My vision has seriously deteriorated in the last year without my really noticing.
In my youth, I had excellent vision, unlike my poor sister who when asked to read the letters on the chart said, “What chart?” But around the time I turned thirty, my husband noticed me making faces when I attempted to read certain things and suggested I needed reading glasses. I bought some mild reading glasses from the drugstore to wear while using my laptop. It definitely made my eyes work less hard — but when I looked away from the screen to consult paperwork on my desk, everything else was a blur. And I never got the hang of tilting my head and looking over the top of the glasses (the frames were very large), so I abandoned them.
Fast forward to age forty-two, and I am working a retail job. And I am seriously challenged by the Alaska drivers license, which back then, was printed in a very small and faint typeface that contrasted badly with the color of the background. I needed to read the license, because Alaska residents are exempt from paying sales tax in Washington, and this requires entering information from the license when ringing up the sale. One day, the customer kindly offered me the use of his glasses! Over the next few days, I noticed some other limitations of my vision. Retail work is challenging on the eyes, because you have close work with the POS system — but then you need to quickly switch to looking across the store, perhaps to direct a customer to something while you are chained to the counter. And my eyes were taking a long time to make that focal adjustment. So I realized it was time to wear glasses.
I had insurance at the time so I decided to get progressive lenses. My distance vision was still excellent, but the optometrist applied a very mild prescription to the top of the lens. Given the nature of my job, he suggested it would be helpful. I got lucky with these lenses and adjusted to them easily. For the first day, I felt like I was ten feet tall. And for about a week, printed lines were curved instead of straight and vertical surfaces appeared to lean over me. But my brain made the adjustments without causing nausea or headaches. The glasses flattered me very well and life was suddenly much easier.
Those progressive lenses served me very well for four years, but then they were not strong enough at the bottom for close work. I no longer had insurance, so replacing them with prescription lenses was something I could not afford. But I was inspired by the current Doctor Who (David Tennant) who carried a pair of readers in his pocket and put them on when needed. And I have followed that model for the last twelve years, keeping multiple pairs (2.50 strength) in different places. I have not noticed any deterioration of my close vision. However, I have been aware that distance of the “far-sightedness” has been increasing. There was a time that I could read anything if I held it arm’s length. My arms became too short many years ago! And while I could once easily read materials posted on walls, they now appear blurred. And on a recent bus ride into downtown Seattle, I was disturbed to find that the overhead signs on the highway now appear blurred. I have been happy to rely on the drugstore reading glasses on the assumption that my distance vision is fine. But I am beginning to realize that assumption may not longer be valid.
I still do not have insurance that covers vision, but my employer contributes to a Health Saving Account which I can tap to pay for an exam and progressive lenses. But I have known so many people who have had trouble with progressive lenses, having to go back for multiple tweaks and adjustments before getting an acceptable result — and experiencing headaches and/or nausea along the way. I am genuinely worried that I just got incredibly lucky with mine! Making and keeping appointments is something I dread in the best of times. And the thought of going through that under Covid-19 restrictions is really off-putting.
Bifocals are an alternative, of course. I actually have a pair of bifocal sunglasses that I bought at a gift shop. (I wish regular bifocal reading glasses were available in shops where you can test them first.) I never feel self-conscious wearing bifocal sunglasses. Because they are sunglasses and rather stylish, they look really cool. But I suspect I would feel different wearing prescription bifocals. Nothing screams OLD like bifocal glasses. There are line-free bifocals, but the transition area can present the same problems as progressive lenses. My inner rebel (there is one buried deep down) wants to just go with bifocals and wear them with pride. Now that I know I am autistic, perhaps I can give myself permission to do that.
As long as I am working from home and not going out much, my trusty reading glasses are continuing to serve me well. So it is hard getting motivated to take that first step of making an appointment for an eye exam.
But I cannot keep doing the David-Tennant-Doctor-reading-glasses thing for much longer!