(Guess which one is me, pre-eye surgery)
The comment "Walleye Vision" came in jest from a co-worker in the early '90s. I didn't actually mind. In fact, though, Walleye Vision is a real medical term that refers to something called "exotropia". More on that in a moment.
I speak, of course, about my eyes. My peepers. Make that my "admittedly malfunctioning" eyes. I was born with a condition that basically prevents me from focusing both eyes at the same time. The diagnosis of it all breaks down something like this, from general to specific:
(literally "to squint")
("eyes pointing outward")
So, how is my vision anyway?
Well first the bad: I really can't see out of both eyes at the same time, and as a result, I have poor depth perception. Where "bad" means that, for example, as a kid, I would occasionally walk into parking meters in downtown Scranton. 3D movies? They just look dark and blurry, even with the glasses on. Suffice to say, having a backup camera on my truck is a godsend. If you want to get a sense as to how I actually see the world, this is something of an approximation:
The not so bad? My eyes, individually, have fairly good corrected vision. As in they work individually well when I am wearing my glasses. They just don't work well together. Kind of like the Beatles, circa 1969.
Music references aside, I can sense that my non-focusing (at the moment) eye sees things, but that visual is almost not there. It's easy to tell which eye is the "working" one, by the way, as it will be the eye focusing forward; the other eye will have moved off to the side somewhere. It may appear that I am looking sideways, but the reality is that the sideways looking eye can't see (much of) anything.
There are some additional things that go with this whole hot mess, including:
- A strong propensity towards vision-induced headaches*
- Near constant eyestrain (see the first bullet)
- Chronic bloodshot eyes (no, I have not been drinking)
- Not the best nighttime vision (I'm not sure why)
- Blurry vision when I am tired (not all that uncommon)
- A complete and utter inability to draw a straight line (I have a lot of company)
- On rare occasion, double-vision (not fun when you are 5 years old; see below)
Growing up I knew my eyes were different. Having had two surgeries (at about ages 5 & 6) and occasionally having to wear an eye patch provided me with that clue. There was also the time when I was pretty sick with a fever and a bad case of double vision, with objects being distorted, seeming to move towards me, and then fall into the background. That particular episode was horror-movie quality, at least for a 5-year-old. For the most part though, I didn't catch much in the way of grief from other kids. Oddly enough, as someone who was self-conscious about almost everything, my eyes didn't cause me all that much stress.
As I got older, it wasn't until my 30's that I actually began to find out what was medically wrong with my eyes. Not that it mattered all that much by that point. My main concern was that my vision not get any worse, which thankfully has not been the case. Technically speaking, my vision has gotten better over the years. Individually. In each eye. These days, my primary vision concern is the fact that I have a freckle inside my left eyeball (a Choroidal Nevus) that needs to be monitored. Worst case...to the tune of about a less than 1% chance...is that I end up with eyeball cancer, but there's a silver lining with that one: I'd lose the eye, but gain a really cool pirate eye-patch or, even better, a glass eyeball that I could take out and amaze grandchildren with when that time comes. Needless to say, I've already had plenty of practice when it comes to only looking out of one eye.
In the end, well, we all have these little (and not so little) idiosyncrasies that make us unique. There's no sense wishing that we were somehow not so different because the wisdom of getting older teaches us that we're all the same in being different anyway. And that's okay.