I am almost two years into vision therapy (VT) and have various suggestions to share with those who are considering traveling the road to 3D vision or have recently begun.
Although I am no poster child for VT and have struggled greatly with its side effects, I am writing this to help others avoid the pitfalls that caused me much psychological pain in the past two years. I wish I’d known these tips before I began. Consider this as my gift during the holiday season.
1. Give up control of your life
No, I am not a Buddhist teacher or New Age spiritual leader, I am speaking from the heart. The sooner you give up controlling your life, the easier it will be to accommodate the neural changes your brain is going through. The more you fight all the side effects (headaches, fatigue, double vision, confusion, over sensitivity to sound, mood swings, etc), the harder you make it for your brain to change.
If you’re a control freak or even a closeted (hidden) one, deal with your control issues BEFORE you go to VT. I always considered myself a fairly flexible person as I’ve traveled and lived in many places where going with the flow was the only way to keep one’s sanity, but life in VT has made me realize how much control and order I really like in my life.
After nine days in VT, I was starting to feel the psychological and physical effects of the therapy. I was exhausted and I could tell that I was trying to see a bookshelf in a bookstore in double after leaving the optometrist’s office. My evening plans to meet friends for a Korean dinner got quickly canceled. My friend offered to drive me home because I was so confused. After that day, I often cancelled plans at the last minute because I suddenly felt tired or couldn’t deal to be around noise, lights and people. Two years into VT, and I still cancel events because of my eyes and brain.
Again, this point can not be overstated enough. When I finally surrendered myself to VT and said I’d find a way to manage the side effects and stop trying to lead my life the way I did before VT, the easier it was.
If you’re not ready to modify your pace of life and how you socialize, then you are not ready for VT and to see anew.
Keep in mind, I’ve had two operations to surgically straighten my eyes, so I am fighting against surgeries so my complications may be less severe than those who haven’t been under the knife. But from what I’ve read online from other adults in VT, my symptoms are shared amongst others.
2. Be prepared with food, caffeine, whatever you need to make it through a VT session
A VT session is making you change the way your brain has always worked. It’s not a quick haircut. Don’t pack you day with activities and think you can go to VT after work and then go grocery shopping, do errands, see friends, take a class, etc. You may be absolutely exhausted or mentally confused after your session, so much so that you may need to walk to the nearest cafe and get a coffee or other caffeinated or sweet drink to keep you functional. I am not exaggerating. My doctor’s office being next to a Starbucks was probably not planned on the doctor’s part but was of great utility to me. Incidentally, I started VT on my birthday and one of my friends gave me a Starbucks gift card on my birthday that quickly got used up as I needed caffeine to keep me awake for VT and after.
3. Seek support and love, not understanding
That’s right. Explaining to your friends and family that you can’t see in 2D and have somehow not killed yourself while stepping down from the sidewalk and how you want to see in 3D by wearing red-green glasses and staring at a string with colored beads may only make you feel more isolated. Trust me. I’ve explained in every way I can possibly imagine what I’m doing and people still don’t get it. While going through such profound neural changes as I have been, my natural instinct is to communicate what I see and how I feel, but few people are good recipients of this information. Sad, but true.
Even my own parents don’t seem to fathom that I’m partially blind. I can’t explain what 2D is to a person who has seen in 3D their whole lives. And boy, have I tried.
My Dad finally just told me not to ask people to understand what I am going through because few will take the time and effort to truly empathize with another and put themselves in that person’s shoes. Doing VT as an adult is already an experience that makes you feel alone, especially when you’re the only adult in the doctor’s office and the kids are having an easy time looking at vectograms and jumping on the trampoline that you’re too tall to jump on. The attempt to explain it all to a friend or family member may make you feel even more alone.
Choose wisely who you open up to about what VT is and how you see.
In my experience, the people who most understood my mental challenges were my friends who were former alcoholics as they too, had to rewire their brains, to avoid drinking. When I tell people that I sometimes see them with three eyes or two noses or with their second head by their waist, they either laugh or have blank faces. They can’t fathom how I make it through life. (Luckily, my diplopia is lessened now unless I focus on something.)
Ask you friends for support and love, don’t burden them with the details of clown vectograms, Brock string exercises and prisms, unless you know that they will do their best to understand you. If you have kids or are around kids, they’ll love seeing double through the prisms.
4. VT is like having your brain on crutches that nobody can see
Vision therapy is like physical therapy, except it’s for your brain and eyes. But the crutches are not visible. Remember that.
You may look normal and nobody can tell you are undergoing major brain restructuring, but you are. Never forget that you’re not the same person you were before you boarded the train the stereo-land. I have to remind myself that although I want to do X activity, I need to be careful, bring someone with me in case something happens or leave early so I won’t get tired. I’ve gone from being a free spirit to being super cautious.
I am a travel writer who forgot my password for my online frequent flyer mile account but I know my library card number easily because I often order travel related books online to travel vicariously at home.
5. Have a backup plan
If you have to drive far to get to your VT session, keep in mind that you may be tired and you may not feel safe driving home. Find a friend’s office or home where you can stay to relax or sleep. Take a nap in your car and then get some food or drink before driving home. I was lucky to find a doctor who was not far from where I worked and lived. But even so, I always knew I could walk to my sister’s office or take the bus home if I felt uncomfortable.
6. Put some fun in your exercises
Staring at quoit vectograms with red-green glasses can get old and boring real fast. As I have a computer-based exercise now, I do it while playing The Daily Show or the Colbert Report on the Internet in the background so I can listen to comics while training my eyes. Play music that isn’t too distracting.
Please feel free to add your tips from your experience.