Fixing my Gaze

I feel compelled to start this blog post with a special note about my driving record.  It is entirely clean.  No speeding tickets; I’ve never even been pulled over.  My worst “accident” was when I took a corner too hard in my parents’ car at 16 and dented the side on a pole.  I know of at least four times someone has backed into me and one time a friend drove over a tree stump with my car, but I have yet to personally hit anything as an adult.

And that’s what I usually tell people before I say “I just finished a year of vision therapy.”

Alternatively, I wait until I’m driving and we’re about to cross a narrow bridge before I mention the vision therapy.  But I save that for special friends.


This brings me to my recommendation for the week: Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist’s Journey into Seeing in Three Dimensions by Susan Barry.  I’ve included her TEDx talk at the bottom of the post as well.  This is a book I read on my road to trying vision therapy.

I was well into my thirties when an optometrist commented on how well I’d adapted to my lack of proper depth perception.  What?  I didn’t know I didn’t experience depth perception like everyone else.  My eyes don’t always line up on a target and I lack the binocular vision possessed by most people.

This isn’t as big of a deal as you might expect and you probably know people who have the same problem.  There are other ways to identify depth and the human person is an amazing creature capable of finding them without any instruction.  As evidenced by my driving record, it doesn’t make me a danger to society.

But as I got older, the problem got worse.  We decided to try vision therapy, and it has been a huge success.

How so?  The first thing I noticed was cars at stop signs on the side of a main road.  My peripheral vision improved, and suddenly I was noticing these things off to the side.  Next up was clouds.  CLOUDS ARE AWESOME.  So are trees.  Hills.  Oh sure, I saw these things before, but they’re better now.

I had no idea some of the issues this problem even caused.  For instance, I once went into a very, very crowded free for all at a library sale.  Piles of books everywhere.  Disorganized.  There were two areas with different rules.  I almost had a panic attack.

Parking was also an issue.  If I was going anywhere new, I’d be nervous about where I was going to park.  I’d get on Google Maps and do the satellite view so I knew exactly where I was going to go.  I told a counselor about this once and she assured me it was just a lack of confidence.  If there’s one thing in life I don’t usually lack, it is confidence.  Especially with something as simple as driving a car.  But now I realize that was difficult because parking lots are usually off to the side, identified by signs off to the side.  I wasn’t doing off to the side!

It isn’t all bad though.  The doctor said I wouldn’t be as detail oriented if I didn’t have this problem.  It is safe to say part of my employment is being good with details, so I’d say that worked out well.

I did have to learn to relax to succeed.  People may not know this, but I’m rarely relaxed.  I may look relaxed.  Sometimes it is important to look entirely calm.  But I rarely feel entirely calm.  The therapy worked so much better when I was relaxed, to the point I told the vision therapist I fared better after a glass of wine.  This seems entirely unAmerican, where we all know you have to work hard to be successful.  Yet here I am, relaxing my eyes as I look at things.

What does this have to do with this book I’m recommending?  Well the author has quite a bit to say about eyesight!  Check out her TEDx talk below, and consider taking a look at the book!

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