Subscribe, Stalk and Follow!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

May 16, 2011: The First Appointment

My first doctor's appointment was on the 16th of May at the Illinois Eye Institute.  I started the day as usual.  Mother and I had discussed how I would handle work and my appointment schedule and we both agreed that coming in to work and then going to the appointment would allow me to maximize my hours (I only work an hourly temp position) and get me to my appointment on time.  Even though we'd discussed the details the weekend before, the morning of the 16th reminded me of my very first overnight field trip in grade school.  It was filled with questions.

Do you have your journal?
Is it up to date?
Do you have enough bus fare?
Do you have your directions to the eye clinic?
Are you sure you don't need me to come with you?
Do you need me to come pick you up?
Did you remember to get a book to read while you're in the waiting room?
Are they going to dialate your eyes?
Do you have sunglasses?

So many questions that I had to remind my Mother, the Principal of Punctuality (Read: The person who lives by the mantra"You're late if you get there 20 minutes early" ) that we were going to be late.  We rushed to the car and onto the packed expressway (We were late, afterall) and she started the questions again.  It was both endearing and frustrating. 
I knew that she was going to be like this until my problem was resolved, she probably wouldn't sleep, her blood pressure was going to go up, she was going to have migraines all the time, and her constant questioning was going to drive me up a tree.  She's like that about everything serious.  If it's not right, she'll poke and prod and pick at it until it is or, at least, until she completely understands the problem, COMPLETELY.  It's one of those character differences that causes more frustration between the two of us than anything.  I'll say and accept, "The sky is blue, but I wish it were a little more purple.  I'll draw a picture with a purple sky."  She'll question "Why is it blue and how can we turn it the right shade of purple NOW, get to work on time, cook dinner, sew a glamorous evening gown, and photograph it all by 10 p.m. without killing ourselves?"  It doesn't fail to whip me up into a frenzy of hysterics right along with her.

Work proceeded as normal, well as normal as possible.  My mother was still emailing me periodically with questions. 

I skipped lunch and boarded the CTA, following their RTA trip planner's directions to the Illinois Eye Institute and...promptly got lost.  Not only was the route unnecessarily convoluted, but it placed me in an area where the buses only travel one way, which meant, there was no hope of me getting back to where I started.  I ended up calling the IEI to tell them what had happened.  The very nice lady answering phones was helpful and gave me step by step directions that would lead me to the clinic.  I had no problems.  She then wrote out directions and drew a little map to help me find my way home, in a non-judgemental, grandmotherly way.  After getting lost in downtown Chicago (I have no idea why the RTA directions even included that part.  I pass the IEI on my way home.  Downtown is in the complete opposite direction.), having to walk fifty-eleven miles in 100 degree weather and sweating my hair out, I was fit to be tied... and I was pretty sure I smelled like a hog.  So, while I waited for the doctor to finish with his other patient- who took my spot since I was late, I freshened up, worked on some jewelry.
The doctor that was handling my case- We'll call him Dr. Bright- was a nice, friendly guy in his late twenties, with a huge smile and an eagerness to help that's unheard of.  He performed all the standard checks to my eyes before I interrupted him with my little journal of my symptoms.  He was astounded by how meticulously documented it was, made photocopies and swore to forward them to a colleague who knew more about this stuff than he did. 

Then, he performed more tests, all of which came up normal.  No glaucoma, no macular degeneration, no Fuch's dystrophy.  Then, he started looking in the backs of my eyes.  He was like one of the main protagonists of an anime, "We're going to get to the bottom of this and save the universe!"  It touched my heart and I knew that I was in good hands. ..Until he made a strange 'Oh...uhmm.' noise.
Suddenly, I became aware of how long he was studying each eye, the curious noises he was making and the subtlest twitches of his eyebrows (the only things I could really see with a big hulking back-of-your-eye-ball-seeing device strapped to my head).  Having a doctor who's eyebrows are doing the samba while they're examining you is not usually a good sign.  It's definitely not a good sign when he tells you, "Well, you wanna follow me to room XYZ for some more tests?  Don't worry!  It's nothing serious.  Just a vision field test."

May 9-15, 2011: And Then I Got Angry

Betrayal or the feeling of being left out often becomes hurt.  Hurt often becomes outrage.  Outrage turns into plain... rage.  It usually takes a lot to make me truly angry, but when it happens, it has happened.  Very little can be done to make it unhappen.  Like an infection, it creeps in and taints my mood, the way I process information, and the way I conduct myself.  It festers.  It is a nasty, disgusting feeling.
After my mother dismissed my crisis.  I was hurt, for the entire day.  It was my fault, really.  I'm always slow in the mornings, but still, rationality had gone to hibernate by that point.  I felt listless, but I at least tried to mirror my old self.  I made a few dry jokes, smiled where appropriate, forced myself to remember that it was Mother's Day and I that I ought to be respectful.  The following day, however, was an entirely different story.  Monday morning, I woke up blind and angry.  At my mother. 
For once, my furrowed brow was not an expression of confusion, frustration or concentration.  Just this once, my frown was actually me thinking in my head, "You mean old lady, you!"  Don't laugh.  I habitually call people exactly what feel that they are when I'm angry.  I don't make up fancy names for them or use the common expletives like "A-hole", "B***", or whatever this means "@&%@)$*@&!*"  No.

As a child, the very first time I was angry enough to want to call someone a mean name, I decided that the common mean names just didn't work and swearing was a filthy habit for people who didn't read the dictionary often enough to realize that the most hurtful words are the ones with 4 or more syllables that tell an actual truth.  The truth is the most important part.  It can't be truly insulting or truly vent your frustration if it's not true. Mean (read: irritable and/or insensitive) Old (read: older than me) Lady is the absolute meanest thing I could ever bring myself to call my mother. 

It's hard for me to stay angry for long.  I tend to get sad instead.  I tried to be more understanding of her angle in this whole thing.  I had endangered the timeliness of our arrival at church and she didn't really know what was going on.  Still, it upset me because I had tried to tell her and she didn't believe me.

It isn't the first time it's happened.  I decided that it was safer for my peace of mind and my health to just...accept that my mother doesn't always understand me when I try to tell her I have a problem.  This incident was something that I would have to take care of on my own, all on my own.  I could, ask her for advice on where to go to get help.  I could ask her for help and support once the problem had been diagnosed or resolved, but it was largely up to me. 
When you are small, it's hard to convey the seriousness of 'mommy I hurt here'.  You don't know how to communicate that something's broken in your body.  You just know that it hurts.  Kissing boo-boos, lecturing your kids about too much TV, and telling them they're faking has never helped anyone's medical conditions. (Some people actually do that.  There have been articles about child abuse cases where the parents just gave their screaming, bleeding child a bath and a tylenol.  Thankfully, this has nothing to do with anything that extreme)  Those are easy outs.  Those things don't actually fix ANYTHING.

At this point, I realized that I was well and truly an adult.  I didn't have a real job, but I was still an adult.  I was no longer dependent on my mother believing me when I said that I was sick.  No one could tell me what was wrong in my body but me.  So, I said nothing else to my mother about it.  If she didn't believe me enough to try to help me, it was up to me to find a way to help myself.  I started a journal, documenting my symptoms.  After a while, I worked up my courage and asked her what eye clinic had the best, most state of the art equipment and doctors available.  It surprised her, but she gave the information willingly.

It surprised her again when her nosiness lead her to leaf through my desk planner and she saw the notation stating that I had an appointment on the 16th at 3:00pm. 
A strange hush came over her.  She spoke to me with a wide-eyed, still somewhat disbelieving tone.  "You were serious?" When I told her yes, she said she didn't know that I was serious.  It sparked an argument which, now that I think about it, was more me yelling at her, screaming all of the frustrations that had bothered me since the morning blindness first occurred.  And this time, she listened. 

That made me happier than anything.  She listened and we resolved that I would attend my appointments and when I needed my mother to come with me, I would ask her to.  We both worked out that the whole blow-by-blow of what was happening would likely drive my mother out of her mind.  She was like that shortly before and after she was diagnosed with hypertension, so it was likely to happen again.  A certain level of disengagement would allow me to be an adult and minimize her stress levels.   That was our little plan. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

April 30-May8, 2011: It'll Get Better Soon.

For the next few days, I'd suspended my fears about my condition and waited for it to clear up on its own.  It was stress.  Nothing serious.  I had final papers due for my recreational classes.  Even though the classes themselves were recreational, the grades were not. Grades are serious, you know. 

I thought that this thing, this strange 'AM only' blindness would go away after I turned in my final papers.  There wouldn't be any reason to panic or be afraid.  Still, I started researching possible causes and planned to schedule an appointment at the eye doctor's anyway, just in case
Some of the possible causes were downright scary.  Fuch's Dystrophy, a condition that causes the cornea to thicken until you're completely blind.  Glaucoma, high eye pressure kills your optic nerve.  Macular degeneration, your retina tears off the back of your eye, or eats holes in itself, leaving you completely blind and without much hope. 
But, the majority of the conditions I just listed only happen to older people, or people who have a history of problems that I don't have, like high blood pressure.  I was doubtful that it was anything that serious.  I could be wrong, but it was highly unlikely.  If it cleared up after life cooled down, I could just cancel my appointment and be done with the whole thing.  No harm done.  Just stress.
But... it didn't get any better.  Nothing changed, not even after all the papers were turned in and graduation actually happened.  I woke up on Mother's day and my vision was worse than ever.  It wasn't clearing at all.

All the other days, it cleared up after I got up and started moving around.  But, it wasn't clearing up that day.  I love my mother to pieces, but I'll be honest.  That day, that Mother's Day, when she started rushing me to get ready for church, I snapped at her.  She incorrectly guessed that I was mad because I couldn't find my shoes.  Shoes. 
I think that just made me even more upset because that wasn't the real problem.  That was just one thing that I happened to rant about that morning.  I realized that I was being unfair by being unnecessarily hostile over the wrong things, so I actually tried to tell her what was wrong. 

I couldn't see in one eye.  I was bumping into things because I couldn't judge distance as well.  I was frustrated because it wasn't getting better.  I was angry that it seemed like my life was getting worse instead of becoming this fabulous world of adventure that I had envisioned it would be.  I was angry because I'd worked very hard to get through college, struggled, stressed and worried over money and grades for years.  Only to come out of the whole ordeal and go BLIND.  It wasn't fair!  I didn't want to be blind.  I didn't have health insurance, so whatever it was, I couldn't afford to get it fixed.  Sure, I got money for graduation, but all of the illnesses that sounded remotely like mine required tens of thousands of dollars to treat and screen for.  I was terrified and I felt like I'd been cheated out of my entire life.  My future was braille, if I could learn it.  But, everything I've used to define myself involved crafts, color, and beauty.  Now, my future was a formless world of unending WHITE.  No crafting, no coloring, no reading, no NOTHING.  My future was nothing.   

But, I was only able to tell her that I couldn't see out of my left eye.  She insisted that I hurry up and get ready for church.  Quick, forceful and to the point, like always.  I really needed her to listen, not be the resolute Iron Woman that I've admired my whole life... but it was a done deal.  My habitual morning slowness had cut me off from reaching her when I needed to.

I was heart broken. 

I went back into my room and got ready for church. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

April 27, 2011: 10 days before Graduation

Less than two weeks before graduation, life threw me an undeserved, hellishly ass-blistering curve ball (Sorry mom.  I know you're reading this, but I can't think of any non-expletive language strong enough for how it made me feel).  I woke up one day and found I was blind in my left eye.

Let that sink in.  Keep in mind that I was less than 10 days from graduation, already dealing with enough stress to make an elephant have a coronary, and looking forward to the freedom and independence that graduation day would give me.  I mean, I was going to be a real, live adult, able to confidently apply for real jobs with real benefits, maybe help mom get a house, maybe...maybe start my own business.  I was the future.  The WORLD was mine.  All mine.  I just had to open my eyes and see the opportunity, to reach out and grab what was right in front of my face.  At least that's how I felt, until I opened my eyes, eager for that new day and found half of that world obscured by a field of pure white.

Any sane person would have been completely hysterical.  But, I don't operate like that.  I don't panic first.  I analyze my situation, thoroughly.  I research the problem.  I locate the solution and I take a fist full of analysis to whatever 'expert' I need to see to get the problem fixed.  After the business is taken care of, the problem, fixed, and there's nothing left to do, then I panic.  My freak-out moment occurs in the moments after, when everyone's out of the knife fight without a scratch, sitting at home, watching television and in fresh pajamas.  I guess that's how long it takes for my brain to stop analyzing things in the third person and realize that it could have very easily taken its last think.

So, in a way that was totally natural for me, I sat on my bed, bewildered and staring at what should have been my room.  I recognized that it didn't look like my room, but only because half of it was obscured with fog.  I closed my 'bad eye', looked through my 'good eye'.  Switched.  Repeated the process.  It was certainly my left eye.  My left eye was malfunctioning.  The entire thing was seeing white.  I decided that it must be dirty.  I wiped it.  The world was still white.

I went into the bathroom, looked in the mirror to see if I'd somehow acquired cataracts in my sleep.  My eye looked normal.  Was it glaucoma?  It runs in my family.  I blinked and watched my pupils contract and expand.  It was the same test the eye doctor did every time I had an exam.  I know, because I asked them why they kept shining that blasted light in my face.  My left eye was the same, clear, milk chocolate brown as my right and its pupil contracted and expanded when light hit it, like normal.  I washed it out with eye drops.  Nothing changed.   I performed my morning ablutions as usual because my mother was yelling 'AREN'T YOU GOING TO WORK TODAY!?' in the background. 

I stumbled back to my room, a little disoriented, more disoriented than I realized.  I sat on my bed in complete shock for a full 25 minutes, just blinking.  I decided that it must be stress.  Stress could do anything to the human body.  By the time I got dressed, I could see as well as I did the day before.  See?  Stress.

Graduation Update

I haven't updated in forever.  No, this time there's no excuse.  There is no happy-ending sort of 'life is busy' explanation as to why I've been absent.  The truth is, I'm tired.

I'm tired, and I'm sad, and disgusted with the way my life is progressing.  I haven't even bothered thinking about my blog because it represents the things I plan to accomplish in life.  Recent developments in my life have caused me to wonder if I've over-estimated my potential.  I like to be progressive, to see that I'm actually going somewhere and making a difference somehow.  Every tiny setback is a personal insult.  To be dramatic, each setback, real or imagined is a scourge on my pride and my mission to be the absolute best Lauren, daughter of the Mahogany Stylist ever. 

None of what I'm posting now makes any sense, but it will after a few more blog posts.