead of using 1 camera, they actually do about 5 frames from one camera, and then they take about 5 frames from the other camera. Oh, and one camera’s view is slightly more blurry than the other one. 

In this way, the show is filmed. 5 frames from one camera, 5 frames from the other. It’s a “moving picture,” because the actors are moving around, talking, laughing. The furniture is physically standing still, but since it’s being filmed from 2 different angles that are alternating, it seems to flicker from one spot to the right to the other spot on the left, and back again, very rapidly. 

Now, picture that the director, to further confuse the audience, mutes about every 5th word that is said. So you, the viewer, are constantly trying to figure out the punch line, or the set up, because you can only hear every 4 out 5 of words. You’re missing a LOT of content. For one thing, you can’t look at one actor when they are talking. You’re having to alter who you are looking at, based on which camera is looking at the action. It might be the side view of one of the actor’s heads at one minute, and the next moment, it’s the front of their head and the vase right in front of them, that you can’t move, even though it’s blocking part of their face. Back and forth, rapid fire filming. 

This is what I see like. My eyes flicker back and forth CONSTANTLY. I get tired from all this conflicting input. So when I am partially tired and feel at ease (like when I am home, alone, or reading a book (and no one is staring at my face)), I will shut one eye. Usually my left eye if I am looking at something up close. Actually, as I typed this paragraph, I closed my left eye. I got tired of tilting my head to see what I was typing. This font on this computer is tiny tiny! Who made it so tiny? I will need to change this.

If I am talking with a person, I was trained as a young child to look at someone’s face when they are talking. It’s exhausting for me to do this, though. But I still do it, because “it’s rude not to.” I know people who are on the autism spectrum have trouble looking at people. I imagine that they also have so much input from so many places that they cannot filter out, so they want to look away, so they can process what they are listening to, without being distracted from what they are seeing. The same with me. I happen to also see double, at all times. Because my eyes aren’t giving me 3D input; they are actually showing me 2 different versions of the same thing, at the same time. So, looking at someone’s face, for me, is a LOT of input. It’s tiring. It’s also confusing. It’s so hard to concentrate on what someone is saying, when their face is right there, moving. It’s a constant struggle. I do my best. No wonder being with people and in crowds wears me out, but I am loathe to say, “I am an introvert.” 

Remember how I said the TV director is muting every 5th word? This is called, “suppression.” Suppression is actually written on my eye diagnosis. I suppress a LOT of information. Because I have double the input (is it really only double? It feels like 5x the input) from my eyes, I have to filter out a lot. My brain can only process so much at any given time, and then it has to suppress information, so it can sort out what it’s getting input from. 

When I am in a loud room, and someone is talking to me, I can see their face. I try to lip read. Sometimes I can do it. I would like to think I am pretty good at lip reading. But sometimes I just can’t do it. Like if it’s a noisy restaurant or a noisy environment. I simply can’t make out all the words. I can’t suppress the background information at all in an environment. My brain is already suppressing as much as it can of the visual input, and trying to sort out what I am seeing “how far is the table, where is my drink, what food is that, what smell is that, it smells really good, what color is she wearing, I like that sweater, what is the mural on the back wall depicting, what do I want to eat on this menu…..” All while getting double the visual input. 

Then, if someone is talking with me AND there is background noise, I can’t further suppress the background noise. And what happens is that I can’t hear what they are saying. I hear maybe every 5th word. And the words won’t make sense as a sentence. “Store, apple, brown, sister, 100.” I try very hard to figure out “what on earth are they talking to me about?” And I just can’t figure it out. It’s too much work. I don’t want to appear rude, so I nod and smile just like I was taught. And every now and then I may catch a little glimpse of what they are talking about, but I am honestly missing so much more than anyone knows. My brain can only suppress so much. And - it turns out - I miss audible sound because of my vision issues. 

I have had my ears checked numerous times. But you see, they check ears in a quiet environment with someone saying 1 word at a time. I can hear all the disparate words. One at a time, it’s easy. I never needed a baby monitor. My dad and I always listened to the radio on the lowest volume possible. No use turning up the volume and hurting our ears. We can hear quiet things from far away that no one else can hear. My hearing isn’t the issue. 

My eyes cause my ears not to be able to hear, because there is just too much input and I can’t take it all in. Suppression. My brain is choosing, as best it can, to sort out what is important from what is not, and can only do so much. 

I wonder what things will be like after I go to the weekly visual therapy. I guess I will (literally) see!

Friday, August 23, 2019

What does it mean to see in 2 Dimensions?

So, I tell people I have never been able to see in 3D. They can’t fathom it. As foreign a concept it is for me to see in 3D, it is just as foreign to them to only see in 2dimensions. Having said that, televisions and movie theaters show what it’s like to see in 2dimensions. That’s how I see. Everything is flat, I guess. 

[This is a beautiful photo I took of Black-eyed Susans and some Zinnias in a garden in Pennsylvania.]

The only way I measure how far something is, is by seeing how much floor there is between me and the thing I am looking at. I constantly look at the floor. I just know it’s there. 

I remember being a teenager in high school and every morning, I would get up and walk straight in to my dresser. Ka-BLAM! Then I would walk in to the doorway of my room. Then, I would walk in to the wall outside my bedroom door. Every. Morning. 

One day, I was so tired of this, that I decided to slow down and LOOK better. I never walked in to those objects again. I did, however, just 3 days ago, walk into a table. Twice. My poor pinky toes were yelping in severe pain for the rest of the day. I felt like they were crying “wee wee wee” all the way home and saying, “What did you do THAT for?” I mean - TWICE. Then, the next day, I walked into my living room coffee table with my other foot. Ouch. 

I told a Quaker Friend of mine about this recently, and she told me one time she went to the eye doctor and he said, “you must have bruises on the right side of your body from walking into things.” She stared at him and said, “how do you know?” She was fully clothed, but had bruises right then on her right leg. I could completely empathize with her. The constancy of walking in to objects. If I am not being extra careful, I walk into things. It hurts. 

But, in the words of Mark Twain: “I digress.” Back to the 2Dimensional conversation. 

I was out to lunch with an acquaintance today. She asked me, “what do you mean you can only see in 2 dimensions?” I have given this thought these last few days, knowing that tomorrow I will get my brand new pair of glasses that will enable me to see 3D. I told her, “just close one eye and look around.”

She did it. She stopped after like 7 seconds and said she really didn’t get it. I told her to put a patch over one of her eyes and just walk around like that for an entire day. I told her, "see how many things you bump in to."

Having 2 eyes with slightly different angles is what enables people to see in 3dimensions. My eyes don’t work together - they alternate back and forth, back and forth. I can’t compile the 3D viewpoint. 

Tomorrow, I will get a new pair of glasses with a thing in them called “PRIZM.” I told my acquaintance this. She said her husband has this kind of thing on his glasses too! But it’s because he had a stroke about 3 years ago. Because of his stroke, he lost his ability to see in 3D. I probably lost my ability to see in 3D due to the multiple head traumas I had when I was an infant. I’ll talk about that in another blog post, I am sure. 

How is that I am 47 years old and have been to more eye doctors / optometrists than I can count, and have constantly told them, “my eyes don’t work together,” and NONE of them have told me about this thing you can add on to your glasses prescription called “PRIZM.” ?

Well, tomorrow I get to try it on. My world is seriously about to change. I hope my brain will be ok with this. I have no idea if they will tell me I need to just wear the glasses for like 10 minutes the first day, 15 the next, 30 the next, and so on. Or if they will just say, “there you go! Have fun with those!” 

I also know that part of the prescription with these new glasses is that I will get vision therapy too. Wow. So crazy. 

Tomorrow, at some point, I will put these new glasses on and look at myself in the mirror, and I will see my own face for the first time, in 3Dimensions. Wow. And when I get home, I will see my sons’ faces for the first time in 3Dimensions. My boys are teenagers, and I have never seen their faces in 3Dimensions. 

Tomorrow is going to be a big day for me. I hope the glasses are the right prescription for me. I can’t say that I have EVER felt like glasses ever fully corrected what I needed. It will be super wonderful to finally have a pair of glasses that actually correct my vision completely. Wow. What a concept. I hope they do what I am hoping they do.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Who Am I?

Hi! My name is Jodi. I have had vision problems for as long as I can remember. I am positive I had multiple head traumas as a baby. And I know I had 3 severe concussions since 2004 - none of which I got checked out medically. I was in a religion that proudly says, “we don’t go to doctors.” I don’t really want to go into that journey here on this blog. I have written plenty of it elsewhere and I’m tired of talking about that journey. The good part is that I am out of that belief system now and moving on with my life. 

Part of being done with that belief system is that now I am getting the medical attention I have needed my whole life. Catching up with medical checkups after over 40 years of neglect is a lot of work. 

I had heart problems my whole life and never knew it. I had heart surgery earlier this year (in March), and I am getting new glasses that will literally change the way I see the world - in a radical way - this month - in September. 

The laundry list of what’s wrong with my eyes is extensive, in my opinion. I don’t see out of both eyes at the same time. My eyes alternate, back and forth. Because of this, I am constantly getting in to much data and my brain can’t keep up. So, my brain suppresses huge chunks of data and tries to process what it allows through. I literally do NOT see what other people see. I see the world differently. 

I often hear people talking about things, and they clearly understand what they are saying to each other, and I can’t figure out what they are saying. Here is a small example - I used to be made fun of because I couldn’t follow a recipe. Well, try following text on a recipe card when everything moves around and the numbers keep changing, and your eyes can’t figure out what line they are trying to read. I taught myself to cook just by experimenting and throwing things together. I smell spices and things and sort of decide if it’s going to harmonize or not. It’s so much easier for me to do it that way than to try to follow a dang recipe that I am likely to mess up completely. 

So, there have been so many situations in my life where it feels like to me that so many people hold a certain point of view about something they think is obvious. But I walk up to the group and can’t fathom why on earth they think that particular way. I literally don’t see things the way that do. 

I think my dad felt that the best inventors thought differently. You have to think differently in order to change the world. I think my dad wanted to give me the best opportunity to be the best kind of inventor. Thomas Edison certainly wasn’t happy with the status quo - he wanted to light up the city! He didn’t accept things the way they had always been. So he did something radical and invented the light bulb. Here’s a fun thing I like to think about - did you know that in addition to bi-focals, Ben Franklin also invented the bubble machine? Did you know Thomas Jefferson invented that grabber thing, like, you can grab a book off a high shelf above your head? I use my grabber thing to pick up my puppy’s toys off the floor so I don’t have to squat down or bend over.

My dad actually worked hard with me when I was a little kid, too, to make sure I continued not to see the world the same way the rest of the world sees it. (Thanks, Dad.) He taught me to read upside down, backwards and in cursive, before he taught me to read standard print - going forward.

I wrote my name backwards in cursive in all my books. How is that for How I See Things? 

When he married my step-mom, my dad and I would write each other little notes. She could have easily held these little notes up to a mirror. But she told us we could no longer do it. She hated the idea that we might have a secret code she couldn’t read. My dad and I stopped. I’ve grown rusty, but I can still do it. 

One time, I was teaching a classroom of kids about Leonardo DaVinci. DaVinci wrote backwards a lot. He certainly was someone who didn’t think like the rest of the world. I told the kids I could write anything backwards. I wrote a few words on the chalk board, and then one of the kids asked me to write “Supercalifragilisticexpeallidocius” on the board - backwards. I ran out of room and had to start writing on the next line. It took me about 5 minutes. But I did it. That was fun. 

So, I guess what I am saying is that while my eyes have seen differently from everyone else for the vast majority of my life (I’m closing in on 50 now), I also see ideas differently. I am a creative thinker who isn’t afraid to come up with goofy ideas. And, I want this blog to chronicle the way I see the world with my eyes, but also how I see the world with my unique perspective with my brain. 

Oh, also I love color and music. All kinds of music and all the colors. My favorite color, I figured this out when I was 46, I think - is blue. I love blue stripes in particular. But I really do love all colors. And I love just about every kind of music. And, I love my puppy and my kids. I also paint canvasses with acrylic paint. I love bright, vibrant colors the most. 

I hope my journey will help people understand the unique challenges someone may have with a hidden disability of eyesight, and also help others know that there is hope for seeing better if they get the right care, ask the right questions, and go see the right people. 

I will see you later, in the pages on my blog. Thank you for reading. I would sincerely appreciate it if you would also sign up for my email newsletter.

Friday, August 9, 2019

About Me

Welcome to my new blog! My name is Jodi. I am a mom, an artist, an author, and I have a cute puppy. 

I have had eyesight issues my entire life. There is a laundry list of things that are wrong with my eyesight.

At the age of 47, I found out officially that I don't see in 3Dimensions. Everything is completely flat to me. It always has been. The week I started this blog, I got a brand new pair of glasses that have a thing in them called "Prizm." Prizm enables me to see in 3Dimensions for the first time in my life!

I am going to start 36 weeks of vision therapy. This blog will be me sharing my journey of How I See Things - both with my eyes, and with my thoughts. I have literally seen the world differently from everyone I have ever met, which gives me different perspectives on many kinds of things.

Again, welcome to my blog! Please sign up to follow me. My intention is to have one blog post per week. Maybe on Mondays. I haven't figured that piece of the puzzle out just yet; but I will soon.

I welcome supportive comments. Thank you, again, for visiting!

Flickering Eyesight

So, I have known for a long time that my eyes don’t work together. It has taken me almost 50 years to be able to describe what I see to peop...