It’s not that I’m a shallow person. The world just looks to me as if it’s shallow.
I have no depth perception. When I was born, the gods were doing this “Build a Geek” challenge, and I ended up with severely crossed eyes. To fix this, I went through eye surgery at about 6 years old, where they cut some of the muscles in my left eye to make it less of a bitch to keep up with. The surgery itself was terrifying, but since my dad lied and told me it was laser surgery, I was merely excited at the prospect of “science-ing” my way to betterness.
I woke up half an hour early, as they were lifting me into a wheeled hospital bed to bring me to my room. They had put gauze and some wire mesh cups that felt like tiny sieves over my eyes to keep me from rubbing them, and in my child’s mind, I initially panicked that I now resembled Jeff Goldblum in “The Fly” (in Fly-form, of course). Happily, I still had human eyes somewhere under all that, and after several days of waking up to take pills and squeeze my parents’ hands for reassurance, I no longer suffered double-vision.
To celebrate, the doctors slapped a pair of Coke-bottle-style glasses on my tiny little face, ensuring I maintained my place on the Build-a-Geek ladder. In the same year, a different doctor noted that I walked pigeon-toed, so at the tender age of seven, I was given leg braces. Somehow, the gods knew that Forrest Gump would win six Academy Awards, and hoped to take advantage of the homage.
Over the years, the glasses didn’t feel like they helped me at all. In fact, I got headaches constantly, and found that I could see just fine without them. So, when I was a teenager—now a Canadian teenager—I asked the optometrist if I could get contacts. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I realized his response of “They don’t make contacts for your eye shape” was possibly racially motivated. And if it wasn’t, then his response when I said that my sister wore contacts, was. He told me I was near-sighted in one eye and suffered astigmatism in the other, but the prescription never seemed to help or feel remotely appropriate. Annoyed, I stopped wearing my glasses, and have generally had good eyesight ever since; granted, real life looks no different to me than TV, as nothing has depth.
I mainly see through my left eye. I can see through my right. But like Castor and Pollux, Cage and Travolta, or the 2017 Vancouver Canucks, they just don’t play well together.
I can tell something is coming closer because it’s getting bigger. I can tell something is going further away because it’s getting smaller. If you throw an oversize tennis ball at me, I probably won’t know when to try and catch it. And if I spend too long at the grocery store, the double vision returns, and I get a splitting headache.
Despite all this, I’ve enjoyed an impressive collection of books, a respectable reputation as a gamer, and a decade with a bow in my hand and an arrow in the gold. Still, I can’t drive. Trust me, you don’t want me on the road and that’s neither a dig on my race or my gender.
At the end of December, after extensive testing of my perceptual capabilities, a lovely, non-racist and very competent optometrist told me that something could be done to fix my vision. As of last week and for a very conveniently priced fee, I began vision therapy. So far I’ve learned a few things: I actually have excellent vision; I do not suffer from astigmatism and any near-sightedness is a result of one eye simply not having a great relationship with my brain. My less dominant eye tires easily and mostly goes ignored, so my peripheral vision in that eye—while it exists and can be relied upon on some eerie subconscious level—typically goes ignored by the most conscious part of my brain. To correct this, my right eye needs therapy and regular exercise so it can grow strong. The process is intensive and can take anywhere from one year to three, depending on how well I commit myself to it. Halfway through, the doctors will reassess my vision and decide whether or not a second surgery would be necessary, or at least helpful. My optometrist would rather not resort to surgery, however, because she isn’t sure what she’ll find in there: how much muscle the previous doctor had cut, or how much scar tissue has built up. It would present a risk.
There are other drawbacks, of course. I would need to do intensive eye exercises every day and make biweekly visits to the optometrist’s office. I have been advised to avoid activities that would further tire my eyes, such as reading, staring at spreadsheets, and practicing calligraphy. So basically, all the things I either enjoy doing or get paid to do. But I know I’m lucky, too. My partner came with me to my first therapy session and paid close attention to every exercise, determined to understand how they all worked so that he could run me through those exercises at home. My friend told me her son had a similar condition and was prescribed a game called Flash Focus on Nintendo DS, to great success within six months. My dad, like he did when I was just an ickle little thing, has been checking up on my progress frequently. Where I grew up struggling with my vision alone, as clueless about taking care of myself as my mother was taking care of me, I now feel like the loose net of people who care about me is pulling a little tighter, cushioning me like so much padding on a cell wall.
I know I’m in for a long game, but at the end of it, I’ll be able to see the spaces between the trees when we go shooting in the woods. I’ll be able to accurately tell how far away a bear is when I stumble upon her cubs. As an archer and a person who would love to be able to get away from that angry, angry bear, I’ve got a lot riding on this.
Wish me luck.