female looking in the mirror
Mental health / The world

The trauma of looking in the mirror

Who would have thought, the simple act of getting my eyes checked could be so traumatic?!

Fortunately my eye sight isn’t too bad so, although advised to go to the optician every couple of years, I push it out to 4,5,6 years until the guilt of “not looking after my eyes” gets too much.

So, I find myself here again. Not only is making the appointment hard enough but I’m now sat in the waiting room for a “test”, for which I have received no training or education. Why have I not revised? Why do I not feel more prepared?! What if I get it all wrong?

The first room is darkened and just involves looking at a hot air balloon going in and out of focus – don’t think I can get anything wrong there can I?!

women holding glasses over her face

Next, I appear to be greeted by someone more qualified but she didn’t tell me who she was so I have no idea! She spends a long time looking in my eyes, telling me to look at various things in the room I can’t see! And then, why do they tell you too look down? This is going to cause you to effectively shut your eye! After a while, blinking away the bright spots, she tells me that my eyes are perfectly healthy – phew! Is that it? Can I go now? Please?!

Next, I have a large contraption pressed against my face and I’m asked to look through the holes towards the wall ahead. There are a number of different lenses inside…what happened to the funky glasses we used to put on? I have to say whether letters look more or less clear with various options so I quietly voice “1” or “2” depending on which is sharper but to be honest, most are so similar I’m struggling to tell them apart. I have no idea what this is testing and I have no idea if I’m giving accurate answers or even if it matters!

Next on the screen, I do not have the familiar optitian’s chart with the big A at the top, I just have a single line of letters I’m being asked to read and I’m not sure I can. I can guess? But what if I guess right and she assumes I can read it fine? I work along the line with a shaky voice and the optitian doesn’t give anything away – did I get it right?!

Next I have some paragraphs of very small text slotted very close to my face. I’m asked if I can read the top paragraph, to which I reply “yes”, expecting I would need to demonstrate. Apparently just saying “yes” was enough and I did not have to go through the ordeal of reading out loud in public

After what feels like a couple of hours, our 15 minute “test” is over and my “results” are printed on a little tiny card. My eye sight is a bit worse but not a lot worse. I feel satisfied that I didn’t make a fool of myself but have I passed or failed?!

Next, comes the worse part…I’m advised to buy new glasses. This involves a number of impossible activities:

  1. Looking at myself in the mirror
  2. Deciding whether I prefer how I look in glasses a or b (or c or d…)
  3. Not breaking down in tears about the whole process!

I’m greeted by a 3rd member of the team, a lovely young chap, to whom I confess my difficulties looking in a mirror. He was lovely, asking if I’d like similar glasses to those I’m already wearing, also advising me to go for slightly smaller styles, as I have a “small face” apparently! He leaves me while I try a few on and quite honestly, I just cringe when I look in the mirror – I look terrible, how is a pair of glasses going to solve that?! The young chat comes back with a couple of his favourites but I’ve already had enough! Why am I fighting back tears over such a simple task? It might sound ridiculous but I have a feeling verging on panic. I hate how I look and my internal voice shouts insults at me. I explain to the assistant that I need to come back with my husband so he can help!

glasses resting on newspaper

So, a little while later, husband in tow, I step over the threshold again. We look over the offerings, noticing that “fashionable” now means quite bold. This is not going to suit me so my choice is quite restricted – maybe this is a good thing! I try on a few pairs, again, it’s a disaster when I look in the mirror. The kind shop assistant says they can take photos so I can look at them on an iPad (this would be useful if you need your regular glasses to look at what you look like in your new glasses) but that sounds like my idea of a nightmare…looking at numerous photos of myself in different glasses that all add to my ugliness, while some kind person adds their opinion…hummmm, no thanks! I know the assistants are only ever trying to be nice but when I already have a negative commentary in my head, I’m afraid they just add, “I’m just being nice to make a sale” plus, “I’m being nice cos we need to get you out of our shop as quickly as possible, you’re a terrible advert for our glasses”

Eventually…shop number 4…Steve’s trying to reassure me that there isn’t a budget, what’s most important is that I’m happy, or at least satisfied with how I look. I finally find some that don’t make me want to vomit when I look in the mirror, I manage to say “these look ok”. I then have a few measurements of my face taken to ensure my prescription can be added to the frames. I’m not really sure what made those glasses ok over any others, maybe I’m just getting used to my image but it’s such a relief!

Of course, this is a 1st world problem and we are incredibly lucky that we have access, not only to people who can check our eye health but also we can have glasses of an accurate prescription so we can perform any everyday task we wish. People in developing countries rarely have access to glasses, let alone an accurate prescription glasses… Next I’ll be taking my old glasses to Vision Aid Overseas

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