I have been through several drastic eye surgeries over the years to correct the angle of my head when I view things. As a child, I used to be able to see only when my chin was raised up and to the right side. This made it difficult for my spine and the angle it was pushed into as well as the eye strain being physically draining. When I was five I had my first surgery to tighten the muscles in my eye and lower them, only to find when I was nineteen the surgeries had been preformed incorrectly the first time. I would have to choose to have another surgery or my spine would become arthritic and I could be paralyzed and die. This came at a pivotal point in my life during my senior year of high school as I was making vital life decisions and I was forced to make a choice based on my previous mistrust in the other doctors. This surgery would do the exact opposite of the one I had undergone previously and I would be without use of my eyes for a week.
You can’t sign the paper. The letters swirl around in your head and you laugh. They want you to sign your life away. You’ve had to make this decision all on your own. The first decision you’ve made regarding your own body and you have to motion lazily to your mom to sign on the dotted line. They drugged you up. You’re floating. They gave you 3 times as much relaxant as the doctor had ordered but you consented. Your body wants to tense up, it’s trying so hard, you can feel your muscles softly under the film of skin.
You lie on a bed and the needle moves forward. Everything is reacting, you can’t move so instead you cry weakly. Tears running down your face that you can’t feel, only taste as they run in your mouth. The nurse covers you with a thick blanket that’s weighted.
You’re in your own mind now, you know what’s going on, but you can’t stop it. They roll you into the open sterilized room with the instruments on the table. You can’t believe you signed yourself up for this, and then you realize you didn’t actually sign.
How are you? You’re lying naked in a room full of strangers, paralyzed, and half out of your mind. Beneath the doctor’s green mask you can see his lips move and sound come out. Slow motion. How are you?
You start to cry again and this time you can feel the tears squeeze out of your eyes. Maybe you can back out now? You didn’t sign. They lower the mouth and nose piece over you and you try to protest. You won’t breathe. If you don’t breathe, they will have to take it off and then they can’t do it. Your lungs feel like they’re filling up with sand, gritty. The muscle relaxants shut down your plan and you breathe, involuntarily gulping down the sour taste that will linger in your nose and mouth for days. You see Neon.
The first thing you say is “Get me out of here” and “Get these things off me”. You don’t throw up, which takes much of your concentration. You can’t open your eyes. Your heart pounds under the fog of thoughts and you know something is wrong. They took your vision with their hacksaws and your shiny white orbs are floating in a jar somewhere in yellow liquid. Screaming will do nothing and crying will hurt. You settle limply into the pillow as your mind adjusts to not seeing. So this is what it’s like to be blind, again. You’ve done this surgery two times. Every time you forget. This time you had a choice.
The sunlight hurts. You can’t walk. The pills they gave you. Equilibrium screwed up. Blind and clawed out eyes, headache and no balance. You’re Helpless.
You’re wheeled out by a nurse and then placed in the car. You’re upset now; you can’t sleep, can’t read, and can’t move your limbs. Your brain tries to calm you. Close your eyes and it will make it all better. But they are already closed. The drive back hurts. Every turn and bump makes you whimper in pain. For the first time you can feel them moving in your skull, rattling around back and forth. You heard the doctor tell your mom everything would be sensitive.
In bed. Not knowing where you are. Home, but home is nothing. You can’t see it so it doesn’t exist, just a false feeling. Climbing up the stairs feels like sharp indents with a claw hammer. Your Aunt and mom carry you up. You feel cold relief on your sockets. They are easing pills down your throat. You feel scared and alone. You’re isolated. You wish someone else could go through this with you. The blackness is lonely and seems to never end. You’re passing out into a scared sleep.
You’re waking up screaming. Bad dream. You can’t escape the dream because you can’t open your eyelids. Simple task. You feel incompetent. You know this is going to change you. They didn’t tell you how much, because they didn’t know. You were warned and then you couldn’t sign your own name to a decision.
Comforting hand and voice. You can smell your mom’s perfume. You have new heightened senses. Another pill, water hurts going down. The fumes haven’t left your lungs. You wonder what they’ve done to you. You won’t know for days. Days like this. You’re trapped. Noises hurt. More cold.
You’re shaking something that feels round and metallic. Sharp sound that rattles in your brain after you’re done shaking it. Your parents come when you shake it. They can’t hear you cry. You haven’t eaten. Sickness. Ultimate lottery jackpot. What will you get?
It’s the third day and they say you can open them. You still don’t want to get out of bed. Still hurts. You can make your way to the bathroom while avoiding falling down the stairs now. You have to relearn how to walk. Eyes are really crucial. You take lumbering steps down the hallway and then to figure out where everything is. It’s changed you already, will it change you more?
You don’t need the compresses anymore. You still like them. Your pain medication is going to be gone soon. You’ve been taking the maximum amount allowed every couple of hours. You’ve listened to the same movie 3 times in a row. Still not eating. You’re still lonely. Being inside your head with nothing else to see makes it feel empty. It feels like sleep while you’re awake and there are people. It seems permanent. Everything is magnified. Sensory overload. You remember the procedure and have adjusted to it now. You sit or lie calmly—listening, trying to concentrate, willing eyes open.
The football game on Thanksgiving is the first thing you see again. It’s like they’re glued together. You can only get then half open and you scream for your mom. Too much, too bright. Sunlight is ripping in and you feel your muscles get stiff. The pain is underneath your eyes, almost inside them, a burning. Your mom starts crying happily and she looks different because of the light adjustment. She looks fake. You feel like a child who is relearning to do everything. You’re eating now. Haven’t seen yourself, what it has done to you. You’re too afraid. It hurts mentally and physically. You must keep opening them to get the muscles stronger. There’s film on them like a chrysalis.
Your opening them slowly each day, training and transitioning into the pain. The swelling went down and from what you can tell, you look the same. You know who you are and there is vague recognition. The warnings the doctor gave you are nothing to you anymore. It’s hard to get back your balance—you have to wear sunglasses all the time. The world is too bright. All your senses are still heightened. Your hearing starts slipping back to where it used to be. Not as good as it had been when it was heightened and every day you can notice it, almost feel it, a gradual ring in the ear drum. You’re changing back to you, but it’s slow and gradual. Simple sounds you could hear three days ago you can’t anymore. It’s disheartening.
Food doesn’t taste as good and you still touch the wall while walking as a force of habit, even when you have your eyes open. Every sense is worse but your vision and you can’t tell whether it’s better or worse because you don’t remember what it was like to see before the surgery. You feel lucky and enlightened for the first couple of days. Your head is humming with activity. You’re no longer alone in there, but now there is almost too much.
Your first trip outside of the house is to the grocery store. There are too many people bustling around really fast with shiny red carts. All the colors and noises and bright florescent lights. The displays in the aisle trip up your sense of balance. There’s too much to walk around or walk near without knocking it over and people can’t be trusted. You’re frozen with paranoia and you find yourself clinging to your mother’s hand. She becomes flustered and frustrated. She yells at you, but you can’t explain the fear that’s twisting your stomach as you advance into the store. A headache builds in your eye and you’re in pain again.
You tell your mom after five minutes and she decides to take you home. She thinks you started having an anxiety attack from all the stimulation to your brain. There is immense relief when you’re back in the safety of the car where it’s dark and cold. No strangers and you can close your eyes. You have to go to school tomorrow. Then there is more dread and paranoia. You’re a child again, you can’t trust anyone, it’s going to be claustrophobic and there will be lots of walking, too much adjustment. This is your big moment, going back to childhood, relearning how to see, hear, smell, taste, and walk. Feeling you do things after being in bed without the ability to see.
They told you your face would change right at the point where vanity is no longer an issue. You have changed. There’s still so much fear about how much more change will have to occur before you’re done. It’s nothing you have a say in. Your body’s working without you, changing to fit and adapting. School after this surgery is the moment. You’re learning how to redo everything in a different environment after having a life altering surgery. You didn’t sign up for this.