I started wearing glasses when I was about five. My parents, like many parents, realized that I was squinting whenever I watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on TV, and decided that it probably wasn’t because the program was thought-provoking. I wore a variety of different styles during my childhood – from Barbie to Snoopy to the very hipster-esque tortoise shell frames. When I was a child, it was cute to look like a little bug, but as I got older and people broke out the terribly inventive nicknames like four eyes, bottle-specs, and Einstein, (isn’t that complimentary?) I started to hate them. I didn’t get teased as bad as some people do – even though I have pretty bad eyesight, at least my glasses didn’t magnify my eyes to twice their size. Still, by the time I was a teenager, I loathed them. I was convinced all my adolescent problems would be solved as soon as I got contact lenses.
I’ll be honest – I didn’t have the ugly duckling turns to a swan moment I’d imagined when I got contacts at sixteen. It wasn’t a big deal to the other kids at school, but for me, it felt like my life had changed. When I went on holiday, I swear people thought I was a glamorous twenty-something. Distant (and delusional) relatives told my parents I could be a Bollywood film star. I was convinced that I had a shot with the new boy who sat behind me in History (spoiler alert: I really didn’t). Most of all, the contacts made me confident. I thought, “Now people will actually pay attention to me! They’ll figure out that I’m funny and interesting, and not a nerd who isn’t even good at Math.” So, I put away my glasses – a very not-cool James Dean brand – and never looked back.
I took good care of my lenses for a few years, but I started getting sloppy in college. I’d sleep in them or wear them for longer than the suggested duration. I had a couple of minor conjunctivitis incidents, but nothing so major that I was required to stop wearing my contacts.
Now, let’s talk about my job. I’m a graphic designer at bazaar magazine. As you can imagine, it’s super important that I can see. Keep that in mind while I tell you that I am also one of those people who truly hates seeing the doctor. You know when you watch Grey’s Anatomy and they have some patient who has an enormous exterior tumor and the doctors are all saying, “Ugh, how could they let it get so bad?” Yeah, that’s me. So, my eyes got kind of itchy back in February and I told myself it was just the dust. They were red for several months and became hazy and started to ache. It would be okay for a couple of days when I switched them for a new pair, but then the blurriness began all over again. Still, I ignored it.
At the back of my mind, I knew there was something wrong, but I wasn’t going to wear my hideous James Dean glasses to give my eyes a break. And I was busy. Working at a monthly magazine is cyclical, so just as soon as you feel like you’ve recovered from the stressful deadline – wahey, there’s another one. Finally, I couldn’t ignore the redness and blurred vision anymore because it really was difficult for me to see. I figured maybe my power went up – no big deal. Yeah, big deal. My cornea had been so abused by the use of contaminated contact solution, that there were ulcers on my eyes. The ophthalmologist was understandably furious with me for ignoring it so long. He explained that I could have gone blind and even with treatment, he wasn’t sure he could get my vision back. For two days I had to use antibiotic drops every hour on the hour, paired with ointment and eye moisturizer four times a day for almost a month. My cornea was so damaged, he couldn’t take a reading of my eyesight, so I couldn’t even wear those unsightly James Dean frames. I was out of work for close to 3 weeks sitting around my house frustrated for leaving my incredibly hardworking team in the lurch going insane with boredom. My vision without help only permits me to see things that are less than a foot away from me, and I couldn’t put strain on them by reading or watching things on my phone.
Eventually the doctor performed his magic and I could see again, but it took another couple of weeks to get an accurate reading so that I could buy new, less ugly frames. And all I kept thinking was – I am truly the most spectacular idiot. All of this drama could have been avoided if I just wore my glasses more and gave my eyes a rest from contacts.
So, maybe you’re not as extreme as I was, but if you’re one of those people who overuse their contacts because you don’t like how you look in glasses, from one bottle-specs to another, beauty is a small sacrifice for sight. Wear your glasses when you’re home, wash your hands often, and only use contact lens solution for 3 weeks to avoid contamination.
Be an Einstein, take care of your eyes.