The EYE has it

When I wrote this special feature to the wellness section in The Minot Daily News last year, it was two days after my eye surgery and I could hardly see what I was typing on the screen since my eyes hadn’t totally adjusted yet. I probably returned to work too early and should have stayed home all that week recovering, but that’s hindsight now. As it was, I was back to the grind right away, not on any pain medication and learning to adjust to seeing a world with two eyes working together.

On Tuesday, July 17, 2012, I had eye surgery to straighten a lazy eye that I had been plagued with since childhood. I had no idea what I was getting into, either, because I didn’t watch the video explaining the procedure, and I had no idea how much the corrective surgery would change my life. Being adventurous for once instead of a wet blanket as is my typical tendency, I just picked a date for my surgery and committed, going full steam ahead. I had spent too many years thinking about having eye surgery and it seemed like it was time to just do it.

This surgery made my whole life better. There wasn’t a time when I regretted doing it, except for about an hour a few days after when I didn’t really look like myself and was feeling sorry for myself. That hour and feeling passed, though, and as the days rolled forward and I’d see two straight eyes looking back at me through the mirror, I loved the decision I had made and knew it was the right one.

I told everyone I knew that I had eye surgery. Even if I only kind of knew the person and he or she happened to make eye contact, I told him or her about my recent experience. It was such a big moment in life for me that I wanted to share it with the world. For years I avoided drawing any attention to my eyes and would turn my head in a way that made my crooked eye seem less noticeable. Then, for a while, I tried the opposite approach, where I wore emerald or other colored contacts and jewel-toned eye shadow. Neither approach really worked, though, because it was more about feeling. I felt inferior and like people would think there was something “off” or even weird about me. Living in a society that places such an incredible emphasis on appearance never helped, either. I felt like I was on an even playing field after my surgery, though, and my self-confidence almost instantly skyrocketed. I felt and continue to feel like I can do anything.

It has been a great year having a straight eye. I’ve seen New Mexico, Hawaii and the Dominican Republic with more plans in the works for seeing other places in the world. When I meet people, I no longer worry about what they’ll think about my eyes or if they’ll notice something different. And that has been a huge relief because then I can focus on being myself more. Also, I can catch a ball, something I could rarely manage to do before and often times wouldn’t even try. Now suddenly there’s a whole world of sports open to me that I can play. Best of all, my vision has improved and my prescription for seeing distances decreased by a whole level, making me not need much correction in the lenses. I would say that my eye surgery was a success in every sense of the word and the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

If you’re reading this retrospective and contemplating in the slightest about having any kind of corrective surgery, go forward, be brave and have the surgery. Just do it. Make the appointment today. There’s no better day than today. If I could go through with it – and I’m terrified of needles and squeamish about any kind of medical issue or procedure, and probably the least risk-taking person – then you can do it, too. You can probably do it better, in fact.

Start seeing the world!

(Jill Hambek is the Wellness reporter for The Minot Daily News.)