My wacky visual system

I have mentioned I have a wonky eye.  What does that mean? Prior to surgery, we were told I may lose some of my peripheral vision, specifically in the upper and lower regions.  I remember the neurosurgeon saying that I may have some trouble walking initially because of the lower left periphery.  Mom remembers him also saying upper.  Regardless, when I came out of surgery, I had lost my entire left periphery.  That means literally someone can be right next to me on the left and I can’t see them.  I have my foveal (center) vision in my left eye, but if I am looking straight, I can’t see something on the left at all unless I turn my head and look at it with both eyes. My left eye is also a little wonky in that is is a constant kaleidoscope, with lots of interests lights and colors constantly happening.  I see Disney woodland creatures and sometimes horses and unicorns, depends on the day.  It also looks like the left side of everyone’s face is melting off, which is entertaining. Looking at myself in the mirror is a real hoot.  It reminds me of when the Terminator is missing the left hand side of his face and he sees the metal and his mechanical eye.

There are two main effects of my wonky vision.  The first is that I can’t sit up straight anymore.  I have learned the role of my visual system in holding me up straight.  Because I have no left periphery, my entire body now leans to the left side when I am sitting.  That means that the visual system plays an important role in keeping me up straight and with the loss of part of it, my body doesn’t know what to do. I have to use lumbar support pillows, I have some chairs that actually hold me up straight, or I have to prop myself up with these awesome, thick bamboo pillows I have.  It also means that by the end of the day, my back is killing me, especially between the shoulder-blades.   I have learned to deal in various ways.

The other effect is that my Where’s Waldo skills are now just pathetic.  My visual field is a big blur of lots of stimuli that is hard to distinguish.  I used to have such an attention to detail and that is just completely gone.  In a crowded place, the chances of me finding a single person or thing are minimal unless that person is waving his or her arms or there is something colorful or shiny to draw my attention. I have had to train my mom to use military clock terms to help orient me spatially…look at 3 o’clock or 11 o’clock. I also need much more context in conversations than I used to, because of my inability to recognize objects like I used to previously.  She can’t point to something across the room and have me easily follow the line to what she’s talking about unless she tells me what I’m looking for. It’s all interesting and amusing.

I just realized the other day that even though my left eye is the wonky one, it also has better visual acuity than my right eye, I assume because I’m left side dominant.  So, I tend to favor my left eye when I’m looking  for something.  This becomes entertaining because I literally don’t see things that are right in front of me unless I am told they are there. And I can wander around my apartment looking for something for hours and not see it. I know it is there somewhere. If something is slightly out of place, it throws me off completely. Things that used to be so easy and second nature are totally different now.

If I weren’t a psychologist and a researcher by nature, this stuff would likely be much more frustrating.  But to me it is all rather fascinating.

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