One Year with Abnormally Puffy Eyes

I was in a McDonald’s bathroom somewhere in Iowa.
I was exhausted from a weekend full of family time and walking
around the Minnesota State Fair.
My dad and I had left a few hours before dawn and began the long drive back home.
As soon as we got on the road, I instantly fell back asleep,
holding the old stuffed animal dog I got as a Christmas gift when I was 8.
We had stopped at McDonald’s to get breakfast and pee.
I was washing my hands when I noticed how glaringly puffy my eyes were.
What is going on?
I thought as I poked the puffy skin around my eyes, taking in this unfamiliar sight.
I walked away from the mirror to leave,
only to return seconds later to stare at this unusual occurrence once more.
I chalked it up to not enough sleep and too much driving and walking
within a short period of time (something I’m not known to do).
This conclusion reassured me enough to leave the restroom without panicking.
I can’t remember if I asked my dad if he noticed anything different.
If I did, he probably just told me the same thing I told myself: it’s nothing.
We got back in the car and continued our long journey home.
As we were merging back onto the highway, I checked my puffy eyes
once again through the camera app on my phone.
In natural light, they were still puffy.
It’s fine. It’s fine. I just need more sleep.
Oh, the stories we tell ourselves in the moment so we don’t obsessively wonder
what bad things could be happening.

II

There’s a split in my reality 
every morning and night. 
When what I see doubles 
into this hallucination like state, 
my brain is confused. My eyes 
don’t work together for longer than 
twelve hours a day. Individually,
they’re fine. Left is down 
and right is up. If I cover one, 
my vision is single and up 
or single and down. 
Whatever I’m looking at 
will move to a different space 
without me moving my head. 
I try my best to fight it until 
my eyes are no longer cooperating 
and I’m forced to go to bed.

Trials and Tribulations

When I started my blog a year ago, I didn’t expect to be dealing with the issues I have now. Last year, I was just diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and finishing up my degree in English. These last few months have been defined by my health, particularly my thyroid eye disease. It’s sad but true. Eyes are a huge part of everyone’s life and when they’re sick, it takes a tremendous toll on how one might move about their life.

Last week, I went on a cruise with my dad’s side of the family. While it was great to see other places and learn about different cultures, it’s also difficult to be in the Caribbean when I’m extremely light sensitive. I started the trip with some daily headaches and no real eye problems. But by mid week, I was having a lot of double vision and my eyes were finished with the sun. Trading headaches for burning eyes and double vision wasn’t ideal, to say the least.

Before this last week, I had a few weeks of minimal eye problems. Thyroid eye disease has its ups and downs, some times are better than others. The months before my brief plateau were brutal. A lot of irritation, swelling, and double vision. One thing after another happened. The weeks prior to the cruise, my eyes weren’t my main worry. I certainly had concerns about my eyes going into the trip and how they could react to travel. But they weren’t entirely on the forefront until they began their downward spiral once more.

What these last few months have taught me is to expect the worst and hope for the best. It’s a weird way to live but it’s better to be mentally prepared for something to go wrong so that when it does, I can tread through rocky waters as calmly as possible. And when something does go wrong, I try to find the good in those situations. Things could be worse than they are. At least I can see out of both eyes. This is a difficult moment but it won’t least forever.

A Poem About Nothing

Spring has arrived along with the remnants of winter.
Snow one day, seventy degrees the next.
You never know what you're going to get.
The grass is greener as bees fly
and house cats beg to come back inside.
Days are longer, thoughts are shorter.
Everything looks different upon reflection.
Awareness changes thoughts and perspective,
for once I can look at my interactions without judgment.
The keys on a new keyboard are the best present I could ask for.
Smooth and shiny while working together
without pause or hesitation of a key falling off.
My dry eyes make things coming closer appear
like the wizards from Harry Potter, out of focus
and then all of a sudden clear as crystal.

Hello Stranger

I wake up in the morning and do not feel like myself.
My body aches in unfamiliar ways.
The joints in my hands crack,
my right thumb somehow feels unnerved.
The muscles in my back and neck haven’t
been the same since experiencing multiple panic attacks.

I look in the mirror and do not recognize myself. 
My cheeks are puffy, resembling a chipmunk,
reminding me of when I had my jaw surgery.
My eyes are strange, for my top lids are pulled back,
giving me an unwanted stare I don’t realize I have.
The puffy pockets underneath my eyes indicate
swelling that somewhat subsides by the time I say goodnight.

I look out onto the day and everything has changed.
My vision has been on the decline 
for the last two months and has suddenly
taken a nose dive into the great unknown.
I can’t see much beyond twelve feet,
it’s like looking into a fish bowl,
everything is fuzzy or blurry or double. 

I see double if I look up and tilt my chin down.
My reality shifts into two, pulling apart from one
another like something is breaking from being 
overstretched, people often look like their souls
are leaping out of their bodies like fading ghosts.
This has been occurring since October, it seems like
a lifetime ago and yet it’s still jarring every time
I watch something transform into perspectives
no one else can see. People often have four
eyes, which is always the most alarming.

I haven’t felt like myself in a long while. 
This temporary normal that’s constantly shifting
will never feel normal. I woke one morning
and everything had changed without a warning.
I’m still process everything that has happened,
it’s overwhelming and terrifying to have no
control over what is going on with your own body.

I just want to see again. More than anything,
I want to have my vision back. 
I want to be able to see things far away
without fuzziness or double preventing me
from appreciating the beauty around me.
I want to walk around without feeling
my depth perception being off.
I want to be less sensitive to bright lights.
I want to look up with my eyes 
instead of craning my poor neck. 
I want to not feel my eyes focusing.
I want to no longer feel eye strain.
I want to no longer feel like my eyes are buzzing.

I didn’t realize how much I took my eyes
for granted until things unexpectedly shifted.
Though my viewpoint tends to focus on
the negative since they’re more overwhelming,
there are a few shining spots in all this chaos.
My eyes are not budging out of their sockets.
Though my eyes are sitting in different places,
it can go unnoticed if you don’t know it.
They may look a little different and certainly I can tell,
it’s not my biggest problem by any means.

I have a prism on one of my lens that corrects
the double vision when I look forward.
I don’t know what I would do without it. 
The support I have from my family is unconditional,
they continue to help me through this process
as we figure out the best avenue to take 
to relieve the discomfort so I can move forward.
 

Quiet Vignettes from Yesterday

I woke up thinking the time on my phone had automatically switched forward. It had not. I spent the first hour or two of my day thinking it was a different time. Fortunately, I realized my phone’s problem when I looked at the time on my computer. Unfortunately, the medication I had meant to take earlier was taken later than expected. My body’s clock was off too, it’s okay.

Lesson learned: you can’t always trust technology has everything figured out before you. Thank god we still have some control on what happens on our small devices, even when it completely messes up your perception of the day for a good five minutes or so.

I laid in my bed for a good forty-five minutes, allowing my eyes to rest. My eyes were screaming at me in silence for pushing them to look up their own without craning my neck up to see a screen that was about twenty feet away from me. Swollen muscles were pulled in directions they didn’t want to go. A fan was blowing air and my phone was blasting the sound of rain in springtime. I was focused on my breathing, hands on my belly as I felt the air drift in and out of my lungs. My eyes eventually calmed, enjoying a moment without needing to stare at anything or completely drift off to sleep. I couldn’t remember the last time I was this still for this long.

I was reading a book I could not put down. I told myself I would read one more chapter three chapters and thirty pages ago. I hadn’t been that into a book in quite some time. I was reminded of why I love telling stories. Those moments where I’m transported into someone’s mind have always been my favorite. The fan was still blowing air.

Emotion washed over me like a wave I didn’t see coming. I couldn’t articulate words correctly because I had a difficult time trying to comprehend this unexpected feeling. It’s like I ran into a wall without looking and now I’m conflicted within myself. It’s difficult to feel something and have no idea how to articulate it. Tears fell from my eyes. These tears were more intense than I’m used to, so I hunched over and cried more. No one understood what was happening, neither did I exactly.

My eyes were screaming at me in silence for crying. So I cried more because pain has no limits when I’ve already unlocked the box of tears. My eyes felt heavy like they’re experiencing dual migraines. I didn’t know this feeling was possible. Maybe it’s not, and I was just overthinking things as I often tend to do.

I had been waiting all day to eat this cookie dough ice cream, and after taking my fifth and final pill of the day, I was slurping it down while finishing a New Yorker article I had slowly been reading for the last couple of days. The springtime rain blasted from my phone once again as I tried to comprehend the words on the page as best I could. Names often bleed together when so many are mentioned in the course of a single section. It’s crazy to read about what people choose to overlook and how things could have been different if someone was brave enough to speak up.

I was reading a chapter of another book before falling asleep. The more I looked at the lines, the words began to float off the page, detaching from the original text to become two. My eyes were done for the day, signaling through a pretty frightful message that I had gone numb to, that whatever was on the page wasn’t worth it. I took off my glasses and turned off the light. I snuggled into my comforter as a horn from a train travels across the night air into my ears as I gave my eyes what they wanted: rest.