Life Without Lenses

‘So what you need to do,’ says the kindly consultant ophthalmologist, ‘is throw away your gas permeable lenses and wear your glasses until the eye is healed. It’ll take about three months.’ Three months!  ‘What’s the matter?’ he smiles, seeing my shocked face. ‘I love my glasses and, if I may say so, you look perfectly all right in yours.’

For the second time this year, a consultant has proved me wrong. Good job I didn’t go into medicine then. The joke horror eyeball with a scarlet cornea and swollen eyelid I’ve been squirting with antibiotic for the last week, is not, after all, a complication of a suspected blocked tear duct after my sinusitis, but has been caused by my eye quietly rejecting a very old contact lens. Despite being a very careful user of contact lenses (of anything, really), the lens has built up protein deposits which have sandpapered my cornea and caused all sorts of havoc. There’s nothing to be done other than to apply eye drops and wait for it to get better. But just to make sure he’s covered all the bases, the consultant flushes out my tear duct, a procedure which involves a long, gleaming hooked needle. I pick up a few Brownie points for bravery.

By the time Tom and I reach the car, however, I feel sorry for myself and have a cry, firstly because the prescription in my glasses is out of date and I can’t actually see very well, secondly I’m so very short-sighted that updating my prescription will cost an enormous amount of money and thirdly, to be blunt, I feel very vulnerable.

Perhaps it’s the association with unhappier times? My seven-year-old self who was admitted to hospital for a tonsils and adenoids operation which didn’t quite go according to plan? When I leave hospital, I realise I can’t see properly. The change is so sudden that when I return to school, a teacher is so convinced I’m simply being naughty that she stands me facing a corner of the room for an entire afternoon. Ma, I can tell you, is not best pleased when she finds out and storms the school. ‘And if anyone calls you Four Eyes,’ she adds when she and Dad send me to school with new specs I know they can ill-afford, ‘you tell them four eyes are better than two.’

Ma’s advice equips me against the bullies who try to pick on me for my poor eyesight, and later, as a thirteen-year-old with a bumper bundle of specs, braces on my teeth and the most persistent and appalling acne. Nevertheless, swapping glasses for contact lenses three years later is one of the most liberating experiences of my life so the prospect of wearing specs again for any length of time feels like a backwards step.

‘But you’re still you,’ Tom insists. And once I’ve got my head round the idea, I agree. One obstacle cleared. Tomorrow I’m off to the opticians to get my prescription updated… quite how I’m going to manage without a spare pair of glasses in the meantime will be interesting. Ah well, one bridge at a time.

And finally, I’d like to stress that I have regular eye checks and I’ve always been scrupulous about lens hygiene… but if your gas permeable lenses have reached an age that’s into double figures like mine, you may just want to think about replacing them!

Still here.  'Selfie' with specs.


Oh Chris, I really like the glasses on you! I swear I'm not just saying that out of kindness. I think glasses can look rather adorable and trendy on women, especially when they have the harder angles like yours do. Just tell people you've spent so many hours pounding out brilliant novels that your eyes have earned the distinguished right of wearing glasses. :)
Chris Stovell said…
Rachel, did I ever tell you how much I love you? You're a star - thank you! (And, hey, what are you doing here? Aren't you in the middle of a huge amount of upheaval?? Hope all is going well! Cx)
Jane Lovering said…
Those glasses look fabulous! Rachel is right, they suit you to a T, you've nothing to worry about! I bet you find, when you come to go back to the contacts, you secretly prefer the glasses...
I keep meaning to get my eyes tested, but not getting round to it, but you (and your cute glasses) have inspired me to make that appointment. x
Liz Fielding said…
So sorry for the horrible sore eye, Chris. Having worn glasses since I was three I'm kinda used to them, although I'm glancing sideways at the lens replacement thing for oldies. Meanwhile, those glasses are really sweet!
Kath said…
You look 'spec'tacular and really have nothing to worry about, lovely. I can understand your frustration though - ever since I had an ulcer on my eye, I've been unable to wear my contact lenses for too long, so I've had to get used to wearing glasses for at least part of each day. I actually don't mind it, especially when I'm working from home, so I tend to see contact lenses as part of my going out get up now!!
Georgina Troy said…
You sound like you've had a rough time of it recently, I hope your eyes heal quickly.

I have to agree with, Rachel, you do suit your glasses very well. My son recently started wearing glasses and I think he looks better with them! xxx
Jo Beverley said…
Good warning, Chris. When you go back to lenses, use a protein remover regularly. That'll help.

I was a young spec wearer like you, and loved my contacts once I got them. I used contacts only for decades until I developed an allergy to the soaking solutions. (Another common problem.)

I used simple saline solution for a while for occasional use, but in the end it became too much bother, After a while, wearing glasses is no big deal. If they work.

Which is a whole other issue!

You do look good in glasses.
Chris Stovell said…
Oh, gosh, aren't you all kind! Thank you!

Jane, yes, do get your eyes examined... and, after my experiences this year, any other niggles that might be concerning you. I'm getting my head round the 'look', now I jsut need to be able to see! x

Liz, my best friend from school's an optom and lens replacement surgery is the one surgical intervention she'd go for. It's got a good track record and is generally successful. Thank you! x

Kath, I think that's how it might be for me in future, if this clears up so it's good to hear how about your experience. I'm not too bad at my desk (thank goodness) but distance is a problem until I get sorted. No excuse not to work, eh? ! x

Georgina, what with this and the BCC, it's been quite a year! I hope once this has cleared up that I can put it all behind me! x
Frances said…
Hello Chris. I also think your glasses look just fine. Hoping that the replacement lenses can be acquired soon, so you'll be "fully" powerful again.

I think I've mentioned to you that I was diagnosed with glaucoma almost 40 years ago. It was very odd, to get the news of that "quiet" intruder into my vision. I thought I needed glasses, but at that time I did not need glasses...I just had tired eyes. Still, it was great to have the early glaucoma diagnosis. It's been daily eyedrops ever since, and the glaucoma is all under control.

The funny bit is that I still don't need prescription lenses for my reading glasses. I rely on "drugstore" glasses. Yes, I am grateful!

Chris Stovell said…
Hello Frances, thank you. It is, as you say, the quiet intruders which seem to catch up on us, so an early diagnosis is always an advantage. How reassuring to hear that your glaucoma has been kept under control and, even better, that you don't need prescription glasses - thanks for sharing this. x
Pondside said…
I think the glasses make you look seriously 'author-ly'.
I first got glasses at eight years old and they were thicker each year. Contact, gas permeable like yours, did me well for nearly 40 years (well, they were hard at first, and then gas permeable when those came out). Five years ago I had laser surgery and wish I'd done it long before. Snorkeling, winter sports, swimming are all so uncomplicated without glasses or lenses. Might this be an option for you too?
Lynne Connolly said…
You look good in glasses! I had to give up lenses ten years ago, after using them for almost all my adult life gave me a condition that means I can't ever wear them again.
To be honest, it was a bit of a relief. Glasses are so much more user-friendly! I can have an afternoon nap without worrying about them, I can go out in the wind without going half-blind, and I never lose them and go 'Nobody move!'
All that rinsing, putting them in, taking them out, rinsing, just wasn't worth it in the end.
Plus, I have a new fashion accessory. Glasses! I have a wardrobe of them now.
Oh, and my condition (some long word that means ick) means I can't have laser treatment, either.
Chris Stovell said…
Jo, thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment. I think you're right about the protein remover - I'll step up my game when (if!) I go back to lenses. I think the most fiddly part about glasses will be getting an accurate prescription, but it is nice to simply take my glasses off at night instead of going through the routine of disinfecting lenses. Thank you!

Pondside, your experience of short-sightedness sounds very similar to mine. I tend to wear a pair of daily disposables for swimming and remove them immediately afterwards, but it is fiddly. My feeling at the moment is that lenses correct my sight to a very high degree of accuracy so I'm slightly reluctant to risk surgery which might change that. However, as I've mentioned, my optom friend thinks corrective replacement lenses is a good way to go at some point in the future. It's very reassuring to hear how positive your experience of laser surgery has been. Thank you!
Chris Stovell said…
Lynne, thank you - you look great in specs, I noticed at conference, so it's interesting to hear what your experience has been and how comfortable you are with a choice that was initially forced upon you. I do agree with you about the disadvantages of contact lenses - especially the going half-blind in the wind! There was also the memorable occasion when Tom almost had to take the bathroom apart when I thought I'd lost a lens down the loo... and it was stuck on a towel. Thanks for stopping by.
Chanpreet said…
Hi Chris! I think your glasses look lovely! I've been wearing glasses since I was 7 and love them. I have two pairs right now, one is more "funky" and the other more "professional." I also have gas permeable contact lenses but wear them very sparingly. For me it's comfort unless I know it's going to be an event or somewhere I'll get my picture taken. People don't recognize me without my glasses. I'll get the,"You look familiar..."

All change takes time to get familiar with. Definitely let your eye take the time to heal before putting the lenses back in and it's surprising how little we know even when we are being careful.
Fennie said…
I echo Pondside, Chris. You look commanding. Maybe you could keep a pair handy even when you get your new contacts and practice withering looks.
Lins' lleisio said…
I think you look really great in your glasses, they definitely suit you. I tend to wear glasses more now because it's just a whole lot easier... and they help hide some of my 'laughter' lines round my eyes ;) xxx
Chris Stovell said…
Hi Chanpreet, I'm warming to the idea of a glasses 'wardrobe' - yours sounds great! I also intend taking a leaf out of your book and wearing my lenses a bit less once I can return to them. It's a hard lesson, but one I only need to learn once! x

Ooh, commanding, Fennie! I don't think I've ever commanded anything... although my daughter would probably tell you I can do a terrific withering look!

Lins, that's a very cunning plan, although I didn't see any laughter lines round your eyes! Thanks for being so supportive. Hope you are doing well. xx
Jenny Harper said…
Hi Chris. Every word you wrote resonated precisely with my own life experience! I have worn contacts for something approaching 50 years (yikes!), though I get new gas permeables every year because of protein build up.

I would HATE to have to wear glasses for a period, not so much for aesthetic reasons as because, despite the brilliance of modern ultra light lens technology, I am so shortsighted that glasses slip off my nose, give me headaches, make me feel slightly sick etc.

But you look fine in yours. Really.

Good luck with the healing.
Chris Stovell said…
Hi Jenny, how spooky that we are twins separated at birth! (But 50 years of wearing lenses - no way, not from that photo!). My prescription's a hefty minus seven and, like you, the downside is that I'm constantly pushing my glasses back up my face and have a permanent headache... at least it takes my mind off my sore eye. Thank you so much for leaving a comment.
Flowerpot said…
I really like those specs, Chris - but I've had the same thing with contact lenses! I now wear soft ones that are monthly so no fear of wearing them for too long. But those specs really suit you! Iknow just what you mean about glasses giving you a headache though.
Chris Stovell said…
I'm getting used to wearing my specs, Sue, but the headaches start as soon as I leave my desk and try walking around with them and they're hopeless for distance. It's a 'wait and see' game at the moment. Or rather, wait to see.
They look good! I have to wear them for reading and need another pair for the laptop and am constantly losing them and finding myself in a shop with no glasses in my bag. I thought you were one of the long sighted brigade but no! And Fennie is right, not necessarily commanding but as if you know your own mind!
Joy said…
Don't fret! You are so pretty! And besides, I wear eye glasses just like yours. I find them more comfortable than contact lens.
Chris Stovell said…
No, I'm one of the 'Nick Robinson' brigade, Elizabeth, ie very short-sighted indeed (even hospital consultants are impressed!!). Mostly, I feel as if I should be smoking a pipe, and featuring on a knitting pattern in my specs, but I quite like that!

Hello Joy, thank you for leaving your very kind comment - it's certainly easier just to stick my specs on and go rather than all that fiddling around with lenses.
Cait O'Connor said…
I do think you look great in specs!

Popular Posts