Sunday, September 16, 2012

as I see through a glass darkly

When I was a student (first time around) my flatmate Jo wrote a poem with that line in it (and yes I know she'd borrowed it - I just didn't know that then!), and I have been reminded of it over the last few days as I've peered at the world through sunglasses.

I've got a rather nasty virus (viral encephalitis for those medicy geeks amongst you, or those who just like an excuse to play with google) which amongst other things means I have conjunctivitis and photosensitivity.

Now my eyesight isn't actually that bad, even though I wear glasses - it's just that one eye is long sighted and the other short sighted and I get headaches without corrective lenses. However I've not had prescription sunglasses for a while having gone for contact lenses and cheapo sunglasses as my summer option - working with small children being the main reason. Of course conjunctivitis means no contact lenses...  and unlike one of my colleagues I've never managed to get the hang of wearing sunglasses over my glasses so this has meant that the last few days have been spent wearing my sunnies indoors, preferably in a darkened room trying to persuade my eyes that they don't mind managing without corrective lenses, not really.

It has taken until day 4 to be able to look at a computer for more than 10 minutes at a time, in fact it has taken until today to be awake more than I've been asleep during what would be considered 'normal waking hours'. In other words I've reached that point of being sick where you start to feel better enough to want to actually do something other than roll over and go back to sleep, but you still aren't actually physically capable of doing very much.

All my usual sickbed stand-bys of books, radio, music, dvds or sewing have been out of the question - noise sensitivity and horrible earache being one of the more prominent symptoms on top of sore/very tired eyes and a pounding head (not helped by trying to peer at soft focus text through aforementioned dark glasses...). The weather hasn't really been particularly helpful either - either the sunshine has been painfully bright (to me) or the heavens have been chucking a rather spectacular deluge at us. However unlike the 2yr old and 5yr old playing next door in the enormous puddles I didn't feel quite in the mood to run around screaming in delight getting soaked to the skin. Funny that.

I was bemoaning this feeling of frustratedness to Phyllis earlier today and she laughed and basically said welcome to my world! Okay so using her magnifing machine she can read, albeit in short stints but her eyesight really is not good. After all that is partly why I live here, to be eyes that can see, although the last few days have been the not-quite-blind leading the not-quite-blind. It made me really grateful that when doing the dishes or cooking I could, if I really needed to, lift my sunnies and peer in better light at what I was doing. Not for very long before the brightness got too much but enough to get the job done effectively. After several days my eyes have got used to focusing without my corrective lenses again and I can manage to type/read the screen as long as I do so in relatively short bursts. I also have good reason to believe that in a day or so all will be back to (my) normal again...

It has given me a much better understanding of what life being partially sighted is like - the frustration of almost being able to see well enough but not quite. I'm no stranger to partial sightedness - my Grandad gradually lost his sight through my teens, and I've worked with those who are blind/partially sighted but there is a big difference to being familiar with it from the outside and experiencing it for yourself. The trust games of being blindfolded and led around the room by a partner are great but the difference between not being able to see at all and almost being able to see is huge psychologically.

When you can't see, you can't see, and that is it, end of story - you just have to find another way. But when you hovver on the verge of full functionality there is an expectation on yourself that you should actually just be able to do it the normal way, so things take longer as you have to do so many things twice, once the usual way and fail and then try again in an adapted way.... I guess with time you'd get used to it and theoretically you'd automatically go for the adapted way, but human brains are strange beasts! Maybe it is the added combination of old age or perhaps simply stubborness but I can understand now better why I've witnessed so many repeats of trying and failing to do things the 'usual way' rather than accepting that asking for help or doing it differently in the first place might be a better plan.

Well fingers crossed tomorrow sees (literally and figuratively!) more improvement. If nothing else I've certainly learned how bad my touch typing is that is for sure, I really must make more effort to improve!

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