Visions of My Flawed Left Eye

I haven’t published anything here in a while, and one of my biggest goals for 2014 is to change that. I’ve been writing every day for 3 months straight, and have a lot of drafts and partial posts I’m sitting on — I simply haven’t dedicated adequate time to the processes of organization and editing which are so important in crafting finished products. To start the new year with something offbeat and low-pressure, I’m posting the following brief essay, in which I try to put into words the particulars of a strange ocular defect that has inhabited my left eye for my whole life. It’s something I’ve always been acutely aware of, but unable to articulate well, so this is my attempt to describe what it actually feels like — what the experience is of having a completely screwed one-half of my vision, and not really be able to describe it when I try.

As long as I can remember, so probably my entire life, I’ve had somewhat-flawed-to-decent vision in my right eye (correctable to 20/20 with the minor distortion that glasses can provide), and totally and indescribably crippled vision in my left eye, to the point that no form of corrective lens can make it good enough to so much as read the text of a book from a foot away. The odd thing is, the image I see in my left eye is not a blurred out mass; I know what blurry vision is like from my right eye, and the problem with the left is not just the same thing but to a greater degree — it’s a different phenomenon altogether.

The closest I’ve been able to get, in describing the vision of my left eye, is that it’s like a normal field of vision with a strange blotched and blotted field overlaid on top of it, like a repeating pattern of mottled gradient, removing subtle aspects of visibility. I don’t have blind spots, or blank spots, or spots of blackness imposed over the image, it’s just a general, overall sense of something missing. Whereas my right eye, even in blurred capacity, takes in a holistic view, a whole image, that which my left eye captures is partial — not in the sense of discrete parts being missing; rather, it’s partial also in a holistic sense; there is a uniformity to the absence, to the flawed nature of what this eye takes in.

When I look at a scene with my left eye — now, for instance, as I examine the desk around me and the items strewn and piled and arranged across it — I can sense the outlines just fine. That’s one of the odd things — I can actually perceive fairly fine detail, at least in an abstract sense. I can discern fine edges, patterns, pieces of things, but I can’t grasp an object in its entirety, see the parts between with clarity. It seems that, while I can take in the lines, and the colors, and see most everything about a scene at some level, the detail of it, the cohesion, remains in the peripheral. It’s right in front of me, but somehow eludes my fixation, much in the same way that, when I’m looking at the computer screen in the center of my field of vision, the items to the sides (even with my right eye) are present, but don’t emerge in any real detail. I’m stumbling into this parallel to peripheral vision now for the first time, and I find it a bit tenuous, not entirely accurate (e.g. peripheral vision is known for particularly sensitivity to motion but comparatively impoverished color perception, and that doesn’t seem to be the case with my left eye) but it’s another rough metaphor for grasping at some definition to this problem, so is at least useful to me in that respect.

I don’t know that I’ve every gotten a satisfactory explanation for this phenomenon from my eye doctor. As best I know, it’s been diagnosed as some kind of lazy eye; when I was a little kid I wore an eye patch over my right eye in an attempt to compel the left to buck up and get with the program, impelled to proper functioning through brute force. I don’t know if the failure mode here was misdiagnosis or lack of follow-through and diligence re: wearing the eye patch, but the fact is it didn’t really work, and I continue to live in vague fear of anything happening to my right eye, mainly because without it I wouldn’t easily be able to read. I saw the eye doctor again today [12.18.13], and he remarked as much — one reason to favor glasses over contacts is that they at least provide actual eye protection (from debris, kicked up pebbles, etc.). He mentioned something about the left eye’s condition, referring to it by a technical ophthalmological term that went in one ear and out the other, but I often wonder if and how he really has any idea as to the real nature of the problem, since there’s no way I know to actually show him what I perceive through that eye, jack him into the experience of looking through my strangely patterned glass, my perturbed lens. And I’ve never adequately told him of this concern, either. Which is partly why I wanted to try to put it into words.

Another attempt: rather than being one blind spot, or even a few, it’s something like a thousand or a million tiny blind spots scattered throughout my field of vision. This is functional to the degree that it’s enough to give me the odd feeling of, on some level, being able to see everything in front of me — but then I focus on something particular, like letters on a page or screen, and that makes me realize just how much is missing in the accumulation of small details. It’s as if, the closer I stare at any particular detail (like a single word) the more I realize what parts are missing. I look at my own fist and it just looks like a fist, four fingers and a thumb, some nails and flesh and wrinkles; I look at the words I’m typing now and I see letters moving forward with the cursor, but under veil of gradientized black stripes and unexplainable absences, spaces missing between and amidst the clusters of pixels.

All told, this is something I’ve grown used to, something I don’t often consciously think of anymore. Since my right eye functions well, and the left apparently works well enough to give me depth perception and peripheral vision, I don’t find myself missing much in the ordinary course of life. One thing though: I never could get those “Magic Eye” puzzles to work, where you stare at something inverse-cross-eyed or whatever and an image manifests itself as a hologram borne of noise and seemingly random patterns. Try as I did when I was younger, the magic image never came. Now, I just wonder, occasionally, what’s actually wrong, what the root cause of it is (on a technical, physical/biological, medical level), how well it’s known and defined, how many other people have the same problem. I may never know just to what degree this peculiarity of my vision is a shared one, but I suppose it’s a birthmark of sorts, just one more physical signature, an identifying, if invisible, defect. I suppose we all have one or two of those, persistently filtering, if not our sensory perception, at least that of our self.