Originally Posted on September 12TH, 2014:
For a week after using the serum tears, I was deeply depressed. My eyes hurt and my vision was foggy even though my eye doctor said my eyes looked “fine.” I began to lose hope of ever conquering my dry eye condition and reclaiming the “normal” eyes I once had.
I had definitely lowered the bar a while ago. This wasn’t about acuity (vision); it was about living with discomfort and constant pain. I could accept poor vision, but not pain.
My online dry eye support group knew exactly how I felt. I plan to write more stories about this group. It is comprised of men and women, young and old. One woman has lived with her condition over 25 years already. Many of the new members want to pull their eyeballs out!
What I continue to find so beautiful, is how this group is filled with hopefulness. When someone is overwhelmed, another member suggests things that might help him or her.
After my serum tear fiasco, I poured out my heart and received many caring and concerned messages.
My new friend from this group named Susan was very appreciative of my story. She had just gotten a prescription for serum tears because I had encouraged her to push her doctor for it. Now she wasn’t sure whether to try them after hearing about what I had experienced.
Susan and I began writing daily and I was touched by how caring she was. It turned out that she didn’t live too far from me. That was amazing since the online group was international. Susan had suffered with dry eyes for about ten years. She had attended several meetings of a dry eye support group in Orange County, which was about two hours from where we lived. The leader of that group was a very knowledgeable person and quite willing to help others. Her name was Judi.
Susan had recently spoken with her and shared my story; now Judi wanted to get in touch with me.
I was open to it.
Judi began by emailing me a ton of literature and eventually we spoke for an hour on the phone.
Her messages resonated with wisdom, knowledge and incredible compassion. If I allowed an image to form, it would be of seeing myself lying on the ground. Suddenly gentle hands caressed me and sweet messages of hope were whispered in my ears. With the help of those hands, I managed to pull myself back up.
What stood out to me in Judi’s messages were several things. Certainly she had an incredible amount of knowledge. But what really helped me was when she acknowledged the psychological impact of my condition and reassured me that I wasn’t going crazy.
You are not crazy or a hypochondriac; they just don’t have the answer or know how to treat you. God can make a way when it seems there is none. Don’t give up.
And her mentioning God really touched me.
No one can understand how bad the pain of dry eyes can be unless they have experienced it. We have more nerves in our eyes than anywhere else in our bodies. I can remember a young man, many years ago that wanted to have his eyes removed because the pain was so bad; he was in his 30’s. That was so very sad and I wonder whatever happened to him.
I have also struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life, especially after the age of thirty. I have recently learned that anxiety and depression makes the pain of dry eyes worse – and the pain of the dry eyes makes the depression worse. It is a vicious cycle.
I can say that my struggle started 14 years ago and my eyes are better now than when I started but also I have learned to be much more proactive in treating them. It always drives me closer to God, to depend and trust Him – to spend time with Him – to be grateful for His grace and faithfulness in all areas of my life.
Twenty years ago, I helped bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents as a support group leader for an organization named Compassionate Friends.
Whenever I have written about the things that helped me to survive my grief, I usually mention how I benefitted from support groups. “Hold hands with other people who are also suffering. Take baby steps together,” is often how I frame it.
It seems like I followed my own advice when my dry eye condition began to overwhelm my life.
One of the hardest things for me as a leader at Compassionate Friends was helping the newly bereaved.
They were in shock, bewildered at how their “normal” life had suddenly disintegrated. The grief journey they were beginning seemed like a horror they could never survive and dying to join their loved one seemed far easier.
Part of reason it was so difficult for me (back then), was because I was on the same journey and I couldn’t really say that it would get “better” with honesty. The journey from where the hell began was arduous and excruciatingly slow. The best that could be hoped for was to hold hands with others and hang on.
What I gained from helping other people with grief was a sense of purpose. It made me feel that all of the suffering I went through strengthened me. Now I could do something useful, my son was an “angel on my shoulder,” hugging and holding me as I comforted other people.
It was when Judi reached out to help me that I realized how I was getting something back for all that I had given.
The experience was quite spiritual for me.
As horrible as bereavement was, I have looked at it as a pathway toward enlightenment. Grief took me away from God and eventually I found a way back. I try not to imagine that God orchestrates all the misery in this world. Because of my eye pain, I know I have gained far more compassion and depth.
I know that things could be worse and things could be better. The number of painful diseases that exist in this world are endless and I cry for anyone who suffers. Even with dry eye disease, there are people whose eyes are disfigured and scarred, who cannot drive or face daylight at all.
So many things happen in life that I do not understand. For myself personally, I strive to stay positive as I follow my dream.
I keep smiling and there’s a reason for that. It’s because my eye pain has not stopped me from arranging songs, recording vocals and writing new music. I even began composing a new song last week.
I am currently working on a large illustration assignment that is going very well. Somehow, I always manage to find time to write for my blog.
I am very close to all three of my children. I have two sons who live with me (17 and 23) and they keep me busy shopping to fill our refrigerator. I play tennis and I swim several days a week.
How is that possible?
My explanation is that there are angels are all around me.
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