A Story of Success: A Long Time In Coming
Where to start… it all began with a school eye exam in kindergarten, 1985. The school told my mom to take me in for an eye exam, I needed glasses. So for months we went to optometrist after optometrist including specialists. I was getting headaches from my glasses and they changed the prescriptions like it was the flavor of the week and I was told that there pretty much wasn’t anything anyone could do about it. After awhile, my mother had invested who knows how much money and time and I was unhappy and now had headaches, so she stopped making me wear them and we gave up for a few years. Fast forward to about the fourth grade. We tried once or twice because I was not wanting to wear glasses but once again headaches and no real change. I tried again a few more times between then and 2002 when I joined the Air Force. Here they didn’t give me the choice to wear eye glasses, at least not during my initial training. Here is where my present path was initiated. I was given a very strong prescription and wore them diligently until I graduated basic training and went on to advance training. I reverted back to my normal ways; not wearing glasses. As long as I used both eyes I could see 20/20 and no one knew any different. I knew different, I knew that my vision in my left eye was terrible and that it was pretty much useless. I decided I wanted to take better care of my eyes and started seeing eye doctors again.
Over the course of a few years and several doctors I have had numerous prescriptions that vary like the coffee menu at Starbucks. I was also given a different diagnosis or combination thereof every time. I decided once again to put it on the back burner and try to figure it out a little more on my own. I eventually ended up overseas and found myself in a position that required me to have and use depth perception or rely on another person for help.
I decided to go back to the doctor to find out if there was anything I could do to help me improve my depth perception and vision in my left eye. This is when I was introduced to the concept, that despite popular belief after 6 years old you can do something about your vision. I had never been good at the depth perception books with the fabulous photon glasses; I can recall being 6 and when they asked me what animal was “jumping off the page.” It just didn’t make sense because I couldn’t’ see them. One doctor had me try a similar book, the Ditmus Fly test with low lighting and glasses and I could actually see something coming off the page- just not very far. I didn’t care, this was huge for me. I decided to wear my glasses at work when I was on the computer to see if it would get even better.
I still didn’t really understand my problem and why I had received so many diagnoses, and this bothered me. A few months later I moved to Charleston, SC and here I started to take a new allergy medication. This medicine was giving me blurred vision as a side effect but I didn’t know the medicine was the cause. I finally realized how important my vision is and decided I should follow-up with the doc here about my eyes. He actually listened to what I had to say, what my concerns were and gave me a thorough eye exam- and a fairly accurate diagnosis- perhaps for the first time in my life. I then learned that there were options outside a military benefits that could maybe help, though the concept was considered controversial in some circles. This was vision therapy, and immediately I knew I wanted to try it regardless the cost – my vision is priceless and I can’t go buy new eyes when these go bad, so I finally decided to do something about it.
I started coming to Dr. Draisin’s office around January of 2008 and finally had people that understood my symptoms; even the symptoms I had that I didn’t know were because of my vision. I finally learned that while I can see 20/20 with both eyes open, my brain is essentially ignoring the messages coming in from the left side – why you ask – because I have a weaker eye. It is not 20/20 so all these years my depth perception was weak to nonexistent because most of the time I was only using the images from ONE eye. While I can put glasses on to help me see more clearly, my brain has become accustomed to its present wiring and my eyes will have a difficult time working together. I did some research on vision therapy and it all made sense.
Thanks to the Draisin Vision Group, I finally understand why I have gone through hours of reading and rereading and rereading things, why the words would come in and out of focus almost as if they were jumping off the page and then becoming flat only to jump and repeat over and over again, this has been going on throughout my whole life. It made sense why, though I was a straight “A” student, I spent the 4th grade in tears doing homework until midnight on a regular basis. It explains why even though I love to read, I am so exhausted after doing so that I want to take a nap. I learned that if I used both eyes without proper aiming I would see double – my brain had been trying to ignore what my left eye saw to prevent this double vision (though I would often see a faint or latent image from my left eye overlapping my right eye image – again, words and letters looked odd or like I was putting 3D glasses on and off really fast).
At first I could see small things changing but after a few sessions in vision therapy and one particular activity using a ball, a pair of glasses and another lens, I was able to “get it”, depth perception. Within a month I started to notice big changes taking place. The best example comes from when I was walking my dog during the spring when the trees were fairly bare with some flowers budding, I looked up at a tree and noticed something strange, something different – instead of just seeing a tree, the branches were all of a sudden popping out like they were coming out to me – I even ducked and backed away for a second look to try to figure out what was happening. That’s when I realized this is depth perception and this I what I have been missing for 27 years. Amazing! The next day I was in an auditorium and listening to a winded speaker that was putting me to sleep; while looking at the back of the lady’s head in front of me I noticed the same effect with her hair as I had with the tree. Another WOW moment for me even though it may seem miniscule to some. These two events helped illustrate to me, what I was missing.
Right now I am working on my aiming and teaming for the most part and seeing in 3D is still mostly conscious but it is becoming more natural and instinctive. I also noticed some other unexpected POSITIVE benefits. I no longer have migraines, and to think I have been miss-blaming pollen all these years. I have a longer attention span, I don’t tire as quickly, I can get more work done with less mistakes, I don’t find myself reading the same sentences four or five times anymore, I don’t fine the need to point at the words in a book as I am reading, or the need to cover the bottom half of the page with a paper to help me follow the words while I am reading. While I very seldom had moments where I looked like I had a lazy eye, the few I did have made me self conscious, and that too, is no longer something I have to worry about. I am a lot more comfortable with driving, especially the parking part. It’s scary to think about how much guessing I was doing before. I hardly miss the ball/Frisbee/football during volleyball, walyball, ultimate Frisbee, and tag football anymore. I actually look forward to doing things that require eye-hand coordination unlike before when I only played soccer because I didn’t have to be as exact in order to play.
While I am not yet finished with my therapy, I have come leaps and bounds and can’t imagine how things would have been different if I had not had vision therapy. As I help my brain re-learn its wiring and sight techniques, the improvements keep shocking me and the differences are amazing. Vision therapy has been my single best investment and my husband and I are both enjoying the results. If I had to compare the results to another sense I would have to say it would be like eating food without tasting it and all of a sudden having the sense of taste, or like wearing ear plugs your whole life and one day taking them out to notice how clear, rich and beautiful things sound. This has been a wonderful experience that I will always appreciate, especially with the very patient and understanding therapists working in the Draisin Vision Group. I hope if you are reading this because you aren’t sure about vision therapy, that you give it a try. See how your life can improve just like mine.