#6 I CRY INSIDE

The retinologist’s words were crisp and firm. “Can you function? Can you do your work in order to sustain an income?”

Songwriting is both mysterious and magical for me. Currently, I am composing lyrics for a new song.
Songwriting is both mysterious and magical for me. Currently, I am composing lyrics for a new song.

Written on June 10th, 2013:

My post title is a line of lyrics from my song “The Unknown.” When I wrote my song in 2011, I was horrified by my lyrics. It was because they were so revealing and honest.

The lyrics of my song that include this title go: “My tears I hide when you are near me, I cry inside where you can’t hear me.”

I operate on that level more than I’d like to admit. I hide my pain, while inside I am screaming and crying. It has been quite difficult for me to release my feelings and very unhealthy. In order to numb myself, it is far easier to indulge in overeating and the result has been awful for me. I am certain that the reason my music heals me is because it is the one place where I can freely express myself.

“Can you function?”

The retinologist’s words were crisp and firm. “Can you function? Can you do your work in order to sustain an income?”

I looked at him and hesitated. Softly I said, “Yes, but it’s pretty tough. I get headaches and it’s frustrating.”

He spoke kindly and said, “It’s very important that you understand why I’m asking you this. If you tell me you cannot work or function, I will schedule you for a Vitrectomy tomorrow.”

I had read about this procedure. It was rather drastic. The gel in the eye is replaced with vegetable oil. Walla! I’d have crystal clear vision again. But of course, nothing is that simple. The procedure is quite risky.

He explained that it was a routine surgery for him; and he did it often. He said it would take less than an hour; then I would go home and live with the result. With seriousness he told me that there were rare instances of failure and he remembered each and every case.

Due to my nearsightedness and elongated eyeball, the procedure definitely carried more risk for me than the average person. His recommendation was that I wait at least a year to be sure. As I left, he told me that he it was more than likely that with time I would adjust.

I walked to my car. The sunlight was painful and my vision was swirling with feathers and lines. I put on sunglasses and tried not to cry.

I decided I liked this doctor. Mostly, I appreciated his compassion.

I had made this appointment because I was so discouraged by my eyesight; I wanted reassurance that my retinas were still intact and felt it might not be a bad idea to see another eye specialist. I had already read a lot about PVD (posterior vitreous detachment) on the Internet and knew there wasn’t simple cure for me.

I had actually been given a referral to this doctor a month earlier after I informed my HMO that I wanted reimbursement for a second opinion. My request for reimbursement was denied, even though I had given prior notice. I was given a referral to see this retina specialist from my HMO instead. I made an appointment, but it was several weeks away and I was miserable.

I did not have the energy to appeal the denial of my $250 expenditure.

The doctor that dispensed my second opinion recommended a laser treatment to help treat a common complication I had from my cataract surgeries.

Finally after complaining, I was given a sooner appointment where a doctor at my HMO performed the laser treatment. I was told I could cancel my appointment with this retinologist.

After the laser treatment, I was hopeful that my eyes would improve. But it was not the case. A few weeks later, I had a second PVD when my vitreous gel separated in my “good” eye.

On top of that, I had painful dryness in both eyes that was excruciating. All the while, I was busy working on an illustration assignment. Thankfully, my computer had a large screen that was helpful for my eyes.

It was my music that continued to keep me going and helped me the most.

Every Challenge

My eye difficulties inspired the lyrics to my song “Somewhere I Can’t See.”
My eye difficulties inspired the lyrics to my song “Somewhere I Can’t See.”

© Judy Unger and http://dryeyediaries@wordpress.com 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#5 WITH ALL THIS PAIN, I CAN’T REMAIN

I am having difficulty functioning and am discouraged. My brain is screaming loudly that this is intolerable. I quiet the screaming by playing music and it does help. But my days are harder than I ever imagined.

Performance 5-13                 

Written on May 26th, 2013:

This past weekend I performed at a party; it was on the day that marked the one-year anniversary of my father’s death and was the same weekend as my deceased son’s birthday.

Unfortunately, most of the evening I was worried about whether I saw sparks in my vision, which meant I could be having a retinal detachment. I wasn’t sure if what I was seeing was related to my eyesight or the tiny light bulbs lining the outdoor performing area. I planned to make another appointment with a retinologist as soon as possible or go to the ER if it became worse.

I played 3 songs and shared a lot about my life in only twenty minutes. I actually enjoyed speaking more than singing. But my audience was receptive; the people listening were kind and embraced me.

As I write this post, I am trying gamely to cope with extremely uncomfortable eyesight. My eyes are not mine anymore and this has deeply affected my quality of life.

This is a result of both of my eyes experiencing PVD, also known as Posterior Vitreous Detachment. It happened to my left eye in January and last week my right eye was afflicted. It seems that having cataract surgery last year accelerated many problems for me due to my severe nearsightedness.

I went on the Internet and the consensus from the medical profession is that this condition is untreatable and something you eventually adjust to; it often takes a year. But I also found words written by other people suffering greatly with all of the same symptoms I had.

I see shadows from dark floaters. There is fogginess; many blurs and my eyes actually feel wobbly. On top of this, I’ve developed sensations as a result of a dry eye condition. My eyes continually water and feel uncomfortable. Daylight hurts.

I am having difficulty functioning and am discouraged. My brain is screaming loudly that this is intolerable. I quiet the screaming by playing music and it does help. But my days are harder than I ever imagined.

I wonder when I will start feeling better.

Talking about my songs

© Judy Unger and http://dryeyediaries@wordpress.com 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#4 MY TEARS I HIDE

Yesterday, I had a big disturbance in my GOOD eye. Just like what happened to my left eye in January, the gel separated from the eye wall in my right eye.

Written on May 17th, 2013

Yesterday, I had a big disturbance in my GOOD eye. Just like what happened to my left eye in January, the gel separated from the eye wall in my right eye. There are large areas of blurriness (from blood) and dark floaters everywhere on both eyes now. I am very discouraged. This is even harder and I am overwhelmed!

Today, I happen to have an appointment to see my eye surgeon. I waited three weeks for this appointment and it was to deal with dryness and inflammation – not this! I want to scream and cry. I hope I can hold it together.

I feel like I am walking through life with a filthy windshield now. All of my words to help other people with grief now apply to me. I hate this situation but have no alternatives.

It is very hard focus on anything. Thank god, for the music that is helping me now.

Message to a tennis friend: (my words are in bold)

I am having MORE problems with my eyes. I had another episode of bleeding inside my good eye. I’m very discouraged and do not feel like playing tennis tomorrow. I’ll play if you can’t find anyone – but I am definitely not in a good place.

My friend’s reply:

I don’t have another player but what can I say if you don’t want to play???

I’ll be there. I’m just having a tough time. But playing is probably good for me, even if my eyes are crummy. I have acuity, but not clarity. It’s hard to explain. I’m not blind, but I hate what is going on!

This is how my vision was before PVD.
This is how my vision was before PVD.

The next day, I drove to play tennis. I hardly had slept the night before. My mind crackled on and on; like a radio blaring it was noisy.

My eyesight could not possibly be comparable to my dead son, but I was grief-stricken. How would I live with this situation? What was my alternative? As I drove, I concentrated so as to drive safely. But blurriness and shadows were swirling everywhere.

Later in the day, I would see my eye surgeon. However, I knew that there was nothing he would be able to do to help my vision. Seeing him was awkward. He felt he had done his part. He was an excellent surgeon and my cataract surgery was considered successful. Unfortunately, I had so many complications, which were probably a result of my extreme nearsightedness.

I openly sobbed as I drove. This was too much! I put on music to soothe myself and heal my pain. But still, pain and sadness were shooting through every fiber of my being.

The last thing I wanted to be doing was to be playing tennis at a country club. My Friday game was normally played at a backyard tennis court. But today it had been scheduled at this club because our usual court wasn’t available. I hoped I wouldn’t see anyone I knew. I wore dark glasses and held back tears as I exited my car.

My body was heavy and I felt very vulnerable as I held my racquet. I began warming up and was grateful that I could still hit the tennis balls with my annoying eyesight. This was certainly better for me than hiding in my apartment.

After a short while, I decided it was actually a beautiful day. I closed my eyes and felt a soft breeze. I inhaled the aroma of chaparral from the nearby hillside. Perhaps life could still be decent, even if my vision stayed this way. I was determined to find a way.

I was introduced to another woman player who was filling in for our group. When I told her I was going through a divorce, I didn’t want her to feel sorry for me. I quickly let her know it was my choice and briefly shared my story. Then she said, “Well you must be happy about your decision, because there is definitely a glow coming from you.”

I was surprised to hear that. I didn’t feel like there was any glow about me. I accepted her words and was pleased that despite my pain I could still smile.

The two hours went by and as soon as it was over, I fled to my car. I needed my music to soothe me immediately. I was in an emotional crisis because I began crying again.

But playing tennis was excellent information for me. My eyesight was acceptable because I could still hit a tennis ball. I had actually played fairly well and that amazed me.

Later that day, I had an appointment with the ophthalmologist who had done my three cataract surgeries. Just as I expected, he explained to me that no treatment existed for annoying floaters; eventually I would get used to them. He examined my retinas, and they were intact; I was grateful about that. He did say that my dryness and inflammation could be treated with another eye drop medication. I left with a prescription. He said it would take at least several weeks before I would notice any improvement. His last words were, “Do not call me for another appointment until at least six weeks go by!”

I walked to my car with my eyes still dilated. My discomfort was so intense, that I began to cry again as I drove home. I stopped crying once I put on my music. Over and over, I thanked god for my musical elixir.

It was clear to me. My annoying eyesight was sucking the joy out of my life. 

It made it difficult for me to concentrate and to do many things. It gave me headaches, especially when I was doing artwork. But I could still draw. I could drive. I could still work with my computer and play tennis. How fortunate I was!

My greatest challenge was to find my joy again. I suffered for so many years with grief, and was a zombie for decades after that. My journey had brought me boundless joy. Now I was sad and grieving for my former eyesight!

The insight from this was profound. Perhaps god had another message for me, since the word “insight” includes sight!

Grief is part of life.

In an instant, we can lose something that we take for granted. Time might heal, but moves slowly when you are in pain.

No one else can truly know of our pain unless they are also living with it. I do maintain hope that I will feel better soon, but at this moment I am simply putting one foot in front of the other.

Tennis court with my eye problem

© Judy Unger and http://dryeyediaries@wordpress.com 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#3 I OPENED MY EYES; I CLOSED THEM AGAIN

I just wanted to update everyone about my eyes etc. On Tuesday, I had laser treatment on both of my eyes to clear the remaining cataract that intruded upon my vision.

Closed eye copy

An email update written April 7th 2013:

Hi friends and family,

I just wanted to update everyone about my eyes etc. On Tuesday, I had laser treatment on both of my eyes to clear the remaining cataract that intruded upon my vision. The complication I had was very common and almost immediately I could see that everything was brighter. But once the dilation wore off I saw numerous dark floaters, which was something the eye doctor told me I would have for a few days.

Unfortunately, the problem in my left eye is still quite pronounced for me. When the gel in my eye separated from the eye wall, there was some blood inside my gel. That is causing the blurriness. The doctors have told me it will improve, but it will take time – possibly even a year until it is absorbed.

All of this has been very hard for me to deal with. I try to stay positive, even though I often have a sensation like I have cobwebs in both my eyes. I was told there is no reason for this.

In the meantime, I am thankful that working on the computer is not a problem for me. It is when I’m not working, that my eyes bother me. Although this is challenging, I celebrate the many beautiful things that are happening in my new life.

I am thrilled to be working on a wonderful illustration assignment, which is going quite well. The income will allow me to continue singing and moving forward.

Love, Judy

#2 IT FEELS SO DARK, THE SKY IS GRAY

Shortly before I learned about dry eyes, I experienced a PVD. PVD was extremely traumatic for me. But every doctor I spoke with reassured me that it “was nothing.” It was common and something I’d adjust to.

Sunset without hope
This is an example of my vision after PVD on the left side.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
After I came home from my first cataract surgery, my oldest son (21) kept examining my eyes. He told me he wanted to take a picture so I could see the difference. My repaired eye is on the left. It’s quite dilated!
High school eyes
Just for fun I thought I’d grab a picture from my high school days. I want those eyes back! Where did my eyebrows go?

Written on January 31st, 2013:

Shortly before I learned about dry eyes, I experienced a PVD. PVD was extremely traumatic for me. But every doctor I spoke with reassured me that it “was nothing.” It was common and something I’d adjust to.

PVD stands for Posterior Vitreous Detachment. Here is what I wrote after it happened to my first eye three years ago:

Two weeks ago, something unexpected was thrown at me. It was insidious that it happened just as I was feeling better about life in general.

I was distraught because my left eye annoyed me every second of my day. It felt like gray gossamer webs were inside my eye. My brain screamed loudly, “You cannot see and this is intolerable!”

Three ophthalmologists examined me since my “incident.” What happened was that the vitreous gel in my eye shrunk and pulled away from the eye wall. It did not tear my retina (for which I am thankful), but there was blood involved. I was told that this was a normal part of the aging process and I would adjust to my large new floater. The blurriness was a result of the blood that would eventually be reabsorbed.

I was calm at all of my appointments except the third one. That day, I saw the eye surgeon who performed my cataract surgeries. I cried to him. He probably felt he was comforting me when he said my condition would eventually improve. But he said that I wouldn’t notice improvement for months and it would take a year before the grayness and blurriness diminished.

I put on sunglasses and cried as I drove home. My eye surgeon had made many optimistic statements, which I wanted to hold onto.

My condition was normal.

I didn’t need eye surgery for a retinal detachment.

Eventually, things would improve.

But at that moment, my vision was cloudy, so I wanted to close my eyes. I dreamed I’d awaken with decent eyesight. I couldn’t stop crying. Suddenly, I had entered a new tunnel of grief.

I plodded through each day and suffered more than I had in a long time. I wasn’t sure how I could overcome this!

I decided to write something that would utilize tenants from hypnotherapy. It was about ways that I could look at my situation. I began with simple sentences that I heard in my mind. I thought of ways I could reshuffle the words in order to help myself feel better.

My blurry gray vision. 

I hate it! It hurts to open both my eyes and look at the world. I can’t stop crying. I want to curl up and go back to sleep. I pray I’ll wake up and it will be better.

Can I live with

my blurry gray vision?

My answer is, “NO! I cannot live with this.” But, I have no choice about it and nothing can change it. Yet, it is so annoying and distracting. It screams over every other thought in my brain. Why do I have to live with this? I have too many questions, and none of them are helpful. 

How

can I live with

my blurry gray vision? 

I have no idea how I can function with this. I am struggling. I want to cry and complain, but since I hate to do that – it’s best that I hide from the world. Too much patience is required for this. I want the time to pass so I can see again.

I wonder

how I can live with

my blurry gray vision. 

There are many people in the world who have adjusted to a loss of eyesight – my own mother has macular degeneration. If they could adjust, then I could also. How fortunate I am that I have a condition that is likely to heal and improve.

Photos of my world

All my self-talk wasn’t helping and I was still miserable. I listened for my inner voice. When I heard that voice, I received quite a lecture from my inner critic. I write with complete honesty – knowing full well that this approach wasn’t kind or compassionate.

My inner critic said:

You keep telling grieving people to “hold on to hope” and “hang on.” Listen to your own words about how it will get better someday.

Your misery is a reminder that you did not have adequate empathy.

Healing from grief detached you from the suffering. Therefore, this is a lesson for you.

When someone is suffering, knowing that the pain might get better some day scarcely alleviates the agony in the moment.

Remember when you wrote that healing is about acceptance and change?

That is exactly what you need to do! The aging process is about accepting that our bodies will never be young again.

Stop looking at the gray and find color in a different way. Close your eyes if you have to!

© Judy Unger and http://dryeyediaries@wordpress.com 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#1 I WAIT BEHIND A CURTAIN

As the cataract on my eye was removed and a new lens implanted, I was wide-awake with my eye staring open. A kaleidoscope of colors intermingled with delicate veins flashed before me.

What it looked like during eye surgery

Written on October 12th, 2012:

I’m amazed that it was so easy to recreate what it looked like seeing through my eye as it was operated on during cataract surgery. I was wide awake with my eyelid clamped open.

My dry eyes began shortly after cataract surgery. I had no idea what it meant to even have dry eyes. I was simply hopeful that I would get through the adjustment period following my surgeries. Unfortunately after cataract surgery on my second eye, I developed some complications.

At that time, I wrote the following:

Before having my cataract procedure, I closed my eyes and listened to my iPod. My newest song captivated me and I was enjoying a recording I had made the day before in my closet. As I was singing the lyrics of, “I wait behind a curtain,” suddenly the doctor drew the curtain back in front of me. The irony of that gave me a huge smile.

As the cataract on my eye was removed and a new lens implanted, I was wide-awake with my eye staring open. A kaleidoscope of colors intermingled with delicate veins flashed before me. The surgeon explained what he was doing while he tugged at my eyeball. I did not feel anything and was totally relaxed.

Soon, I hope the curtain of blurriness will lift after my cataract issues are resolved. But the true meaning behind my post title is my dream of stepping out from behind a curtain onto a stage. The dream that I carry is that someday I will become well-known in my pursuit of helping people suffering with grief or other challenges in their lives. I believe I will be embraced by many people for my honesty. I look forward to singing with joy and spreading my message of hope.

 My dream is most certainly keeping me going during a very difficult time in my life.

Back Camera

© Judy Unger and http://dryeyediaries@wordpress.com 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.