I was only six when I got glasses. I remember it well, some memories just stick to you, waiting to spread the glue every time they cross your mind. We were doing routine eye tests at school and I had to go into the nurse’s office. I can still clearly visualize her calling out my name, the first M in my class. I walked in, my tiny legs hanging off the high stool. I sat there while she flipped on the dreaded screen that peaks my anxiety, even today. I couldn’t read all the letters. As much as I twisted and turned, and squint my eyes, I just couldn’t read them. And so, she called in my mom. There was a lot of crying, a lot of eye doctor visits, a lot of not being able to understand until finally, I got glasses.
I hated them. There was an older girl who talked me through it, saying it wasn’t that bad, and when I wore them, I’d finally be able to see everything clearly, bright as day. I don’t remember putting them on. But I do remember the trauma that came after. The bullying. The taunts. The name calling. I hear it in my head even as a grown ass 26-year-old woman – the voices telling me that my weak eyesight was a cause of insult. And because of that, I’ve always been insecure when I wear them. I didn’t want to be all those names those kids called me.
I eventually got contacts. While I felt better on the outside, my eyes continued to weaken. Over the years, I soared through the first few numbers. Dancing into higher numbers on each visit to the eye doctor. And damn, I hate that bloody test. Every time I sit in that chair and recite the letters and numbers up on that small screen, something within me stirs. I will myself to read them, knowing my eyes can only do so much. When I was younger, my mother would come with me, and when I’d hesitate across a letter, she’d urge me on, saying you can see it right? How can you not, it’s right there? But I never could. It was too hard. It was the one test I always failed. And I always continue to fail.
Sometimes I’d learn the screens by heart. My memory comforting me. I’d recite the letters off like I rote learnt them for a school exam. Breathing in as I went through them, growing smaller and smaller. But I’d always get caught. I’d leave the eye doctor feeling worse. I never had any excitement in getting new glasses. I’m getting better now, I wear them out more often and yet, every time someone looks at me for a moment longer, my mind lingers – what would they think?
It was the one test I always failed. And I always continue to fail.
And I know it’s silly. They’re JUST glasses. Everyone wears them. It’s normal. But for me, it never has been. My number has always been higher than everyone around me. The reality is, I have high myopia, and that means my number may never stop increasing. I’m terrified of going to the eye doctor because I don’t want to know how much worse my eyes have become.
I’ve been to so many doctors, been told so many different things. One doctor told me not to lift heavy objects because it could damage my eyesight. One doctor told me to stay away from football matches and cricket games because the movement of the ball could damage my eyesight. But I can’t live in fear of things that are so simple, so mundane, so quintessentially everyday life.
The reality is, I have high myopia, and that means my number may never stop increasing.
The first two months of lockdown, I was nervous. What if something happened to my eyes? What if I needed new contacts? What if my glasses broke? And I know it was just my anxiety leading me into believing the worst.
Two years ago, my eye number was stationary for one entire year. I go to the doctor every four months, get my eyes dilated, spend the entire day just lost in blurred vision and headaches. I usually have to take the day off work. But at my last check up that year, for the first time in my life, I finally had hope that maybe I could be applicable for lasik.
But I can’t live in fear of things that are so simple, so mundane, so quintessentially everyday life.
So I went in, high spirits, got the test done. Saw purple for an entire afternoon. And then went in the next day to hear that my number had increased by three. I was devastated. I love controlling the things in my life and my eyesight is the one thing I’ve never been able to push into focus.
A lot of people ask me about my eye number as if it’s so fascinating. I get a lot of “Oh, I didn’t know your number could be that high!” or “Can I try on your glasses?” or “Can you see how many fingers I’m holding up?” And it’s normal, humans are inherently built to ask questions, we thrive on curiosity. I know I do. But it’s tough. It’s tough knowing that I can’t get lasik. Knowing that my retina is stretching. Knowing that my eyesight is terrifyingly weak and I hate not being able to see the world without it being reflected back at me from the corners of my thick glasses.
I love controlling the things in my life and my eyesight is the one thing I’ve never been able to push into focus.
When something happens to my eyes, I’m immediately afraid. Last year, I had a scare where I couldn’t wear contacts for a month to allow my eye to heal. And I was lucky, because it did eventually heal. And I’m learning to live with it.
But my high myopia isn’t going anywhere. The only possible procedure is too risky. So if you’re reading this, and you too have high myopia, I feel you. I understand. I know it isn’t easy. But we’re doing the best we can under the given circumstances.
I’m still functioning.
My eye number may be increasing constantly, but so is my strength.
And for now, that’s good enough.