Sometimes I feel like an obsessive, paranoid freak as a result of my eye issues. The fear of further sight loss is always there to a greater or lesser extent, and it’s this fear which causes me to carry out numerous visual checks throughout the day (and often during the night, too). Occasionally, people catch me mid-check and comment on it, and I find myself responding either with slight embarrassment at having been caught, or justifying myself to them whilst feeling increasingly frustrated about my need to engage in such ‘weird’ behaviour. After some particularly unhelpful comments from someone recently left me feeling even more freakish than usual, I turned to my eye buddies to ask for their first-hand informed opinions on the matter. “Are we obsessive, paranoid freaks, with our constant checking of our vision and fears about our eyes?” and “Is this normal?”, I asked.
The response was both reassuring and unanimous, with everyone confirming that fear, anxiety, and therefore checking vision is all perfectly normal after the traumatic experience of RD. One person said,
“Every day that I wake up and have my vision no matter how good or bad it is, I am grateful for it… but before I can be grateful for it there are several checklists that I have to go through to see if I woke up with what I went to bed with, because the reality of it is… I may not! I wouldn’t apologise for it and I sure wouldn’t let it bother me!”…
She went on to advise that in dealing with people who are less than understanding,
“if they haven’t walked a mile in your shoes, tell them you pray they never have to know what it is like to wake up in the middle of the night and freak out because a lightbulb is flickering, or watch the world from a blurry blob.”
Someone else confessed that the first thing she does every morning is to open each eye to make sure she can still see, and that if she wakes up in the night she has to look at the clock just to check that she can still see it. I was very relieved to hear this, as I do exactly the same, as well as frequently staring into the darkness of the night to ensure that I can’t see any flashes. Another member of the group related that she broke her ankle very badly a month after her detachment, and found that people were considerably more sympathetic about her ankle than they were about her eye. Despite the fact that she had a lot of physical pain in her ankle, she said that the fear of sight loss was far more psychologically painful.
Shortly after publishing Q: What’s more stressful than an impending eye appointment?… another of my eye buddies sent me the following message:
“Emma, you have described my regular panics precisely; the checking the field of view, counting down to the next check-up… my vision is sooooo variable and the internal dialogue leaves me on the verge of tears regularly. I am currently obsessed with trying to read car numberplates. It was so reassuring to read your account and to know that I am not the only one to check and worry.”
On the one hand, it’s conforting to know that other people experience the same fears and anxieties, but on the other hand it makes me feel upset for all of us, knowing how emotionally debilitating it can be at times. However, after reading through all the responses from people who are still experiencing the RD nightmare, I’ve reached the conclusion that if I am an obsessive paranoid freak, it’s perfectly normal in this situation, and I’m in excellent company. Alternatively, as one eye buddy put it: “Obsessive paranoid freaks? …Nah. I like the term ‘proactive.'”