17 November 2016

Eye strain

Occasionally I'm stricken by health anxiety, though this rarely slides into fully-blown hypochondria - fortunately for both me and my doctor! I only ever seek help for actual, rather than imagined, symptoms, and usually manage to stop obsessing about them as soon as a medical professional has provided reassurance or a diagnosis. It's the uncertainty of not knowing that I can't stand.

So, when I noticed an intermittent blurry patch in my left eye, I immediately booked a check-up at my opticians. This blurriness coincided with the appearance of a larger than usual 'floater' in that eye and I thought they might be connected - floaters are lines or spots that drift across your vision, caused by tiny bits of debris floating about in the vitreous humour and casting shadows on the retina.

I fully expected the optician to tell me that there was nothing wrong, however, at the end of the examination, she said, 'Well, I can see a white patch on the retina, but I don't know if it's new or if you've always had it. It might be a retinal tear.'

Image courtesy of Pixabay
My heart pounded.

'I'll give you a letter to take to the hospital today,' she continued.

'Today!' That must mean it was really bad.

'Or tomorrow,' she said. 'This weekend, anyway.'

Maybe not really bad, but definitely not good.

As instructed, I set off straightaway to make the Tube trip into central London, to the walk-in centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital.

Amazingly, the place was heaving. It looked as if half of Greater London had gone to the opticians that afternoon and been despatched for further tests. The electronic information board provided updates as to how many were in the final waiting area - always around 21 or 22 - and, at 8.35pm, stated that 188 people had been seen that day.

It was some small consolation that I wasn't the only one whose Saturday had been ruined and at least I was spared the 4 hour 58 minute wait that the board threatened when I arrived.

For the whole 3 hours that I was there, however, my heart was racing with anxiety as to what might be wrong. With everything that has been going on with my family of late, I couldn't afford downtime for an operation. And what if it was worse than that? - what if I had a condition leading to sight loss?

With no one to talk to and nothing to distract me, all I could do was worry.

Finally, though, I was summoned in to see the consultant and, less than five minutes later, given the all-clear. I practically danced home, in spite of my exhaustion.

The experience helped me to put things in perspective. Yes, I am under huge stress at the moment, but at least I have good health and am in a position to support my parents.

I often talk in my blog posts about 'lessons learned' and one of my followers recently asked if I retain those lessons. The sad truth is that, no, I don't. Before long, I inevitably find something else to worry about. 

Perhaps, then, it's a good thing that life keeps throwing me curveballs - it seems I need these regular wake-up calls to remind me just how lucky I really am.


Lindsay said...

Glad all is OK. I was sent to Moorfields 'immediately' after a fall which produced a huge floater and flashing lights in my right eye. Really squeamish about eyes so I had to be awfully brave as they did loads of different tests! Wasn't a retinal tear but that wretched dead-spider-looking floater is a permanent fixture!

Helen Barbour said...

Lindsay, I sympathise - I have more floaters than empty space in my eyes! The new one was just particularly noticeable. They get worse with age, but some lucky souls don't seem to have them at all, while I've had them as for long as I can remember.

Paul_B said...

Oh to be able to retain those Lessons Learned Helen - if only it were possible to bottle that rational sense of perspective when worry gives way to calm. Like you, I soon turn my attention to the next worry or some source of obsessional focus. I guess that's just life, isn't it, and all we can do is to keep going and keep seeking that balance and that perspective whenever the worries and rituals take hold. (Mind you, I doubt I will ever be able to withstand excessive worry on matters of health - I know that in your situation described in this blog I'd have gone into hyper-worry mode).

Helen Barbour said...

Hi Paul - I hope you recognised your contribution to this piece? ie being the person referred to in the penultimate paragraph! Thanks for your comment.

Paul_B said...

Hi Helen - I have to admit I did experience a moment of vanity on that penultimate paragraph "That's me! That's me that Helen is referring to!". What's the situation regarding royalties and so forth for my keynote contribution??? :-)

Helen Barbour said...

Hi Paul, as my dad said dryly - and with a raised eyebrow - yesterday, when I threatened (jokingly) to send him an invoice for all my work sorting out his affairs 'Well, you can send an invoice...' :-)