If you complain about your biannual visits to the dentist, it seems you’re in pretty good company. The cleaning, the poking, the forgetting to floss until the week before your appointment and the pain which comes with any needed dental work all seem to create something to commiserate.
But when you start explaining a phobia involving the eye doctor, you don’t get the same nod of the head and shared understanding. It’s even more confusing to people when your eye doctor is a completely familiar face, fellow church member, has coached your kid in every sport and is an all around nice guy.
I can explain. It all started in the second grade when they did a vision screening at my elementary school. I was flagged as problematic and ordered to see an optometrist for a full work up. It was that appointment that determined I was nearsighted. I don’t have any recollection of a poor experience, in fact I was pretty excited about ordering some pink glasses. Perhaps the only negative was a few people started calling me four eyes. (My brother and his friends. Thanks guys.)
The phobia manifested after several years of what I considered “failed” eye exams. Every time I went to see the doctor my vision was worsening and my glasses were getting thicker. The questions “1 or 2?” and “2 or 1?” were actually filling me with anxiety.
As I got older I started wearing contacts and dealing with more problems. Apparently, even if you’re a busy college kid you’re not supposed to wear those suckers overnight.
A few years ago, nearsighted as can be, I stopped in the eye care center with pink eye or some other obnoxious issue. I told my doctor I was considering Lasik surgery to which he replied, “good call.”
I made it through the Lasik procedure without issue, mostly due to this wonderful drug called Valium. After a couple of checkups I was validated as 20/20 and sent on my way. It was a complete life changer, and in hindsight a surgery I should have had long before I did.
Since then, all was hunky-dory until recently I woke up with a dry feeling in my right eye. I tried to avoid the eye doctor, first stopping at the Newton Clinic to be told by a physician to just get over to my eye doctor for a thorough exam.
My regular doctor wasn’t available, but I got in with the other very capable and talented doc. The appointment is kind of a blur because I was sweating bullets, pretty much convinced my retina was detaching or something. As it turned out, I had just rubbed some cells off my eye. I got some drops and was out of there. While I scheduled a follow-up visit I ended up canceling it ... because how fun are panic attacks?
I’m still having some problems with dry eye, which has kind of bugged me, but not enough to act. When my friend told me she had an upcoming appointment with my eye doctor, I suggested she might want to casually bring up dry eye treatment. You know, like she was really interested in that kind of thing. Instead, she spilled all of my eye doctor phobia beans. She later sent me a photo of his note identifying some eye drops I should try and the underlined words, “P.S. I am not scary.”
OK, fine. It’s pretty cool to have an eye doctor who will try to help you even when you’re being totally ridiculous. I plan on trying the drops and will schedule an appointment if I need to. I’ve already chosen a certain chatty friend to accompany me for moral support.
Contact Abigail Pelzer