I’ve just been to the optician for the first time in several years, and the first time at this particular practicioner. To say it has been a revelatory experience would be an understatement.
I was diagnosed with long sight in my right eye when I was about six years old, and wore glasses until I was about seventeen when I gave them up in a fit of vanity. For years, like so many other spectacle-wearing children, I was subjected to taunts and mockery and was labelled "four eyes", whilst my parents spent not inconsiderable sums of money on glasses for me.
I’ve just been told that it was a complete waste of time, money and distress.
I could cry.
I’m long-sighted in my right eye. That much is true. But it was almost certainly the case on the day that I was born. Consequently, my brain focused its effort on the left eye, and the right eye became "lazy" in that it wasn’t wired up correctly, and my brain focused on the information received from the left. This could have been corrected by "aggressive patching" when I was very young – certainly before the time I was five – and even then, there is no guarantee that it would have worked. The neurology of vision is pretty much fixed by the time you are five years old – after that it is too late. And because the problem is with the way my brain works, putting a lens across the front of my eye would have made no difference whatsoever. None. Zip. Nil.
My left eye works excellently, and therefore doesn’t need a lens either.
I never have needed to wear glasses. I don’t need to wear them now.
The optician believes that it is unlikely that I’ll need to wear them before I am 40, if not even later in life. His only recommendation is that I should have my eyes tested every four or five years – no need for testing more often than that.
He also went on to explain some of the symptoms, and things suddenly become clear. Because my eyes are wired up in a slightly odd fashion and don’t cooperate very much, it means that anything that requires binocular vision is going to be a problem. That includes watching 3D films through those red-green specs (never worked for me), looking at "magic eye" pictures (the ones made up from coloured dots that have, to me, always looked like a page full of dots) and, more importantly, depth perception. Which explains why I was always useless at any sport involving a ball at school. He said to me: "You’re not very good at catching a ball, are you?" Nope. It’s because I can’t tell how far away it is very accurately.
I can’t tell you how much this has affected me. All through life I’ve been living with this. I had the jokes at my expense as a child. I’ve had the problems with sport. I’ve had the accusations of clumsiness (almost certainly a product of depth perception problems). And now I know why.
If only I’d known before.