All my life, my parents have regaled me with their proud stories, of how they went “private” with their pre-natal healthcare, and how I was brought into this world by a very experienced Doctor, who no less wore a tux whilst delivering me after being paged whilst at some high class evening soirée.
They do not, however, seem to have any stories about the Doctor(s) involved in my subsequent healthcare. That worries me sometimes.
You see, I was born with a squint – aka “cross-eyed” – and, doing what was in my best interests, I underwent corrective cosmetic surgeries on my eyes at a very young age. We’re talking the first months of my life, which is fortunate, as I do not, nor do I want, even the vaguest recollection of how horrible a) the surgery must have been, nor b) what a mess I must have looked during recovery. I do however recall receiving an Optimus Prime action figure whilst in hospital. Which pretty much made my 80s, I think.
The point that I am getting to is that this was classic 1980’s cosmetic surgery. I was no longer cross-eyed, but nobody noticed – or at least nobody told me anyway – that my eyes were not therefore “normal” either. I have since learnt that this same procedure, since the 80’s, does not result in the following. So great…
At the age of 9, an opthalmic nurse came into Primary School to conduct routine eye tests on all the children in my year. I stepped up, and it was not until this moment, when she asked me to place a hand over my right eye, that I suddenly realised that my left eye was short-sighted.
Indeed, even after a swift trip to Specsavers and a pair of NHS standard spectacles were issued to me for reading, I still didn’t actually understand exactly what my eyes did.
Growing up through my teens, my mum would often tell me off for having a “lazy” left eye. It would wander slightly, and she would shout over to me, grabbing my attention, along with Mr Left Eye. And nothing more was really said about it.
It wasn’t until I applied for the Police Special Constabulary – around the age of 20 – that I had to undergo a more thorough eye test. Then, and only then, after 20 years, did somebody tell me that I had a “Hyper-Alternating Divergent Squint”. Luckily, this was the one type of squint that the Police would allow into their “elite” ranks.
In plain terms, or at least the terms that I have come to explain it to people – I have independent eyes. Since my corrective surgery, I have always, unconsciously at least, controlled each eye separately. My brain looks through one eye more than the other one at any given moment. For some reason, I chose to always do close up work – like reading – by selecting my left eye as primary, and when looking far away, I focus through my right eye. This has left me with very good short sight in the left, and very good long sight in the right. However, the left is useless as long-sight, and my right has slight straining up close.
Another quirk of the condition is that when my brain actually decides to switch between eyes, both eyes physically shift slightly. This means that when I want to use my left eye, both eyes flick slightly to the right, leaving the left lens pointing straight at my target, and vice versa. This is why I had a “lazy eye” when my mum looked at me – I was looking at something far away at the time – no doubt the TV – and that meant my left eye shifted off-centre.
Well, I’m telling you this just to explain why – much like why I can’t swim to keep fit – I can’t do ball games to keep fit either. The plain fact is that my independent eyes mean that I have crappy hand-eye co-ordination, as well as a reduction in depth perception (which also rules out things like 3D film or TV for example).
Sometimes I feel like going back to my former schools and telling every PE teacher that I disappointed, exactly why I couldn’t do what they asked of me. However, I then realise that I can’t blame my eyes on everything. For example, when I was asked to throw a javelin, I struck myself with the pole across the back of my head whilst trying to launch it, sending me to the floor in a concussed heap. Not really an eye problem.
So, if you are ever in my company, and a stray football rolls my way from a group of teenagers playing keepy-uppy (?) in the park, please understand why a) my face turns ashen at the thought of trying to kick the ball back, or b) I confidently go to kick the ball, and end up kicking a kerbstone 5 inches to the left.
Just let me try to run and nothing else. Please.