Two weeks ago, I visited the state of Oregon. While driving along the beautiful coast, my son and I stopped at Yaquina Head Park and toured a remarkable lighthouse.
At the end of an educational lecture, we were able to climb a tight stairway inside that led to the top of the lighthouse. On our way down, my son stopped to take a picture of the spiral staircase. I thought his picture eerily resembled an eyeball! (You can see his shoes at the top.)
It was fascinating to learn about the lighthouse lens. It was built in Paris during the 1800’s and consisted of many complex glass prisms. That lens enabled a small oil lamp’s flame to be projected 20 miles out to sea.
The day after I returned from my vacation, I had an appointment with a top eye specialist. Before seeing the doctor, I was given a few tests. A technician manually checked my field of vision; it was tiring for me to concentrate and look for tiny flashing lights. Afterwards, she drew pictures from her results to map my “blind spots.”
My appointment did not yield any new information to treat my dry eyes, unfortunately.
The specialist recommended that I try plugs in my tear ducts again. Plugs never helped, and I still had two that were inserted years ago.
This ophthalmologist then told me that my dry eyes were a result of poor tear film. I asked him if I also had Blepharitis (eyelid irritation), and he said that was secondary, a result of not having enough lubrication.
My first big surprise was to find out that I needed new glasses! I was never informed after cataract surgery that my vision could change again three years later.
At first, I was embarrassed to think that perhaps some of my fogginess was because my glasses needed to be changed. But I paid a lot of money for this appointment, so I was glad that I was given such a thorough eye exam.
But I wasn’t expecting to hear the more shocking news that followed.
He told me that the pressure in my right eye was very high and there were visible indications of glaucoma damage. He gently told me to get an appointment at my HMO with a glaucoma specialist – not just a regular ophthalmologist. And he told me not to wait.
I left his office and sat in my car crying. I waited until I felt well enough to drive. When I came home, I crawled into bed. I was devastated.
I didn’t really want to share my upsetting news with anyone, but then I received a call from my friend who had recommended this specialist.
I told her tearfully, “You know, you probably saved my vision – I don’t know how to thank you!”
My friend was very comforting. She acknowledged that I’ve had a lot of challenges to go through since my divorce and my parents’ deaths. I was very grateful for her.
It was almost 4:00 pm and I decided to call my HMO to schedule an appointment. The sooner I got that appointment, the better. It was a Friday afternoon before Easter weekend, so I didn’t expect much.
The lady on the phone said, “There aren’t any ophthalmologists working next week; they are all gone for Spring break.” I thought she was kidding when she said Pediatrics would be covering that department.
I told her I was very concerned about my eye pressure and wanted an appointment with a Glaucoma specialist. She said, “You will not be allowed to see a Glaucoma specialist. Only patients who are not responding to conventional treatments are allowed to see one. Any of our eye doctors can treat you.”
I said, “Well, what if this gets worse before I see a doctor? I don’t want to have my eyes permanently damaged!”
Then she asked me, “Are you in pain?”
I answered, “I’m always in pain. I have dry eyes.”
Her reply was laughable. She retorted, “Well, honey, just put in artificial tears until your appointment.”
I took a deep breath. There wasn’t enough fire in me for steam to come out of my ears when I heard that one.
But sometimes, God can appear in moments that seem like coincidences.
Suddenly she said, “Oh! I see that there is an appointment available and it’s only in a week and a half. It just so happens that it is with our only Glaucoma specialist – so you are very lucky.”
I marked down the appointment for April 16th. After I hung up the phone, I decided to go for a walk.
My eyes were still dilated and the light outside was painful even with my dark glasses on.
I was overwhelmed trying to grasp the things the eye specialist told me. My head was spinning with a zillion questions: Did he say I had Glaucoma for sure? Was the damage he saw permanent? If my next appointment was in 13 days, could my eyes get worse? Was I was going blind? How would I adapt and manage that?
I was spiraling down into depression. It was too much!
I didn’t feel like listening to music, but I had my iPod on my ears. I decided to listen instead to one of my audio stories from the audio book I never released. The last time I’d listened to a recording from that book was probably two years ago.
The story that I chose was “Clear” because I had sung a new vocal for it only the week before.
My recording began with my own voice reciting the lyrics to my song. The line of “life became clear” upset me.
Yes, my life became clear and then it became cloudy. I lost my clarity and my joy. What happened to me? Could I ever recapture joy and find my way back to clarity?
The questions screamed through my mind as I walked and listened to my recording. I felt tears welling up inside. My speaking voice on the recording was very firm and self-assured.
I heard myself spelling out ways of overcoming fear. How could I preach those words to others when I wasn’t even able to consistently follow them personally? Of course, it made sense why I didn’t want to share my book for that reason.
But then, I began to really listen.
I realized that I needed to hear those words, even if it was weird that I was lecturing my “future self.” They were important and helpful.
I cringed listening to my voice state how I wasn’t going to “wait any longer” because of fear. That sure fit right into my refusal to release my book.
I never released my book because of fear of judgment – I worried that I was preachy and not joyful like when I wrote those stories.
My own audio story rescued me.
I was almost finished with my walk and I felt much better. I thought, “Even though I’m not in a place of clarity – how would it be if I published my book and it helped other people in that way?”
In my head, I heard the answer:
It would be awesome! Foggy, or even blind – was I going to let that stop me from following my dream?
I share here a link to my story for “Clear.” My song really turned my thoughts around on a very bad day.
For this story, I’ve shared a few more pictures from my recent vacation. I was especially eager to share the image of the lighthouse staircase because it resembled an eye.
And then, it became a profound metaphor for me. “EYE” am that lighthouse!
Nothing makes my life more meaningful than “projecting” insight from life’s challenges to inspire others who are out there in the distance.
It just isn’t possible for me to always be a shining example of positive thinking. I’m human and often filled with frailty and fear. But I’ve also been courageous and celebrate that.
After that appointment, I wallowed in my fear and depression for a few days. But then I began to really listen to my song “Clear” and that turned it all around for me.
My eye issues are not going to sink me. Listening to my audio story that encouraged me to “let go of fear” helped me to feel a lot better.
That’s why my lighthouse metaphor is so profound. There will always be an inner light to guide me if I look for it. It is a tiny light that can be magnified and it will keep me safe. Light conquers my fear of darkness.
My light is there for me to follow as I move forward to new horizons.
Message from a woman in Italy from my dry eye support group forum:
Judy, I am always in pain with my eyes….where do you find the force?
I am honored that you wrote me, thank you! I wonder what force I have! I have been going through a lot with my eye pain recently. It has worn me down.
I think understanding is what helps us the most. So my “force” is that I feel so much compassion after going through suffering in my life. And I try hardest to apply it to myself.
Many times I feel like “there could be worse things” and I don’t allow myself to be sad. That is not helpful for me.
I am thankful for the blessing of music and songs that soothe me. I just finished singing a song of mine last week named “Clear.” It’s so ironic because I cannot see clearly.
But it is “fear” that depresses me the most: fear that I can’t do this anymore, fear that my pain won’t end and fear that I will be blind. So much fear!
At this moment, I can see. And my eye pain is more manageable when I am not depressed.
I am trying to let my beautiful music speak to me and make the most of every day – for now.