My eyes are tired, mostly because I can’t sleep. I think if it’s at all possible they’re also stressing (a bit like the rest of me) about my pending diabetic retinopathy screening later today.
It’s simple enough – as anyone with diabetes will know. A specialist will pop some drops into my eyes to dilate my pupils, wait for a while, then take some detailed digital photos of my retinas.
The unfortunate part of this is that the dilation lasts for up to 6 hours – during which time I will basically be Mr Magoo and need to wear sunglasses outside. It’s not painful – but every light source is uncomfortable – especially if it’s a sunny day. Pretty much all I can do for some time afterwards is listen to the radio or go to bed for a bit.
Again, not so bad. I can catch up on podcasts.
For me the biggest source of stress associated with this activity is not the test but instead that I’m not supposed to drive once I have the drops in my eyes. This means that I have to get to and from the screening under my own steam or on public transport.
The very first time I had to do this a couple of years ago I couldn’t get a taxi back. It was rush hour and I hadn’t pre-booked, so I ended up walking to a bus stop a few streets away rather than wait 90 minutes in the doctor’s surgery. It was an unexpectedly hot and sunny day.
This walk absolutely wasted me and the fear and vulnerability I subsequently felt because of it is still with me.
I could see almost nothing and was barely capable of physically moving from A to B. As there was no-where to sit down on the route I was quickly in all kinds of distress and pain. By the time I reached the mid point I couldn’t go back and also felt I could barely move forward.
I was absurdly trapped in the open.
My heart was pounding in my chest, my back was screaming with pain and I was drenched in sweat. When I eventually reached the bus stop I remember clinging onto a large wall with my legs quivering, convinced I was about to fall over or pass out.
According to Google Maps that day I only walked 0.6 miles.
While mobility is still an issue for me – walking is no longer as severe a problem as it was back then. Every week I become a bit more capable.
Although I’ve not said anything to anyone for fear of jinxing it, I’ve known about this appointment since before I joined Slimming World. It’s actually been one of the unspoken goals I’ve been working towards – to get there (reasonably) comfortably on foot and under my own steam.
Today’s location is different to the previous one but it is the same 0.6 miles there and also 0.6 miles back again. This means a round trip of just over a mile, which (thanks to the St Nicholas park circular route I’ve been walking) I’m now familiar and comfortable with.
However in this instance there are no park benches so the only respite I’ll have is stopping to take a breath or sitting on the occasional garden wall which worries me. I’ve been lying in bed walking the route in my head and thinking about inclines and possible places to rest and getting stressed.
It’s so ridiculously near but in my head every time I visualise it my appointment seems further and further away. I keep thinking over and over that I will have to move 31st 9lbs of fat from where I’m sitting now to my destination and back – which isn’t helping.
Unlike my park walks there’s a gradient in this journey – and since I still consider hills to be my natural predator I’ve avoided them up to this point. If I get successfully from A to B and back again this short journey will mark an important new step in my gradual improvement and slowly growing self confidence.
It’s now 4.30am and I have approximately six hours until I have to be there. I think I’m going to try reading. Sleep is clearly impossible. Back later.
(Reads, sleeps, wakes, toilets, sleeps, wakes, showers, makes coffee, walks and arrives at appointment 30 minutes early).
The walk here was actually rather pleasant. I arrived a bit out of breath but nothing that I’d consider upsetting or embarrassing. Only one garden wall stood between me and my downhill destination and that was mostly because I wanted to reply to a text.
The selfie I took on the way also looks like I’m thinning out in the face and a bit healthier – which is nice to see. When I look at myself every day in the mirror I seldom notice any differences – but today…
Maybe it’s the angle or the light?..
I’m not sure…
Aside from that while sitting in the waiting room at the health centre I’m becoming convinced that the sole purpose of any red chair is to cause me discomfort. I’m also cursing my habit of arriving early for appointments. Now I have to endure Torquemada’s little red torture implement for half an hour.
The small plastic ones at SW are bad enough but ones with built in arms are like being trapped in a vice when you have an ass like mine. Hopefully it won’t be too long before the test and then I get to go back UP the hill…
(Time passes. It’s now early evening. )
Well that wasn’t so bad. After a short wait I was called in to have the drops and moved to a second waiting room for 15 minutes. This had a blissful, heaven sent, wide armed black plastic chair. I waited on it in relative comfort for the drops to take effect and slowly watched my leaflet become blurry and eventually unreadable.
I’m not sure why there’s a caution on the leaflet about blurry vision.
As soon as the drops go in my eyesight is a mess and I can’t read the text on my phone or watch. At the point where the next most enjoyable part arrives (flash photography of the inside of my eyeball) I’m already extremely photosensitive and the world is unpleasantly fuzzy.
However, as uncomfortable as it is I prefer it to going blind, so I’m not ungrateful.
Its quite the opposite in fact. I’m very grateful I live in a country where I don’t have to go into debt to get healthcare. I value every single member of the teams that look after me. I know I’m a fortunate person in a socially inclusive system that provides me with the support and medication I need to live a healthy life.
Like a lot of the things I do that cause me stress – when I consider the complex and often negative emotions that surround them – about 80% of how I feel relates to my physical limitations.
After peeling these away I’m usually only left with positive feelings – so I try to do this whenever I catch myself becoming particularly grumpy.
Digging underneath grumpy Dave’s exterior today will expose someone feeling positive that after his screening He was able to walk back home. Up a hill. Without feeling like he was dying. He had to stop and sit four times on the way back – but compared to the awful experience from before this is a huge improvement.
The irritable Dave – that I fight to overcome in situations like this (the one previously grumbling about seating and suffering with insomnia) is an annoying manifestation of my fear, shame, frustration, guilt and embarrassment – and in this instance it’s specifically related to my diabetes.
While I am continually trying to be kind to the inner me I often catch myself thinking ‘What have I done to my body? I caused all this. It’s my fault. I deserve to etc etc etc…’
Then I stop and try once again to forgive myself, forget the past and to move on.
One day I want to be at the point where concerns like this no longer bother me. I can now envisage a day in near the future where I will not have to worry for months in advance about such an upcoming event like I do now.
Hopefully internet, when that day arrives – and it’s not all that far away – I’ll be able to sit and walk wherever the hell I like.