My (Poor) Eye Journey
Pre-post: This section could get a tad long, so if you’re not really interested in reading this part, you can skip it and go straight to the next section where I actually talk about my lasik experience.
I have struggled with poor eyesight pretty much my entire life. The first time I realized I had poor eyesight was when I was in the second grade, barely seven years old. All I wanted was to desperately be liked and accepted by the girls in my class (I went to an all-girls school, back when I lived in the Middle East). And, of course, as naïve as I was, I thought that wearing eyeglasses would have prevented that—the whole being liked and accepted part, I mean. But, I would later realize how utterly wrong I was about that. Because it not only cost me my eyesight (which could have improved had I wore eyeglasses consistently, as I was told to do so), but also years of pain of having to wear contact lenses and eyeglasses. Yes, I say pain because those who wear, or have worn eyeglasses/contact lenses, know all too well the struggles that comes with them. And, I will go into detail as this post progresses.
Like I mentioned, I was in the second grade when I found out I needed eyeglasses. I remember sitting in class, squinting and struggling to see the words and numbers on the shiny, yet smudgy, white board that our teachers used to write on with markers that smelled like cheap paint. Oftentimes, it would take me so long to make out the words on the board, that by the time I was able to faintly make out one of the words, the teacher would have cleared the board already in order to write new content on it. By the end of class, I would be the only one with an almost empty notebook. To make matters worse, one day the teacher called out my name and asked me to read something on the board. I reluctantly stood up from my seat, on the verge of tears, because not only was I deathly timid, but I had no flippin’ idea what the teacher was pointing to on the board – all I saw were faint lines and squiggles. The teacher naturally mistook this as my not being studious enough, or my not understanding the material, and proceeded to call my mother.
“Your daughter is very behind, Mrs. Khan,” I heard the teacher say in front of me, as I sat in her office, my head lowered. “Every time I ask her to read something on the board, she doesn’t answer. You need to get her extra help after school or something, otherwise I will have to fail her, and she will need to repeat the second grade to get up to speed.”
Obviously, my mother was beyond disappointed. And, being such a painfully shy child, I didn’t have the courage to tell my parents that it wasn’t that I was “dumb,” or couldn’t understand what was being taught, but that I couldn’t see what was actually written on the board. Eventually, my parents took me to the optometrist, as they quickly realized at home that I was able to do my homework well, but only struggled to read what was written on the worksheets. And, so, it was soon determined that I needed to wear eyeglasses.
The thought of having to wear something on my face for the majority of the day absolutely horrified me. I wasn’t what you would call the most popular kid in school anyway and my being forced—yes, forced—to wear eyeglasses would make matters worse, or at least that is what I thought. Sadly enough, my fears weren’t far from the truth. On my first day of wearing eyeglasses at school, my classmates didn’t shy away from making fun of me. I was instantly dubbed “four eyes,” and a “nerd.” I mean, now that I think of it, those weren’t particularly insulting words(well, not anymore for me, anyway), but to a 7-year-old, you can perhaps imagine how hard that must have been; especially an extremely shy and timid 7-year-old, who barely had any friends to begin with.
And, so, my struggle with wearing eyeglasses began from then onwards. I’d wear glasses leaving home, and as soon as I was on the school bus, out of my parents’ view, I’d quickly take it off and shove it into my backpack. A few times, I remember, my classmates asking me why I didn’t wear my glasses anymore, and I’d simply shrug and tell them, “I don’t need it anymore; my eyes are fixed.”
Except, they weren’t fixed.
My having to hide my eyeglasses and continue to do this for as long as I could get away with it resulted in the further weakening of my eyesight. The world would appear blurrier and blurrier, as the years progressed but I didn’t care. Even the kids that made fun of me for wearing glasses in the second grade soon started to wear eyeglasses themselves. But, unlike with me, no one dared to pick on them because they were older than I was when I started wearing eyeglasses. And, also, because it helped that they were far more popular than I was at school.
Oh, the irony of it all!
Eventually, I did finally gain some confidence to wear eyeglasses at school, but I’d only wear them when I was looking at the board or reading/writing. I’d quickly take them off as soon as I’d step out in public, lest anyone should dare see me wearing them and think I looked ugly. And, of course, back then, wearing contacts was too much of a far-fetched idea in my parents’ minds, least in mine. I knew a student who wore them—actually, I knew quite a few students at my school who even wore coloured contacts—but then, again, the idea never dared to cross my mind. It was only after my parents immigrated to Canada in the summer of 1997 that I finally found the courage to ask my parents that I was sick of wearing eyeglasses and that I wanted to give contact lenses a try.
My dad didn’t hesitate to take me to the optometrist to see whether I was eligible for contact lenses. I say “eligible,” because apparently one needed to have a certain eye power in order to wear contacts back then. To my utter dismay, I quickly realized my eyesight was “too weak” for contacts. I clearly remember the conversation with the optometrist, and it went something like this:
“I’m sorry, dear, but I don’t think we have contacts for your level of astigmatism yet. Your eyesight is very weak and still very unstable. You will need to wear glasses pretty much all the time until your eyesight stabilizes, except going to bed, of course.” I remember the optometrist letting out a loud laugh at the part when he said, “except going to bed,” but I didn’t find his “joke” remotely funny.
As a matter of fact, I felt my heart sink so hard at the realization that I not only couldn’t wear contact lenses, but that I now had to have eyeglasses glued to my face 24/7, that I wished I could just disappear somewhere far away. I mean I was just about to start high school in a country where pretty much all schools were co-ed! The last thing I wanted was to wear eyeglasses through it all. And, yet, for two years of my high school life, I really tried to make the best of it. I made sure I got eyeglasses that were as small and as delicate as possible, so that I wouldn’t look “nerdy” or “geeky;” better yet, I bought rimless, so that it looked like I wasn’t wearing glasses at all. I still felt ugly sometimes, and it got worse when a friend I knew at school asked me whether I planned to “get married in my eyeglasses.” I mean WTF was I to say to that? Um, yes, because they didn’t have contacts in my goddamn prescription yet? I was only 15; marriage was the last thing on my mind. I did have hope that someday, I would wear contacts—deathly hoped that it would be well before my wedding day.
Luckily enough, I did eventually get contact lenses. And that too in my last year of high school. But, instead of the softer version that most people wear, I was prescribed the hard gas permeable contacts. If any of my readers know what I’m talking about, yes, those ones – the real glass hard ass kind that KILLED each time dust or makeup went into your eyes. The contacts were not only literally made of glass, but they were smaller than your eyeballs, so each time you blinked, you could feel them move on your pupils. And don’t get me started on how you were required to remove them. It was all just pure PAIN. I wore hard contacts pretty much throughout my undergrad years. I was 25 when the optometrist told me I could finally wear soft contacts. I literally wanted to cry – no, bawl – tears of joy. And I probably did.
While soft contact lenses were far better than the dreaded gas permeable ones I suffered with for almost five years, they, too, had their disadvantages. And those who wear contacts—hard or soft—know very well what they are, so I won’t bother listing them. Though, for the most part, my experience with soft contact lenses was pretty decent. I mean I didn’t love them, but I didn’t hate them either. They kept glasses off of my face, and that was all that mattered, really. But, of course, it was still always a struggle having to wear them each morning, sanitizing them, and taking them off each night. And having to repeat this pretty much on a daily basis. It was worse when I traveled or went somewhere on vacation. I always had to carry a pair of glasses with me, just in case my eyes got infected, or too dry, or if, heaven forbid, I happened to lose the six pairs of contact lenses I carried in my carry-on. Like, you just never know, you know?
And now that I have young kids, wearing glasses never makes it any easier. My son, who is three-years-old now, has a lovely habit of jumping in my lap (or face, to be more accurate) whenever he gets excited, and more often than not he’s managed to slam my eyeglasses into my face. I’ve been lucky my face hasn’t been permanently scarred, but, yes, having plastic and glass rammed into your face isn’t fun. It’s actually quite painful. And let’s not even go to when either you or your kids by “mistakenly” break your glasses. The struggle is just too real, man.
My Lasik Experience: The Works
I’ve wanted to get laser eye correction done since I first learned about it several years ago, but was obviously too chicken to even give it a thought. The common misconception is that you could go blind if heaven forbid the surgery goes freakishly wrong. But, that’s not true. Not at all. As a matter of fact, the chances of one going blind is so rare that it’s pretty much unheard of, meaning that it’ll probably never happen. And, so, I finally decided to take the plunge when my husband went for it about three years ago. He now has better than 20/20 vision, and doesn’t regret investing in the surgery one single bit. I, too, would have done it three years ago, but the timing wasn’t right, i.e. I’d just given birth, breastfeeding, etc.
So, I waited. Fast forward to three years later, January 17, 2019, I am sitting in the surgery room, as the kind doctor explains to me what exactly is going to happen. Basically, I opted for the all (or full?) laser surgery, meaning that they use laser for everything, including making the corneal flap (there was the option of the blade, but I think more and more lasik eye clinics are moving away from cutting the corneal flap open with the blade). As the doctor examined my eyes (they do this right before the surgery to ensure everything is okay), he told me I was a great candidate and that I would be extremely happy with the results. Apparently, my high astigmatism was easily curable. The realization that I could actually never have to wear glasses or contacts again, after coming out that surgery room, left me nothing short of breathless. It was just too surreal to even comprehend. As a matter of fact, when the doctor told me I’d have perfect vision in just a couple days, even, was unbelievable. I actually did not believe him. Yet, I was willing to put my eyes in his hands (literally), just to see whether he was bullshitting or not. I still thought I’d wear glasses, but maybe like a lighter prescription, and perhaps occasionally. But, I couldn’t, for some reason, for the life of me, make myself believe that perfect vision was ever a possibility for me. It never was my whole life, so how could it actually be now?
After the doctor checked my eyes and made sure I was ready, the nurse gave me a couple stress balls and made me lie down, resting my head so it was nicely cushioned. Surprisingly, I wasn’t sedated or given any anesthesia; in other words, I was fully, wide awake throughout the whole ordeal. I watched as the doctor started with my left eye first. He first put lots of eye numbing fluid in my eye (I honestly have no idea how they make this stuff; it is bloody brilliant!), and then the next thing I know, I see him lift the corneal flap. At this point all I see is white (for about 10 seconds or so), and then a bunch of bursting hues of reds and blues in a pitch black background, pretty much what I’d imagine space would look like. He then covered my left eye, and then he did the exact same with my right eye. Again, hues of bursting reds, blues, and even greens, a sudden surge of white, and then my right eye was covered.
He then shifted me to another machine; this was the main machine where all the magic happened. He first took off the cover from my left eye and pulled back the corneal flap and while I couldn’t feel or see the laser seeping through my eye to correct the vision, I did smell something burning (it smells more like burnt hair; kind of unpleasant, but not enough to make you gag). The burning smell is when the laser is going through your eye to correct the erroneous vision. Once that eye was done (probably took a few seconds, or at least it felt like that), he did the same thing with my right eye. Again, the burning smell, and soon it was over.
The whole procedure itself, with both the eyes, took a maximum of 10-15 minutes tops. It all happened so fast that I was shocked when the doctor exclaimed “We’re all done!” happily, and the nurse helped me up into a sitting, upright position. While the world was still quite blurry, I noticed at times my eyesight got near perfect and blurred again. The doctor advised that that was normal and that my vision would probably fluctuate like this the majority of the day and perhaps even the next few days. I was advised to wear dark sunglasses and to stay out of bright light, as my eyes were still quite sensitive, both to sunlight (or any bright light, for that matter) and dust. I was also advised to not use any electronics for the first 24 hours, to ensure my eyes healed. The nurse then prescribed three different eye drops that I had to use in 1 hour, 4 hour, and 6 hour increments. In a nutshell, the first day is pretty darn stressful. You want to make sure you follow instructions exactly as directed, so that your eyes would heal as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Oh, and for those considering lasik and are wondering if there is any pain in the aftermath of the surgery, well, I would be lying if I said there is no pain whatsoever. Also, keep in mind, the amount of “pain” and discomfort one experiences varies from person to person. In my personal experience, the couple hours after the surgery, my eyes felt like there was something in them (think REALLY uncomfortable contact lenses) and they burned. My eyes weren’t painful enough for me to use numbing drops, but I did have to take Advil/Tylenol (painkillers). Oh, and they tear. A. LOT. At times, it would be difficult to put in the drops at their scheduled times, because it would be hard to open your eyes due to the burning sensation and, of course, the tearing up.
However, before you freak out, this discomfort lasts for only a few hours (yes, I know it sounds like a long time, but trust me, I’d take the burning sensation over another 20 years of shitty contact lenses and eyeglasses ANY day!). You just got to suck it up for a bit, and soon enough the burning sensation will completely wear off. You might still feel some sensitivity over the course of a few weeks, but that’s only normal and healing may take up to a month or perhaps even longer, depending on how well you take care of your eyes. The sunglasses and drops are only a requirement for the first week or less, but after that, you are free to wear eye makeup, drive, go swimming, etc.
For me, it has now been exactly a month and a day since I got my laser eye surgery done, and when I went to my two weeks post-surgery check-up, the doctor did the visual acuity test, and it was determined that I now pretty much have 20/20 vision. As shocking and surreal as this sounds, for those still wondering whether lasik eye correction works, and whether it is worth the investment – YES. Yes, it works. It works beautifully, even if you have like the worst astigmatism ever. Matter of fact, the worse your eyesight is, the better of a candidate you are. There is one little catch though, but it’s not bothersome. The doctor who did my surgery did advise that I may have to wear reading glasses at some point, much, much later on (say 20-25 years from now). And, that has nothing to do with the lasik or the fact that I was nearly blind pre-surgery; it’s just something that occurs with age. Honestly, though, I am okay with that. It’s better than having to wear glasses or contacts 24/7.
There is indeed a sort of freedom that has come with the opportunity to having done this incredible surgery. I wake up to a clear world every single morning. (For some people this may vary; my husband experienced slight blurriness in the morning for only about an hour, for almost a year, but all that has cleared now. Also, you might experience a bit of glare when driving at night, but again, that doesn’t last too long either.)
I now never have to worry about buying a new pair of glasses (and they can get pretty darn expensive), or ordering contacts, because my supply is running now. Just the fact that I now don’t have to touch my eyeball on a daily freaking basis is empowering enough. I mean it would take me forever to put in my contacts each morning (yes, I honestly don’t get people who put in their contacts without looking into a mirror, like, what?!). So, yeah, having to be spared that is such a major relief. Like, my readers have no idea how much of a relief that is!
So, if you are considering lasik eye correction, my honest advice to you is this: DO IT. Better yet, stop reading this blog and book a consultation like RIGHT NOW. And don’t be discouraged by how much it costs; trust me the amount it costs is worth the quality of eyesight you will get in return. And this is speaking from personal experience. I wouldn’t promote it if my own experience wasn’t mind-blowing. Just make sure the surgeon you choose to do your surgery has a great track record, and of course get your lasik eye correction done from a renowned clinic/organization. This way you’ll have peace of mind, as the whole idea of someone poking around in your eye is daunting enough. You want to ensure that you have some level of trust built with the person who will be doing your surgery.
So, with that said, good luck (if you do decide to go for lasik)! Oh, and if you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to leave a message below. (You can always email me too at firstname.lastname@example.org.) Feel also free to share your own success stories with lasik; after all, we all love a great success story! ❤