Nothing Is Normal Anymore. I Really Hate PTSD!
We all know how eye exams go, or are supposed to go. Walk into the office, be greeted by someone who is going to suck you dry of about 100 to 300 dollars at the end of the day, but really won't remember your face or your name by the end of the day after they've seen who knows how many other people that day, then the next day, and the next and the next. Fill out some paperwork, go sit in a chair while you wait your turn for the torture machines - oops, testing equipment - that takes a picture of your eyes, checks your vision as it is currently, and blasts your eyes with dry air leaving you blinking, cursing, muttering and rubbing at your eyes.
Then you get to go see the doc, read a chart, give a bunch of number-answers as you and he try to figure out what vision settings allow you to see clearly. Leave the doc, go out front, try to find a set of frames you don't absolutely hate, AND that fit your face without falling off, and then go cough up your week's paycheck. Come back in two weeks to pick up your newest set of glasses and pray that they actually last a full year for you this time.
That's how it's SUPPOSED to go.
Well, the greeting goes fine, and then you get into the torture chamber. You're very photosensitive. Daylight hurts, your skin breaks out in rashs and blisters if you don't cover it during the daylight hours. You're nocturnal by nature, you should have been born with fangs in your mouth and come complete with a black cape, a fake accent, and a coffin.
You also have PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You have it badly enough that it often interferes with your daily living, and you have learned over the years how to adjust completely normal activities so that you can accomplish them without having a panic attack, screaming, yelling, or making people go look for that funny white coat that ties in the back. You have phobias in addition to the PTSD. Your brain logically knows that what you are about to undergo when you walk into that torture chamber won't actually harm you, won't actually hurt you, but you are still jumpy and jittery no matter how much you tell yourself "It's fine," or "It'll be done with if you just cooperate," or "You know it's fine, just get it over with."
First Stop :
The vision test. This is no big deal. I'm not even sure exactly what they do with this. You look into the machine, they fiddle with something and a second or two later it's done.
Second Stop :
This, my friends, THIS is the first torture device for someone like us. THIS is the glaucoma test.
Set your chin down here, hold your eyes open, no, don't blink, don't blink, stop blinking, stop blinking! You're acting like a child, if you would just quit blinking it'd be done with already! Now we have to do it again because you - would you stop pulling your head away?! - Okay, again... Now remember, hold your eyes open and don't blink - PUFF! - you pulled your head away. *sigh* Again. Now don't blink and don't move. No, we don't have a strap to hold your head in place.
The longer this goes on, the more irritated the girl is getting, because of course you're eating up her precious time, her precious time that she could be using to bring more of her victims - er, patients - into the torture chamber and get these tests done so that the doc can see them in the office and write the script for their new lenses...
The longer it goes on, the more frustrated she's getting, the more frustrated you're getting. You try to hold your eyes open, your head jerks back away from the machine faster than you can stop it, before you can even tell yourself not to do it. You grumble inwardly, in your head, and put your chin back down on the strap, mumbling apologies and feeling like an idiot, all the while telling yourself to just hold your eyes open and hold still. You wish they DID have a strap for the back of the head so you would at least not be ABLE to pull your head away from the machine. You try to hold still again, while she's reminding you not to move your head and not to blink. You try to hold your eyes open but you can't stop blinking. In fact, you're blinking even more and more rapidly now than you ever do normally because you KNOW you're about to get hit with a blast of air and it's right in your face. It's going to hit RIGHT in your face. You don't jerk back this time, but you're blinking so fast and so much that she can't get a good bead on you and it ruins the take.
She has to do it AGAIN.
And now she's getting REALLY irritated with you. She won't come out and actually accuse you of acting like a child, but you can hear her sigh, you can hear the girl's tone change in how she speaks to you. You can hear her choice of words change, become more curt, more terse, shorter sentances. You can see her body language tensing up and her lips pull downward as she tries not to let herself glare at you like she wants to do. Because you're acting like a child, she knows you are, she thinks you're just being a pain in the ass, and you can't figure out why you can't just make yourself sit there. It would have been OVER with ten times by now if you could just sit there and do exactly as she's asking you to do. You're not a child, you're a full grown adult, and you should have outgrown such nonsensical behavior years ago.
Open your eyes. Keep them open. Stop blinking. Don't move your head. It becomes the new mantra, as the girl repeats her instructions yet again, and you have balled your hands up into fists in your lap, your digging your nails into your palms or your forearms and you're holding them together so tightly you've left small dents and knicks in your palms and your hands are actually sweating. You start thinking about telling her you refuse the stupid test and you start thinking about running out the door and just suffering through with your current, not-working-very-well-anymore glasses.
PUFF! You did it again, you jerked your head back at the puff of air so fast that she has to do it yet AGAIN.
Now she's really annoyed with you and doesn't even try to hide the explosive sigh she lets out. Sit still. Chin on the bar. Open your eyes. Stop moving. Don't blink. Try not to blink. This is the one part of the exam that's actually REQUIRED, and if we don't get this done, you can't get the rest of the exam done. Even as she's saying the words for the umpteenth time, you're repeating them in your head, saying them to yourself, telling yourself to just do it, telling yourself its harmless, it's being done to help you, it has to be done. It HAS to get done! Just sit still, don't bl--PUFF!
She finally got it.
Now she has to do the other eye.
And now you feel like crying.
You go through the entire same process for the second eye. She FINALLY gets it, and now that the girl is nice and irritated with you and will surely be complaining about you to her coworkers after you leave, she sits you down in front of the third torture device.
Third Stop :
The camera. Well, compared to that glaucoma test this is a piece of cake. But as you set your chin down on the strap in front of the camera, you find yourself wishing you'd asked her to do this test first. Because now you're so worked up from the air test that your STILL having trouble holding still! Your hands aren't actually shaking, but they sure feel like they are, and they're definitely still sweating, your heart rate is definitely elevated, and you feel like crawling into a little hole somewhere and hiding. And your photosensitive. Light hurts. It literally HURTS.
Set your chin down, good. Don't move your head. Great! Just one shot and we'll do the other eye. The light blasts into your eye and you jerk your head back. Your eye hurts, you can't see anything out of it, it's stinging and burning so badly that it's watering and you're sitting there rubbing at it.
And the girl doesn't say anything. She just sighs and looks at you, and starts fiddling with the machine again. You ask her if you jerked back too fast for the camera and she gives a grumbling affirmation, probably thinking about bashing her fist into your face with her own frustration.
So you set your chin back down on the strap again. She fiddles with the machine some more, and flashes the camera again. This time you jerked back before the light even fully flashed into your eye! Dammit! Stop moving! Just sit your head there and let her blind you, it doesn't hurt, it's not going hurt you! Hell, compared to the last test, this one isn't even uncomfortable! Your eyes just don't like the light, that's all!
You go through this a couple times more, she finally gets the picture of the eye she needs. Now you go through it again for the other eye. It's just as hard for her to get the other eye as it was the first. She comments about how she hasn't ever seen anyone react so quickly to the camera before, comments about how fast you actually have to react in order to jerk away before the camera can actually get the picture.
She tells you to go back out into the hallway and wait for the doc. When you ask her to give you a minute or two because now BOTH of your eyes are stinging, watering, red, and completely blind.... she sighs.
You wander out of the room and try not to hit yourself on the doorway or bump into someone else on the way through because although she thinks your full of shit, you actually ARE blind. Completely blind, everything is black. You finally get through the doorway, she brushes out past you without a word and hurries up the hallway. She's probably flapping her gums to her coworkers complaining about you before the door even closes behind her.
And you sit in the hallway with your shaky, dug-into, sweaty palms, and still rub at your eyes while your vision finally decides to come back and the black world you've been thrown into by the camera finally decides to retreat. You wonder why you subject yourself to this, and you wonder why you can't be like everyone else the girl has seen and just be done in two minutes and be on your way to the doc's office.
Fourth Stop :
By the time you get into the doctor's office, where the actual vision assessment will take place, you're so mad and frustrated with yourself, you feel like a complete and total childish idiot. By the time you're in the doctor's chair and having those big funky metal space-glasses brought in front of you, you feel like crying. Good luck focusing on the questions he's asking you, and the comparisons he's asking you to make.
But the longer you're in the room, the more you've calmed down. If you were smart, you got him into a little bit of small talk before he brought the metal space-glasses down to give yourself a minute or two to simmer down. You space out a little yourself, you give very bland, robotic answers to his questions. Oh, sure, they're truthful answers, but your mind isn't completely focused on the present now, and you are very obviously distant and distracted as you're answering his questions. He actually asks you once to pay a little closer attention so that he can get an accurate prescription written for your lenses and you start the whole assessment over again. But at least by the time you start it over you're now able to pretend you're completely focused on what your doing.
You are not focused, not at all, not even remotely. But by now you can fake it and do so believably. You are partially focused, you know you have to give the right answers to get the right lenses, so you try your best to pay attention, but really, no matter what you do some part of your mind is wandering, still reacting to the other room. The only difference is that now you're hiding it well enough that nobody knows.
You finally get let out of the doctor's room with the new script, go pick out the frames you want to use for the next year, choose whether you're getting plastic, polycarbonate, or glass lenses, choose whatever coatings or special treatments you want done to your lenses and cough up between $100 and $300 dollars.
And as you leave, the girl from the first room glares daggers at your back and you once again feel like crying because you just made a complete and total ass out of yourself, and you KNOW it's going to happen again next year, too. Because you know that no amount of telling them you have problems with things in your face is going to keep them from thinking that way of you, and because they know - and YOU know - that there's really no reason TO react that way because nothing being done in that office is hurtful or harmful. Yep, you're a complete fracking idiot and you seriously think about changing where you go next year in case they DO remember what a childish pain in the ass you were. You took a very simple, everyday, normal thing, something small, and turned it into a huge fracking big deal that it should NEVER have been. Yay!
Thank you, PTSD. Couldn't have done it without you.