I wasn't originally going to post this article on my blog - as I was worried it may come across as too much of a lecture. Someone asked me to write it as part of a photography project which will hopefully give you a view (excuse the pun) of how I see the world without my glasses on. It was only as a result of a conversation with one of my friends that I decided to post it on here.
I suppose this is going to sound strange to you but – in the same way that someone with “normal” (that is 20/20) vision takes their sight for granted – I take my shortsightedness (or - if you want to be scientific about it – myopia) for granted. You see, I have never known anything different.
I have worn glasses for the majority of my life (I didn't wear any for the first couple of years of my life and I have also had two stints at wearing contact lenses).
Life without my glasses is literally a blur – and it has been for as long as I can remember.
Ah yes – glasses. Children today don't realise how lucky they are to have such a wide range of “mini adult” frames to choose from. In the 1970's and early 1980's children only had a choice of pink and blue in one style of NHS frames.
The lenses have also changed dramatically in my lifetime. When I started school I was wearing heavy “lenticular” lenses made of glass (the bridge of my nose has got a dent in it where several pairs of glasses have dug in to make themselves at home). The quickest description of a Lenticular lens is the bottom of a coke bottle or beer glass. These are very useful for looking straight ahead but you have zero-vision around the side of the lenses.
As technology got better my lenses became thinner and lighter. The ones I am wearing now are the thinnest and lightest I have worn. They come in two parts – a carrier lens and something called a “Fresnell” lens (think of the reversing window on coaches and you get the idea).
I was brought up and educated in the “Mainstream” world. This was quite scary at times. Children run around and damage themselves in a variety of ways even if they are “normal”. The seriously shortsighted among the population have lots of other ways to damage themselves (there was one occasion when I tripped over and the glass of the lens of my glasses went into my eyebrow necessitating a trip to hospital to get my eyebrow stitched up).
One of my first memories from school involved a climbing frame. This was the first time when it became apparent that I was different to everybody else.
The climbing frame was a vaguely “A” shaped structure – made of metal. I think the front bit of the inside was empty but the back of it had a “H” shaped set of bars in the top going from left to right as you looked at it. All I can remember was – having watched one of the older boys swing through the middle of it – I was determined to do the same. I missed my hand hold on the middle bar and I fell off.
Shortly after leaving the infants I ended up with a patch over one lens of my glasses (I had a lazy left eye) which landed me with the nickname of “Pirate” for the duration.
I went to a small Primary school – which was all on one level.
I have never been what you would call “sporty” - mainly due to a great discomfort with the idea of propelling myself faster than my eyes can compute my surroundings. I did ride a bicycle when I was younger, however.
When I was between 9 and 12 years old I experienced my first stint at wearing contact lenses. This is how I found out I also suffer from (and I do mean “suffer”) Photophobia. This means my eyes are sensitive to bright lights. To the point where contact lenses were brilliant at night but useless during the day. (It was only under severe duress that I had another stint of wearing them when I was approximately 18 years old).
When I say my eyes are sensitive to bright lights I mean that sunlight has a habit of making things disappear from view or lose all distinguishing features. My usual reference points have a habit of disappearing in sunlight. It is not just sunlight – it is any bright light.
On the flip side – when it gets dark all I need is music – then I can have my own private disco. My eyes get multi-coloured spots in front of them.
The next school I went to was “fun” in more ways than one. Not only it have shallow staircases (please read – flat floor until you fall down them due to missing your footing). It also had two varieties of bullies – the other students and the teachers.
Most people I have met in my life have been under the mistaken impression that wearing a pair of glasses miraculously gives you 20/20 vision (same with contact lenses). That depends on how close to 20/20 vision your sight is to start with. If – like me – you can only see clearly within approximately 2 centimetres from the end of your nose without glasses you are never going to achieve that miracle (unless you go in for Laser eye surgery – and that is a risk).
My outstanding memories of the first secondary school are one particular maths lesson and the French lessons.
The maths lesson was an attempt to teach me how to calculate volume using a cube with squares marked out by shallow grooves in the sides of the cube. Had the grooves been painted black or been made deeper I might not have spent the best part of the lesson trying to count one side of one cube. The rest of the class whizzed through the work.
The French lessons were memorable mainly due to the fact that they were “blinding” lessons for me. Me and Overhead Projectors (OHP's) do not mix. The best way for me to read anything which is written on an OHP is to look directly at the bit the acetate is on – which is lit up – which hurts my eyes only slightly more than peering at whatever surface the OHP is projecting on to.
The second (and last) secondary school I went to were the ones who woke up to the fact that I was seriously shortsighted and decided to try to do something about it – three months before my GCSEs.
I had somehow managed to teach myself to act as “normal sighted” as possible – ie, read small print in books which is at least two fonts sizes smaller than I am actually comfortable with, putting up with OHP's, etc.
So you can probably imagine my great annoyance at being snowed under with paper with thick black lines on it, lights, and magnifiers. All the sort of things which would have been of great help to me when I started school.
The other thing the school did was to send me back to the Consultant I had been under when I started school who, after putting me through a book reading test turned to my Mum (in my earshot) and said “get her out of here. She is wasting my time”.
Just out of interest – my handwriting may not be the neatest you have ever seen but it is smaller than you might expect for someone with my level of sight.
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