It’s been about a year now since I was diagnosed with glaucoma and I’ve been thinking about how it’s affected my life since then.
In simple physical terms, I’m happy to report that it hasn’t affected me at all. My eyesight is still absolutely fine and the only tangible difference to my life has been the addition of my daily eye drops before bed. Which I have been super vigilant about doing. A year on and I’m proud to say I have not missed a single dose. No matter how tired, tipsy or preoccupied I have been, every single night before bed I have popped in my drops and sat for two minutes with my eyes closed, pressing on my tear ducts to keep the steroids in my eyes and get the most out of them. It’s become part of my daily routine. I’ve also invested time and energy in learning as much as I can about my condition, how to manage it, and keeping up with current research. I joined the International Glaucoma Association and have found them to be brilliantly helpful.
So, in terms of my actual eye health, so far glaucoma has not really changed much. It has definitely affected me in other ways though. When I was first diagnosed I really was very up and down emotionally – one minute telling myself everything would be fine and it was no big deal, the next minute thinking of the worst case scenarios and the possibility of losing my eyesight, and feeling absolutely terrified. I wrote about this in my blog at the time here (warning! strong language!) and how I came to treat this as a daily reminder that life is short and to be fully embraced, every minute of it. Here’s what I wrote at the time:
But really, I realised, the root of my freak out was this. It was feeling that the rug of my nice safe existence had been pulled out from underneath me. We all know, don’t we, that life is short, and nothing is guaranteed, and everything is fragile and impermanent. I say these things a lot, and have been reminded of it more than I would like this year, with two friends dying suddenly and unexpectedly. But saying it and knowing it is not the same as living it. It’s not the same as actually acknowledging it day to day. The glaucoma diagnosis has placed this indisputable fact RIGHT IN MY FACE. It’s made it harder to pootle along imagining I will enjoy good health for another 40 years and taking life for granted. Hence the brain weasels in my head, churning my chest with panic and whispering in my ear, “you might lose your sight!”. Yes, I reply to them now. I might. I also might get squashed flat by a logging truck tomorrow. This has *always* been the case. It’s always been true that some shitty things might happen to me in the future. It’s just been easier, before, to pretend that wasn’t the case. To pretend I was in control, fully prepared and knowing where my life was going. But we don’t know. We’re not in control. And now, every day when I take my eye drops, I am reminded of this.
So, a year on, has it changed the way I live my life?
Well, in short, yes. I still use the time every day when I’m sitting with my eye drops in, eyes closed, to reflect on the day and the things I’m grateful for. The daily habit of the eye drops has become a daily reminder to me of how precious, short and fleeting life is. It has encouraged me to jump right in and grab it with both hands.
As a result, I think that 2016 has been my most adventurous year to date! As I look back and reflect on 2016 (something I always do at this time of year, with the help of the fantastic Leonie Dawson workbooks) I can see so many wonderful adventures and happy memories. I did a lot of exciting things this year, most of them for the first time. I was brave enough to do things I wanted to do, even when they were scary or uncomfortable, like camping and hiking. I also did a lot of things that weren’t particularly adventurous, but had been on my “bucket list” for a while and hadn’t got done because they were too far to travel, or too much effort, or took too much time. Simple joys like visiting the Kelpies, and going snowdrop hunting in February. Suddenly all those excuses for not doing these things seemed a bit crap when held up in the light of the realisation that WE DON’T HAVE FOREVER. The best time to do these things is right now!
So I did lots of things this year that made me happy. I walked the West Highland Way. I went to Mull and saw my first puffins. I went on my very first demo, something I’d fancied doing for a while but quite frankly been too scared to do. (It was actually not scary at all and lots of fun!). I went camping with Dave, including my first ever wild camp. We had a brilliant week’s holiday when we walked part of the Great Glen Way, made new friends, climbed Ben Nevis and visited the Kelpies. More adventures right there in that one week than in most of 2015! We climbed a couple of new Galloway Hills and found the Devil’s Bowling Green, a very cool spot I’d always wanted to see since I heard about it. I played and sang with Dave – in front of people, even!
I said yes to things that I knew would inspire me and make me happy, even if they were outside of my comfort zone, or required me to make a bit of an effort or drive a fair distance. I spent a weekend in Glasgow at the SNP conference. I spent lots of time with people I love. I had a great day at the Soul of Women conference and met one of my heroes, Mhairi Black (in keeping with my “being brave” attitude I shamelessly stalked her for a selfie!). I slid down a big scary drop slide (actually, the most terrifying thing I did all year!) while playing with my godsons. I went for a short break in the Highlands with our best friends and had a wonderful time drinking in the scenery and having fun.
I also said no to things that drained me and made me unhappy, set aside time for self care, and made it my number one priority to look after my health. I invested in an incredible online course which helped me to get into a daily practice of mindfulness, and for the first time in literally years, feel good about my body and treat it with respect, nourishing it with healthy food and exercise and treating it with kindness. Now I meditate every day, eat more fruit & veg on a daily basis than I used to in a week, and exercise regularly. And I’ve never felt in better health – in fact I haven’t had so much as a cold since I started this regime in April. (And I hasten to add, I have not turned into a saint and I do not always stick to it 100% – holidays and nights out still include chips and wine!).
Having glaucoma has focused me, and the eye drops act as a daily reminder that I want to live my life fully, with passion and energy, not just drift through it. If one day in the future I may not have the amazing gift of my eyesight, there’s no way I want to waste a moment while I have it.
I’m not saying I get this right all the time …. I still have days where I can’t be bothered, and like everyone else I lose hours in the black hole of facebook 🙂 – I still forget, sometimes, just how precious this gift of life is.
But overall I am definitely happier, healthier and living life more fully than I was a year ago. And so, a year on, I can honestly say that I am grateful for my glaucoma.
Bring on more adventures in 2017!