The Blind and the beautiful

I am blind. I frequently try to explain it to people but it usually doesn't quite sink in until they get to know me well. That is partially my fault because I am incredibly vain and don't let people see me in my glasses regularly.

How blind am I? I am the blindest person I know. I have been wearing glasses since I was 2 years old. My amazing mother could tell there was something wrong with me because whenever I was given something I apparently brought it up to my face to see. Obviously I could not speak and I am still not sure how a Pediatric Ophthalmologist works but I am grateful that they exist. When I was a child my prescription had to be changed every six months because my myopia is progressive and degenerated very quickly. This, I am told is a freak of nature kind of thing. It is rare, and no one else in my family is as blind as I.

Myopia is corrected with what is called concave lenses, which mean they are slimmer in the middle and wider at the end forming sort of a cup. Like so:

This is pretty common, the problem is that the more advanced the myopia, the thicker the lens. By the time I was in the 6th grade they had gotten so wide that the technicians in the lab had to start filing the edges down so that I could literally be able to wear the glasses. You see, they had gotten so thick that I would be unable to put them on my face because they would be so thick I could not possibly hook them on my ears. Yeah. I want you to imagine what that feels like to an 11 year old.

So from that point on I not only wore glasses, thick glasses, but they now had these little circles in the center as a result of the filing on the edges. Right at the time I hit puberty. Now every kid with glasses gets teased and bullied, but when your glasses are unique it is just worse. I heard all the ugly ducking stories and heard the "sticks and stones may break my bones" crap from my mom. I was blessed with a wonderful family. My dad told me how beautiful I was every day (even when I knew I was not). My mom talked me through being strong and turning a deaf ear to bullies. I never wanted to show my face without the glasses to anyone back then. I could not see and I knew my eyes turned slightly so I covered my face whenever someone took my glasses off. My big brother Kano would hold my hands away from my face and tell me to never cover it. He would always say "You have a beautiful face-it's just like mine, don't you dare cover it up". My brother Lucho never looked like me but he was the biggest in his class and a year older than me in school. His role was clear: mess with my sis and you answer to me. All things considered I was truly blessed.

Of course I didn't see it then. When I was thirteen and got my first pair of contacts I was in heaven. Even with my lazy eye I was gorgeous. I got my boobs, my hair, no glasses: what else can a girl ask for right? I got a big head, I admit it. The goddez complex started in the 8th grade, what can I say? You must understand, the attention was overwhelming. I had high school seniors checking me out. It was insane. But I was very well grounded in the fact that a lot of the boys who thought I was so hot had once made fun of me. People who never talked to me before were suddenly my friends and I was keeping score. I knew who my friends were, and although words can hurt you they do not break your bones.

I am still vain about it though. Even though at home I am always in my glasses if we step out to the grocery store I have to put in my contacts. God forbid I am out in public in my glasses. I am, after all, still a latin woman who takes too much pride in her appearance. But I feel I am a little more mature about the superficial part of this.

However, I have an enormous chip on my shoulder. I hate talking to people about this for the first time because people are usually stupid and insensitive. They do not mean to be, but they are. I bring this up because even the ladies who work at the Optometrist I went to recently were talking to me about "edging" my lenses to make them thinner. Gee, why didn't I think of that? Or when people say to me "Have you heard about that lasik surgery?" I want to say: "No, I haven't. You see I live in a cave and I have no idea there are people having their eyes fixed."

I am of above average intelligence. I have a Master's degree. I have been going to eye doctors for over 30 years. I have been evaluated by doctors in New York City, Georgia, Puerto Rico, Texas and Germany. I have seen civilian doctors, military doctors, and foreign doctors, over 12 of them. I think I am pretty well aware of what can and cannot be done with my eyes. I wish there was a surgery I could have, but I came to terms with the fact that it may never happen when I was 23. My eyes are delicate. I have had surgeons tell me that even if there were a procedure that could fix me, they would be nervous to go in and mess me up in a different way. I am at high risk for retinal detachment, and frankly they just don't know what to expect when someone as young as I am has such an advanced condition. What will happen in 20 years? No one knows.

My blindness is my Achilles heel. I feel I am a stronger person, and that growing up with this "condition" had shaped my character in a way that only a physical handicap can. The struggles now are a little deeper. I still am afraid to drive-with good reason. My eyes are never 20/20 and I just have a hard time with space perception. Every once in awhile I think about teaching myself braille, because doctors have told me I could eventually loose the ability to read. That is a heavy burden to carry. Whenever I loose a contact, or have broken a pair of glasses I have an emotional meltdown. I hope you never feel the helplessness that I have felt, or the fear of not being able to do for yourself.

I write this now because I just got new glasses this week. After $600 and four weeks of waiting the glasses were still as ugly as ever. Every time I get a new pair there is this bit of hope inside me that maybe this time something will change, but it doesn't. And again I am that 11 year old thinking about facing the bullies with the ugliness. Then I get over it, and look at my blessed life, and think of all the people who have real handicaps that stop them from living the kind of life that I have lead and I am OK. Although awful things have been said to me (believe me, I have heard it all) I have also heard the most wonderful things too. The sweetest thing Michael has ever said to me was: "God made you blind because otherwise you would be too perfect and it wouldn't be fair to everyone else." (Happy Valentine's Day everyone!)

So I guess what I want you all to think about is if you happen to have a child with a physical defect, or if you know someone struggling with something like this, know that it can be OK. If there is anything wrong with you right now that you feel is overwhelmingly unfair, look around you and thank the universe, or God, or your family, or science, for giving you so much. I try to everyday. Because even though god gave me these two lemons for eyes the lemonade has been fantastic!

Comments

  1. I totally agree with Michael.. you dont realice it but Im sure people who are much less blind than you have not been able to accomplish as much. You have always been someone I look up to and is in some ways inspite of the blindness and in some ways because of it.
    For example, Ive been to Europe a few times and have been sight seing a lot.. but always with a tour guide. I often wondered when you were over there how you were able to be not only your own tour guide but also serve as one to many people.
    You are so capable and brave that even those who have known you for long and know this story all too well, sometimes we forget your struggle cause you make it look so easy.
    xoxoxoxo Dama

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  2. These look way better than the ones you use to wear when you were a kid. I'm glad you have a good head on your shoulders. We are very bless and have been all our lifes. If there is one thing that the tragedy in Haiti has taught me is to be grateful for all that I have and to always look at the glass as half full instead of half empty. Love you and let me know if anybody makes any funny comments about your glasses so I can kick their ass.

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  3. Dama: love you like a sister. Lucho: love you like a brother (J/K)

    Thanks for the kind words, love you guys!

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  4. You are an amazing woman! I am so blessed you came into my life---

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  5. it's funny, i can see the frustrated smirk on ur face...lol. like, look at these, aren't they awful? tell mike he gets mad points from all ur loved ones 4 coming up with that one. well said mister. he's right, can u imagine the goddess complex u'd have if u were 20/20? perhaps u'd have the complex without the skills. sin embargo, por eso tienes el complejo y las habilidades. eres una diosa. y te vez muy linda con tus nuevos lentes. young teens can b cruel, ur not surrounded by them anymore. only by adults who see beyond the thickness of ur lenses. peace and mucho love.

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  6. Que bonita! Those glasses ARE way better, but I know it's different when you have to wear them. Keep that positive and grateful attitude you have and you will continue on your goddess path;) You are a beautiful person inside and out! Can't wait to see you this coming weekend! Love, Pagina

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  7. I met you at ten wearing glasses and you have been my best friend since. There is nothing I cam think of that you are not able to do. That is what makes you who you are, and not what you look like with or without glasses. If you ask me, I don't see the difference becase I have always seen you beyond them. You have always been a beautiful person and I love you for that. Keep up that attitude, and stay away from the drivers seat. Jaja Everything will be ok! Michael is an awesome man, and I'm sure he'll hold your hand gladly if you ever need it.

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  8. I understand all you said about. Have to say you look pretty even with glasses.

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