In which I am falling apart

I had my first dentist appointment since before the pandemic started yesterday morning, and while I don’t have any new cavities or anything worth talking about– it was just a cleaning, after all– it was a cleaning after about a year and a half when normally my hygienist likes to see me every three months so that she can keep an eye on my gums. She did not quite resort to a circular saw to clean my teeth, but it bloody well felt like it, and then I fucked around and had a chicken sandwich for lunch that ripped up the roof of my mouth, so I spent all day yesterday with my teeth and the inside of my mouth aching in a way that wasn’t necessarily bad— like, on that 1-10 scale they like, it’d have been a one or a two– but in terms of sheer persistence was making me absolutely nuts. I had cottage cheese and some loose deli meat last night for dinner last night because the notion of eating anything I’d have to spend much time chewing just seemed entirely unacceptable.

Today I had an eye appointment; those I’ve stayed current on, since they don’t require people to stick their hands in my mouth, which seems safer, but I’m starting to think that I need to go back in time and prevent myself from getting LASIK. The punch line is, at least according to my eye doctor, who was the person who did the LASIK, this was probably coming anyway, and at best might have been faintly aggravated by the LASIK, but I’m having annoying issues with keeping my tear films properly hydrated, despite the fact that I spend half my day every day pouring liquids into my eyes. She flat-out admitted that she doesn’t quite understand what’s going on with me right now, because my vision is varying widely depending on, well, something, but we don’t know what. Like, on one visit I’ll be corrected to 20/10, and then on this one I was at 20/40, and I was at 20/30 on the last one, and the only things that seem to be consistently different are the tear film thicknesses. Today ended with me walking out with two new sets of eyedrops (one medicinal in a fashion that I’m not 100% clear on, another simply an upgrade to the artificial tears I was already using) along with a heat mask that I’m supposed to wear for 15 minutes before bed every night and tiny little plastic plugs inserted into my tear ducts, which were supposed to help me in some way that she explained perfectly clearly at the time and I can no longer repeat. So all day today my eyes have been bugging me.

She was also horrified that my insurance company turned down the sleep study, which … yeah, that’s a whole separate other thing. I feel like I’ve got enough medical issues going on right now without tossing sleep apnea on top. (And suddenly I’m wondering if you can just buy a CPAP, and how expensive such a thing is.)

Anyway, my point is that my everything aches right now and maybe spending all day staring at screens isn’t the smartest move I could be making with my life right now, but, well. We all know how good I am at making decisions.

LASIK, six months later

I had my eyes lasered six months and ten days ago, and I thought it might be useful to take a minute and talk about how that’s been going.

And honestly, so far, my experience has been kind of mixed. I am very definitely still healing, and things are still changing on a week-to-week basis. One thing I wasn’t aware of going into the process was that apparently nearsightedness takes a bit longer to heal than farsightedness does, and I was quite nearsighted. I’m also suffering from not being able to simply put my glasses back on to compare glasses-assisted vision to what I have now. So let’s do a pros and cons list.

Pros:

  • Pain, even very early on, has been virtually nonexistent. For the first couple of days after the surgery the first maybe five minutes after waking up, when I’m just opening my eyes for the first time, had that sort of pebbly there’s-something-under-my-eyelids feeling that you might get when you’re really tired. But that went away quickly and there’s been no issues since then.
  • I’ve experienced no starbursting or any degeneration of my ability to drive at night.
  • Close-up vision is essentially perfect for 90% of the day, and my vision has been corrected to somewhere in the 20/20-25/20 range. For the purposes of this conversation I’m defining “close-up” as anything within five or six feet, and when they give you that little card to read at “normal reading distance” at the eye doctor I can read the smallest print easily.. This is where I wish I had my glasses, because there’s a lot of “could I have read that with my glasses on seven months ago?” going on with text that is farther away than that.

Cons:

  • That other 10% of the day. My eyes get tired more easily than they used to, and I swear they produce more crud than they used to as well. I have gone from someone who never needed eyedrops to still using them (non-medicinal rewetting drops, to be clear) maybe two or three times a day. The last hour of the day can sometimes be a bit of a struggle, and that just wasn’t the case when I was wearing glasses.

Now, some caveats and provisos and quid pro quos:

  • I don’t think it’s unfair to point out that working from home during quarantine has had a serious effect on my eyes. I spend eight hours a day at my computer, to start, and that was never the case before. It is rare that I have to focus on something more than ten to fifteen feet away, and that is probably fucking with my mid- and particularly my long-distance vision. One thing I’ve noticed: I sit maybe ten feet away from the TV when we’re watching shows, and we typically keep closed captions or subtitles on regardless of what we’re watching them. At the beginning of watching a show, it can be a struggle to keep the captions in clean focus. That’s almost never a problem by the end of the show, so it’s a case of my eyes taking a minute to adjust to focusing on something out of arm’s length. Similarly, it just occurred to me in the last couple of days that our new TV puts out a lot more light than the old one, which might be why longer video game sessions bug me more than they used to. I need to adjust where I’m putting my chair; I wasn’t too close to the old TV, but I think I am too close to the new one. That’s an eye issue, but it’s not LASIK’s fault.
  • Similarly, the first couple of minutes of driving anywhere (I leave the house maybe once a week) always involve me thinking about my eyes a lot. It goes away quickly. I have never, even for a moment, even at night, thought that I couldn’t see well enough to drive, but that first minute or so always involves lots of staring at trees long distances away and wondering what they looked like when I wore glasses.

Things are still getting better on a week-to-week basis, I think, and I’m spending a lot less time thinking about my eyes than I used to, but I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that the first two or three months in particular were a bit more of a trial than I expected. I don’t think I made a mistake, mind you, but as someone who didn’t mind wearing glasses all that much, I don’t know if I’d do it again, if that makes any sense. If you really feel like glasses or contacts are a pain in the ass, I’d definitely still suggest you think strongly about doing it– but just be aware that the healing process is a lengthier thing than you might have expected.

How do Sundays work again?

I mowed the lawn this morning, for the first time in … um … a while, after looking at it the other day and realizing that it really was starting to look like the house had maybe been abandoned. My lawn right now is a weird mix of 1) dead, yellow grass, because it hasn’t been raining much; 2) weeds, up to two feet tall in one specific place, because apparently weeds don’t require nutrients to grow, and 3) the occasional patch that apparently gets a better mix of sun and shade and needed cutting but wasn’t necessarily looking completely out of control. But there are definitely patches where nothing has grown in weeks, meaning that about half the time it was super obvious where I’d mown and where I hadn’t and the other half I was basically trying to find the tracks the mower had left in the dead grass.

9 years and counting in this house, and I still hate my lawn.

And then Dad came over, and he and the boy went swimming, and we had pizza for dinner, and now I’m trying my best to not remember that I actually have a small amount of grading and lesson planning to get done tonight, because this is officially the first Sunday of the school year and Sunday is Grading Day again. There’s nothing that will take too long– one advantage of e-learning is that I can justify doing everything electronically and mostly multiple choice, so the computer can do the grading for me and I just have to record it– but I’m still vaguely resentful of the entire process.

Oh, and I got manipulated into volunteering (that’s a thing) to be team leader this year, which comes with more responsibility and zero additional pay, so that’s an extra meeting this week. I think I can dodge some professional development for it, though, which is probably a net positive.

I’m still probably gonna go play video games after I finish this.


I realized a couple of days ago that I could read the titles on my bookshelves while sitting in my recliner in the living room. While yesterday specifically was definitely rough, I’m definitely officially healing up now, and I haven’t had much cause to complain about my vision at all for at least a week or so. The surgery was a month and three days ago, and I had a one-month follow-up last week and the same doctor who was concerned about my eyes being too dry last time proclaimed me “much better” and “healing perfectly” this time. My understanding is that nearsightedness takes a little longer to heal than farsightedness does, so I expect more improvement over the next few weeks, but honestly if it were to stabilize right around where it is I think I’d be pretty damn happy. Seriously, if you’ve ever considered this and you have the money I’d jump at it; if you’re local enough to use the same folks I did, let me know, as they sent me a couple of $500 off coupons that don’t have expiration dates on them.

One-week LASIK update and a book note

My LASIK surgery was a week ago today, and I’m pleased to announce that I seem to be adjusting fine. Other than the first few minutes after waking up during the first day or two, there’s been no pain, and as you would probably expect I’m noticing my vision less and less as the days go on. I’m still not as happy with my distance vision as I want to be, but the “good range,” for lack of a better phrase, does seem to be expanding, and the scientist in me is suffering from being unable to put my glasses back on and compare what my vision was like back then to what it is now. It’s entirely possible that this is just what it’s always been but I’m paying more attention to it now, but the fact that I don’t know and don’t have a way to check is making me moderately crazy.

The urge to reach for my glasses in the morning and when I get out of the shower remains pretty overwhelming– 37 years of conditioning will do that to you– and I’m also noticing that at the end of the day my eyes are tired, leading to a similarly overwhelming urge to remove the contact lenses that are not actually in my eyes and put my glasses back on. In fact, honestly, other than the (no longer an issue) early eye pain, this has been almost exactly like adjusting to contact lenses, except for all the eyedrops and the vague notion that my vision is improving from day to day. I need to find an excuse to take a drive after dark sometime this week to see if I have any issue with halos or starbursting; driving in general is fine so long as I’m going places I’m used to driving to (which is 100% of my driving; I’m not leaving the house much, because quarantine) but I’m not sure my distance vision is great for driving somewhere new, because I have to get pretty close to road signs before they’re legible and if I was looking for street signs to know where to turn I’d have to either drive slower than was safe or make some very abrupt decisions.

One way or another, though, I’ve been repeatedly assured that the stuff I’m currently concerned about will get better, and I still am amazed at how easy the surgery and the recovery process have been. Yesterday was the first day that I didn’t spend every second I was awake thinking about my vision, so this is definitely on an upward trend.


One additional sign that my eyes are improving is that after not being able to read more than small chunks of Scarlet Odyssey at a time without my eyes getting tired, I blew through Ilhan Omar’s excellent memoir This is What America Looks Like in basically two sittings. Granted, it’s quite a bit shorter, at 265 pages and a relatively large font, but it’s nice that my ability to binge-read is coming back. This is one of those books where I think you probably already know if you want to read it or not, and if you do, you should follow that urge, and if you don’t, you should read it anyway. Omar’s story is barely even possible in America any longer, but remains a perfect example of the type of country we like to think we are, and her life has been fascinating regardless of what you think of her politics (not a problem for me, obviously) so the book is definitely an engaging read. If anything, I wish it was another hundred pages long, as I’d like to know more about what life was like as a younger person for her, both in the refugee camps and her first few years in America when she was trying to navigate middle school without being able to speak English. Give it a look.

On LASIK

This is what you look like just before getting LASIK surgery. Hairnet to keep my nonexistent hair out of my eyes, masked up, paper towels over my ears to keep eyedrops from getting into them, two shiny stars on my forehead to indicate that both eyes are getting surgery, and if you look very closely on the outside of my irises you can see that the doctor has marked each of them with a pen for reasons that I was never especially clear on. By this point I’d already had a “small dose” of Valium to help me stay calm during the procedure. I was looking forward to the Valium and the sleeping pill more than any other aspect of the surgery, honestly, so I’m saddened to report that it didn’t hit me that hard.

Expectations are funny things. They’ll ask you twenty times if you have any questions leading up to the procedure, and most of the time I either didn’t or only needed something briefly clarified, but what they never said to me was please describe the environment in which you think this is going to take place. Which they should have, because my answers would have been hilarious. I was, for some reason, picturing some sort of giant James Bondian villain-lair of an operating theater, with a giant-ass laser apparatus taking up half the room, and at least one online description of the procedure had referred to the patient being “rotated” from one station to the other, because the laser that cuts your corneal flap is not the same laser that does the reshaping. So I was picturing something super crazy, with the surgeon in another room like they would be for an MRI or something.

Nah. The expansively-named “first laser suite” didn’t look any damn different from any other eye doctor’s examination room you’ve ever been in in your life, and frankly was smaller than most of them. The laser apparatus itself is maybe the size of a very large coffee cup. It’s bloody handheld, and they really ought to show it to you as part of the orientation procedure. They asked me to keep one eye shut (which was the most difficult part of the entire process) then fit what was basically a harness for the laser over half of my face, fit the laser into that, and then I stared at a green light for 30 seconds. I felt nothing. Nothing at all. Even the eyelid retractor, which I was weirdly worried about, was nothing. I mean, we’ve all seen that part of Clockwork Orange. Nah, this thing is the size of a pair of nose hair scissors and you won’t even notice them putting it in because your eyes have been so thoroughly numbed.

I did jump when they were putting the harness-thingy over my second eye, because for some reason it clicked really loudly as they were putting it on and the click startled me. The doctor said “That’s what it does when you push on it too hard” in a sort of please don’t do that again tone to the person who was affixing it in place, and then took her seat– immediately behind me, as if she was washing my hair– to put the laser in place and talk me through every second of what I’d be seeing and feeling.

At that point, after two thirty-second corneal cuttings, I got up and was moved to another room. I couldn’t see well, but it wasn’t any worse than my vision usually is without my glasses on, so while they had a nurse with me in case I had trouble with my balance or anything I didn’t have any trouble moving from one room to the other. The second laser is a bit more stationary and I had to lay on a table that, indeed, was mechanically lifted up and moved into place, but I got an actual eye cover for that one and didn’t have to try to keep one eye shut while the other was being held open and I couldn’t feel my eyes anyway.

“Stare at the green light, okay?” Sure.

The weird part about the reshaping laser is that you can actually smell what it’s doing to your eyes. There’s no harness for this one but the apparatus itself was maybe the size of a printer, and while my head wasn’t restrained there was a much more definite Put Your Head Here and then Make These Minute Adjustments to make sure you’re sitting in the right place. (For some reason, “move your right ear closer to your shoulder” is not an instruction I’m capable of understanding, by the way, and she ended up just grabbing my head and moving it herself.) But again, the whole thing was no longer than a few seconds and I was just staring at a green light the whole time, then they switched eyes and did it again, then they had me sit there with my eyes shut for 30 seconds or so…

… and boom, when I got up they pointed at a digital clock on the other side of the room and asked what time it was, and I could read it. Done.

As of right now, 24 hours later, my mid-range vision is still blurrier than I want it to be, but everyone tells me that’ll get better and I have no reason not to believe them, and other than maybe the first 15 seconds of having my eyes open this morning there has been no pain whatsoever. The pain this morning was only a little bit worse than the sort of there-are-pebbles-under-my-eyelids pain that you get sometimes when you stayed up too late and your eyes are dry, if that means anything. It was a little stabbier, for lack of a better term, but again: fifteen seconds. They give you a sleeping pill and tell you to try to not get up until the next day, which wasn’t that hard– I woke up around 9 and put some eyedrops in and went to the bathroom and then went back to bed.

I cannot properly express how nothing this entire procedure was, and I wouldn’t have believed myself before having it done anyway. I haven’t tried to drive at night or anything yet (they warn that starbursts can be a problem for a few weeks, and I know of at least one person for whom they were a longer-term issue) but driving to my next-day followup this morning was no problem, and honestly while I’m glad my wife was there I’m pretty sure I would have been able to drive home after the procedure if it had been absolutely necessary.

Oh! They give you these things too:

I have been ordered to tape those eye shields to my face for the 5 nights after the surgery, so I have four more nights of sleeping with plastic taped to my face. It’s to keep my pillows from pushing on my eyes. (Incidentally: the reason they really want you to sleep after the surgery is so that your eyelids are covering your eyes the entire time, and you aren’t blinking a whole lot.). The only problem is my pillow is really firm, so the eye shields push into my face kind of obnoxiously. It wasn’t a real issue last night, because sleeping pill, but we’ll see how it goes tonight. Other than that, aftercare includes thrice-daily medicinal eyedrops for a couple of weeks and “as needed, but at least 6-8 times a day” artificial teardrops, because apparently the surgery can mess up your tear ducts temporarily and they want to make sure you don’t dry out. Which, come to think of it, it’s time for some new drops right now.

So, yeah. It’ll take a couple of weeks before I’m willing to issue a full endorsement, because right now my vision was better with my glasses, and I’m gonna be upset if I spent all this money to end up with worse vision than I had with glasses, but again: first day. I’ll write a follow-up in a couple of weeks with a slightly more final judgment, or earlier if I run into problems with side effects or anything, but as of right now? If you were thinking about doing this, do it.