The date was February 25th. It happened to be one of Seattle’s first days in which the sky was a crystal clear, vivid blue and the sun’s warm rays reassured the seasonal-affective-disordered locals that, yes, spring will, in fact, arrive soon, and, no, the sun has not disappeared forever. (Nevermind that we got our first – and hopefully only – flurries of snow last week on the actual first day of Spring.)
When morning came that day, I bet most people in town awoke with a hefty sigh of relief which quickly morphed into a smile of deep appreciation as they gazed out their windows. (Cue song “It’s gonna be a good day, cuz ain’t nobody gonna cry today…”)
But, for me? My morning declaration went a little something like this…
£<*%! OMFG!!! %¥~+!!!!”
It felt like someone had just stabbed me in the eye as I tried to open my right eyelid. Never before had daylight caused me this level of pain – And I’m not talking discomfort, not sensitivity, but downright burst-out-crying-uncontrollably type of pain. Yeaahhhh…
(My song lyrics would’ve been “blinded by the light…”)
So what happened? Here’s the recap:
A CORNEAL EROSION STORY
T’was the night of February 24th when I started to notice a familiar irritation beginning to arise in my right eye. The onset of an eye infection. Great. For the last few months, I had been getting these infections in the same eye that seem to just pop up out of nowhere. With previous infections, I was able to see my naturopath and clear them up in a little over a day with an herbal tincture eye wash and black tea bag compresses. Boom. That said, each time my infection would return it was a little disconcerting. But still, each time the herbal remedies quickly did the trick.
So on this particular evening, I had just climbed into bed when the feeling started to intensify. I was slightly irritated by the return of this, err, irritation, but I knew just what to do…
…or so I thought.
Being proactive about it, I did all my herbal remedies before going to sleep. All night, I kept waking up to pain and increased swelling. I managed to fall asleep for a few hours but by the time the sun had risen I awoke and exclaimed the above expletive.
None of the same remedies were working this time. I knew I needed to go see my doc. So I mustered every ounce of strength I could to peek through my left eye (because even that was excruciating for my right eye) to look at my bright phone screen and call my mom who lives about an hour away. I knew she’d have the most flexible schedule to help me out, and she’s just awesome like that. Next, I called my doc an made an appointment for 1pm. And then, I had to sit with the intensity of this pain for 3 hours until my appointment. In hindsight, that moment felt temporarily eternal.
In order to leave the house, I had to wear my mom’s dark sunglasses and a sleeping eye mask while holding a towel on top of my right side. All that and I STILL felt like I could feel the pain of the bright sky.
So, obviously, this was a very severe infection and as soon as I got to my doctor she sent us straight away to an eye specialist downtown.
The diagnosis was a torn cornea. The mystery is that I have NO idea how this happened. The doc said it had probably been scratched for months, making it more prone to infections, and the infections, in turn, worsening the tear.
So, something I learned in that moment: apparently we have multiple layers to our corneas and a common opthamalogic “fix” is to remove the damaged layer!!! Yeah, and that happened right there in the exam room. Let me just say, completely nauseating. But luckily, I was already in so much pain that I didn’t feel any additional discomfort. Just utter fear. I automatically sank deep into some heavy yoga breathing while she worked on my eye. (Shudder.)
With blurred vision, I was given antibiotic drops and told to come back in 3 days. And, well, seeing as I couldn’t see, I migrated up to my folks house to heal. I stayed up there for an entire week while the infection cleared and the light sensitivity lessened enough to make driving myself – and walking outside – possible again.
Here’s me on my first day out of the house!! Sunglasses on a rainy day. Notice the squinty eyes… Haha. Still couldn’t really open ’em much.
In the weeks that followed, the doc added steroid drops to my regimen to try to further reduce swelling while I wore sunglasses all day every day, even when teaching tap at night. (Thanks for letting me be a temporary diva, tap friends.)
I took a little back step in healing last Wednesday – March 13th – when the eye doc removed a protective contact lens she had initially applied as a barrier to help my cornea heal. My eye must have been really dry underneath it because when she took it off it actually felt like the sting of pulling a bandaid off one’s skin. But on my eye. Ouch. Over the next few days my eye began getting increasingly irritated and uncomfortable, though thankfully not as painful or light sensitive. I was instructed to stop the antibiotic drops but keep up the steroid ones. However, I noticed every time I used the steroid drops it seemed to make the irritation worse. I was definitely a bit worried… I chose to stop those drops and instead boost up my own anti-inflammatory home remedies. The best thing I discovered via a recommendation from my housemate was to apply a warm, moist compress at night before bed. I’ve been doing that every night since then and I am starting to feel like my old self again, vision almost fully back. Finally! One month later.
I have another follow-up appointment this Thursday with the eye doc and I am confident that it will be my last for this saga.
All of that said, one could say, “wow, that really sucks that this happened to you.” …Eh, sure. Maybe.
Or, “you had to be so bored with nothing to do while you we’re healing.”
Bored? I think not!
There’s tremendous beauty in such chaos. I tend to look for the lessons and the undercurrent of joy whenever challenges arise, and there were oh-so-many opportunities to do so here.
Allow me to close by sharing some of my joy and my “takeaways” if you will:
— When I could tolerate no light the first week, it was beautiful how simple everything became. I was unplugged from technology, from my day-to-day , with very few tasks at hand solely related to my wellbeing. My mind was so still.
— How nice it is to be unplugged!!
— I was reminded to bring a simplicity and a slowness back to my life that can exist harmoniously with even my most ambitious goals.
— It is a beautiful thing to be cared for when you really need it. My mom was incredible (I guess she’s well qualified, eh?)! Everything I needed from medication to food – including raw meals, juicing, and all the other alternatives I enjoy – she came through. I can’t imagine how much more intense that first week would’ve been if I had to try and take care of myself.
— Ask for what you need. Let others help you. None of that go it alone, independent crap our country prides itself on.
— Be still. Feel the magic in each moment. We hear this in so many sayings: Be here, now. All we have is now. Be present. Live for today. …nice to hear, but vitality comes in the experiencing of it. I’ve termed this shift in my life, “reclaiming the sacred.”
— Towards the end of my time at my folks’ house, I purchased a keyboard off of Craigslist. I practiced on it for a couple days even with my shades on until finally the glasses could come off. This was such a beautiful period of uninterrupted, focused creativity. I wrote the beginnings of a new song before I left my parents’ house that week, and also delved deeper into one of my plans to publish a series of Illustrated novels.
— When I was experiencing the most intense pain, I was fascinated to find that my awareness of all that is Well – with my body, life – expanded. I also cracked a lot more jokes with my mom on the very first day. Probably as a survival strategy to distract my own mind from the pain… But I thought that was AWESOME as I reflected back on it. I even created a little melody on the drive up to their house that emerged out of my grunts and groans of pain and discomfort. I automatically turned my utterances into a self-soothing hum… Or hymn? Also pretty AWESOME.
— I am AWESOME! (We forget this, you know? …that each of us is uniquely magnificent.)
— I have rekindled a love affair with myself, my body, and the beauty of this human experience. For the record, our (me and myself) connection is DEEP but we are most certainly still open to Loving exchanges with other human beings. Even MORE so, actually! ;-)
Thanks for reading! I hope you find this to be uplifting. No need to feel sorry for me. I certainly don’t! Look at all that has shifted! What happens happens. Sometimes we guide our life’s happenings and sometimes they surprise us. Some are less comfortable than others, but the truth of the matter is we can ALWAYS be the guiding force in how we respond.
So let me ask you this, in your moments of darkness what do you see when you remain still long enough to really have a look?
Peace, love, health, and blessings to you, my good peeps!