One Thousand Words are Better Than a Poke in the Eye

I’ve worn contact lenses for almost 25 years. After a quarter of a century, sticking my fingers in my eyes first thing in the morning and last thing every night is second nature.

But that wasn’t always the case.

I made the switch to contacts just before either my freshman or sophomore year in college, I don’t remember which. I got glasses in fourth grade and after being a “four eyes” for almost my entire school career, contacts were practically life changing.

I could wear sunglasses. I didn’t have to worry about my glasses falling off or sliding down my nose when I got sweaty. My vision didn’t fog up when I came in from the cold.

I struggled when I first started wearing contacts, though.

I have always had pretty sensitive eyes, both to light and to allergens. A lot of pictures from when I was a kid feature me with squinting or completely closed eyes. I couldn’t open them in the bright sun.

I’ve since learned that people with fair skin (I call it porcelain, my mother calls it pale) and blue eyes often are very sensitive to sunlight.

My eyes were often itchy too. I would rub them until they were red and swollen and I could barely keep them open.

For years I thought my itchy, sensitive eyes would preclude me from getting contacts. I didn’t know that one of the benefits of contacts is that your eyes don’t itch as much. They form a plastic barrier between your eye and the allergens.

I’m glad I finally asked.

When I first got the contacts, I didn’t have any trouble getting them in but was subconsciously convinced they were going to fall out of my eyes. I found myself squinting to keep them in.

I eventually got used to it and now I’d rather give up potato chips than my contacts, and I love potato chips.

I was always good at making my lenses last. I once had a pair that lasted three or four years, which is quite a while for thin discs of plastic that you wear for 12 hours a day, every day.

Then a few years ago, my eye doctor told me that I need to switch from the long lasting contacts to daily disposables.

I fought it tooth and nail, or lash and brow in this case. I liked my contacts. It seemed wasteful to put in a new pair every day.

She told me that the contacts I had been using didn’t allow my eyes to “breath.” Because they weren’t getting enough air, the capillaries were growing in. I guess that’s a bad thing.

Since I didn’t want capillary eyes, I finally agreed to try daily contacts.

The experience that followed made me consider going back to glasses. The disposable contacts were uncomfortable and because I knew from experience they didn’t have to be that way, I kept going back to try a different brand.

I must have driven my eye doctor mad with complaints. She probably got to the point where she considered letting my capillaries grow in so I’d go blind and stop bothering her.

Around this time I seriously started contemplating Lasik surgery, where they magically fix your eyesight with Star Wars-like lasers.

The idea was a bit unsettling because my grandmother had lost an eye to cancer and before they removed it, they tried to kill the disease with lasers.

They made this gruesome looking mask that she wore in order to keep her head immobile while she had the treatment. It looked like a medieval torture device.

I’ve had negative associations with lasers and eyes ever since that time.

I knew technology had come along way, though. People I knew had Lasik with success. One friend has really dry eyes now, but the rest are happy with the results.

So I asked my eye doctor about it.

She said that I was probably a pretty good candidate. I was young enough (which was nice to hear) and had the kind of vision problems that Lasik can repair.

But then she had to warn me about what could go wrong.

I could end up blind, or my eyesight could be worse after the procedure. I could lose the ability to blink, I could lose all my eyelashes.

The list went on and on. She sounded like the announcer at the end of one of those medication commercials, the ones that tell you the pills will cure your depression but might destroy your liver in the process.

Although I knew the chances of those awful things happening were slim, they scared me. I was already squeamish about combining lasers and eyeballs, the litany of risks pushed me over the edge.

Luckily, not long after that conversation we found a brand of daily contacts that didn’t hurt or itch. So I didn’t need the Lasik after all.

The only recurring dream I have ever had is about my contact lenses. At least, it’s the only recurring dream that I remember.

In the dream, I am cleaning my contacts (which I don’t have to do any more since I switched to dailies). I have a contact in the palm on my hand, squirt some of the soapy cleaner stuff on them and rub them in a circle with my finger.

As I rub, the contact gets bigger and bigger, growing until it is the size of my entire palm.

I don’t stop rubbing it as it grows, but I think to myself, “How am I going to get that in my eye?”

I always wake up as I’m attempting to do just that.

I told my eye doctor about the dream once, hoping she’d say, “Yeah, people tell me about dreams like that all the time.”

Instead she looked at me for a moment and said, “That’s really strange.”

I guess most people don’t dream about their contact lenses. Or if they day, they just don’t tell their eye doctor about it.

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