My Eyes From my View
Last week, I had a doctor appointment to see my eye doctor. I have seen him since I was a baby. I got my first pair of glasses when I was 8 months old. During this visit we talked about how people who have neurological disorders may see the world differently than others who don’t struggle with how their brain receives visual information. My doctor told me that he has made some assumptions about what people with neurological challenges see, but he has not had much input from someone who may be able to share their experiences in detail. He asked if I could write it for him, so I thought it would be interesting to put it on my blog, since other girls may experience the same thing. I am really myopic, so my clear vision is within ten inches of my face.
I cannot wear eyeglasses for two reasons; one is because they feel so strange and irritating on my face. I started wearing them as a baby. I didn’t have the coordination to remove them when I was very little, so I couldn’t get them off. But now, on most days, if someone puts glasses on my face, I can’t get them off fast enough. The second is because I can’t handle what happens in my brain when I wear them. Recently I was able to wear sunglasses for about 20 minutes, but they didn’t correct my vision. It felt good to not have the sun be so bright, but they irritated my face.
I wore eyeglasses until I was five. I couldn’t see any better with them on, than I could with them off. I hated the way they felt, but I couldn’t remove them until I got a little older. I took them off and chewed on them so they always had chew marks on the glass. I lost many pair because they got dropped and my parents didn’t see them fall. The funniest time was when I was about three. I was in the garden with my mom in my wheelchair. It was by the pond and there were ducks playing in the pond. I had dropped my glasses and it wasn’t until my Mom saw the ducks playing with something that she realized it was my glasses. They took them into the pond, and that was the end of them!
My doctor said he has made some conclusions about how people with neurological disorders handle information they receive from their eyes. He has assumed that for many people they can handle information if they don’t look directly at something, but they see it out of their side vision. It is true for me. If I look directly at something it is only briefly, and only on days I am able to do it. It is physically painful to be forced to look at something directly in front of me. I am better able to handle it if it is on the side of me. I often move my head back and forth in order to not get too much stress from looking directly at it. It is hardest with people. They often think I am not paying attention if I don’t look directly at them. I remember many teachers and therapists insisting that if I didn’t look into their eyes, that I would not be paying attention. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I can handle most situations better if I am not forced to look at something. I can see much better and my brain is not stressed if I can use my side vision. There is something inside me that wants to run away when I am forced to look at someone who is inches from my face. I am sure that many other girls with Rett struggle with this too. If I look directly at someone it is because I am able to at that moment. But if I’m not able to do that, don’t assume I’m ignoring you. I am very aware of everything that is happening around me. If I am fiddling with something it helps to calm my brain. I can do both. I don’t need to be forced to look in order to understand.
My eye doctor said he had some ideas about how some people with neurological disorders process information. He described looking directly at something is like sand being poured through a funnel. He said if it is poured slowly it goes through the hole, but if it is poured too fast it gets blocked. He is assuming that looking directly at something is like sand being poured too fast into the funnel. We are not able to handle that much information coming into our brains, but if we use our side vision the information is like sand that is poured slowly. It comes to our brains slower, and we can handle it better. It is a good description for me.
Our world is so full of interesting things to look at. The trouble is most of us are expected to be thrilled with lots of activity. To me it often gets overwhelming when there is a lot going on. I can calm myself sometimes by playing with a fiddler. Today I am able to focus if I have a fork in my hand. It makes my brain feel relaxed.
I went to a dance recently with some friends. It was very loud and there were lots of people. One of the men was in my face a lot. I couldn’t tell him to back off, and he was just being friendly, but I would not have chosen for him to be that close. It was a very overwhelming environment, but I could handle it that day. There were a lot of lights, which distract me.
I read something this morning with my Mom that Carly Fleishmann wrote. It was about how she sees things. She says that when she looks directly at someone, she sees a thousand pictures. I think that’s a good description about how my brain sees things too, if they are right in front of me.