My Mum has a massive phobia of eyes, and through what I can only assume is osmosis I thought I had the same. (Mum – this post might freak you out!). If you don’t want to hear about contact lenses click away now…
I first started wearing glasses when I was about 15 or 16, I noticed that I was having trouble reading the board at school and the clock in exams. I got myself down to the opticians to become a proud member of the spectacle wearing club. I only ever needed them for far away things, so at school, at the cinema, at home watching TV, but generally I didn’t wear them very much.
It wasn’t really until I was around 18/19 that I noticed that I was really struggling when I wasn’t wearing them. Friends would often tell me off for giving them “the evil eye” when seeing them from a distance, the truth was I was actually trying to focus them in!
I look to wearing my glasses all the time when I was travelling (I hitch-hiked – wanted to see drivers from a distance) but soon found that without them, I couldn’t actually see diddly-squat. So I have been wearing my glasses all the time since I was about 23.
“Why don’t you get contacts?” I was asked all the time, and the truth was that I would have loved too, but I was too scared. The thought alone of having to get a little bit of plastic in and out of my eye would give me heart palpitations. I admitted to myself that I was just destined to be one of those speccy four-eyes forever, and it was fine. My friends and family are now more used to seeing me with glasses than without.
Now there are some definite draw-backs to being a glasses wearer (these are obviously massively outweighed by the fact that you can see….). Rain is a nightmare, you genuinely need windscreen wipers, especially if it is that god-awful misty rain where you can actually see more without your glasses than with. Also, misting. Shopping in winter is a pain in the backside, outside fine, in a shop – nope – no more sight for you – just fog. Walk into a bar after being outside… fog… can’t see with glasses, can’t see without glasses…. so many people… so many obstacles… OH THE HORROR!!!
So the final straw for me was learning to ski. Now, if you have been following my posts (original here, latest here) about skiing you will know that I am a somewhat reluctant skier to start with. So the fact that during my second lesson I realised that I would get half-way down the hill and not be able to see a single thing was utterly terrifying. I am sliding down a hill, on 2 sticks, blind, no control. How I did not injure myself or someone else is an absolute miracle. After doing a bit of online research when back on less snowy ground there was one conclusion, one way to solve this issue, and that was getting contact lenses.
The Friday after we came back from Cambridge/Skiing I decided to grab the bull by the horns and book myself an appointment. I saw that Specsavers (who are my usual optician anyway) do a free trial for contacts, so this seemed perfect. Luckily for me they had an appointment available the following Monday.
So on Monday, off I trotted into Brighton town centre, took a deep breath and headed down to the contact lens centre. There I was met by a very friendly optician who did all of the checks (very similar to an eye test, shining lights etc.) to make sure my eyes were healthy and to check my suitability. She said everything looked fine, then needed to check the “shape and size” with a magical machine. Lord knows how it worked but I basically looked into something and it measure the curvature (I assume) so they would know what size I needed. It was all very quick and simple. Perhaps a little uncomfortable with the light shining, but nothing painful or scary. She discussed my needs and what I was looking to get from wearing contacts, I elaborated the ski story….
The next bit was the scary bit; “Are you happy for me to put them in?” she asked. Another deep breath and “yes it’s fine”. I have come this far, can’t back out now! She showed me these tiny delicate circles of gel like plastic and popped one onto the surface of my eye… look up, look down, look left, look right, blink blink blink and TUH DUH! Same with the other eye… blink blink blink. I can see. It is the strangest feeling every being able to see after so long without the world having a black frame.
After they were in I went to see another optician for the “teach”, here she explained the do’s and don’ts of contact (DO wash your hands, DON’T run your lenses under the tap) and explained how to take them out and put them in. Then came practical part of the lesson, so very carefully as instructed (chin to chest, very important) and took the first one out on the first attempt. She seemed pretty impressed at the ease with which I had done it, and asked me to do the other eye. Same again. Nodding, impressed she then explained about putting them in (daily disposables mean a fresh pair each time for me). Top Tip: to make sure they are not inside out they should look like a cereal bowl with no lip, if they look like a pasta dish with a lip then they are the wrong way around.
In they popped. She declared I was a natural after I managed to take them out again without any problems. Off I went with my free 5-day trial feeling really rather pleased with myself.
The whole experience as a pleasure. The staff were friendly, helpful and informative and really made me feel at ease. The trial worked you up to the full 12-hour wear, so first day 4 hours, second day 6 hours etc. On the following Monday I had a follow up appointment to check how I was getting on. I had another quick eye check with the optician while wearing the contacts and they said everything was fine. Next stop sales! I decided to get 20 a month on direct debit, they have quite a lot of benefits on direct debit like cheaper sunglasses and free glasses, eye check etc. so I thought it was a good place to start. Day on, day off, see how I go. So far so good! The novelty of going into a shop and taking off my sunglasses and being able to see is an absolute life-changer. The whole experience was so much quicker, easier and not at all remotely traumatic like I thought it would be. I feel very positive about it all, which is great for something that a few years ago stuck fear at the mere mention of it.
So winter here I come! You with your steamy eye glasses and your misty rain! I am ready for you!
Apparently the next stop of laser surgery… I think we are a way off that yet *shudder*