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Making Friends with Hindsight

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

You get to a point, in life, when you realise what you could have done better when you were younger!


Sometimes, you see yourself tripping over a traffic island; and you walk towards it anyway, despite knowing intuitively that you'll fall over it. Butt up in the air, knees and palms pressed flat to the bitumen, your embarrassment surges toward your head as it (too) hits the road. The only emotion you feel, that is greater than that overwhelming humiliation, is stupidity. And then, as a helpful stranger offers their arm to lift you up, you feel relieved that you weren't left there on the road alone and vulnerable.


Other times, you don't see the bad news coming. It just hits you, and you feel the psychological force of it smashing you sideways. It could be anything; it could be a new side-swipe, or a trauma relived.


Triggers have as mush emotional impact as original traumas.

Maybe, you have a moment to spare, and that allows thoughts to come to the surface. You're sitting in a waiting room, about to see yet another new medical specialist. You look back, and wonder how you got there. Was there anything you could have done, to avoid this?


People who have been the victims of accidents, often can't see how they could have avoided that predicament. I remember an undergraduate psychology class, in which we were learning about post-traumatic stress disorder. A family in a 4-wheel-drive had a collision with an elderly couple in a smaller sedan. The driver of the bigger car had anxiety symptoms. What could he have done to avoid the smash? So much! He might have purchased his vehicle for it's size and sturdiness; but those very factors meant that any other vehicles in a collision would have been seriously impacted. Knowing that, before getting into the vehicle, he could have adjusted his driving behaviours to consider others on the road. He had higher visibility than the driver of the oncoming car, so he could have driven more carefully.


What if I was the passenger of the other car, coming in the opposite direction? I might not have been paying attention to others on the road, as I wasn't the driver. I might have been on the phone, telling my sister we were about to visit, that we were almost there - put the kettle on! I might have been the one experiencing anxiety after that accident, and I wouldn't have felt like there was any way out of it. Which of those people would have a worse experience?


It really isn't a competition! Anxiety just plain sucks.

I recall a friend being the survivor of a terrible car accident. It was lucky that she had a partner at home to look after her, because she really needed tender loving care. I had no idea what it was like for her. It was only when I broke my ankle, years later, that I realised how frustrating and saddening it can be when you have an injury. My broken ankle was a trifle compared to my dear friend's injuries; and I look back, and wish that I was more supportive. I wish I had made meals and taken them around, that I'd called more, and visited her in hospital and at home.


Hindsight.

I've recently had a shock to my system, and it's interesting to see how others respond. Because I've been upfront about my feelings of vulnerability and fragility, some have been warm and caring, and I've been so grateful for their support.


I've learned a few things over the years .... when someone has an injury, or they just come out of hospital, it's nice to have some meals already made. If you're the partner, child or parent of someone going through medical treatment, it's reassuring to have friends and family, as well as colleagues, call to ask how things are going.


I remember another friend, whose son was being treated for cancer. A mutual mate organised a roster with some others, and we took turns to cook dinner for the family of five for a few months.


It was a privilege.

You know, with the home isolation and quarantining that we've all experienced to some extent, I think we all could use a call - just for a chat. There was a period, while my parents were still alive, that could have been the WORST. In a space of nine months, they had ten (totally different) life-threatening medical problems. I was living at their house at the time, so I'd answer the landline when people rang to find out how they were. I was so glad to share my feelings with someone who cared, before handing the phone over to the intended recipient. Sure, I probably extended the time of the phone call, but it was such a relief!


You might be wondering about the shock I had recently - nothing super-serious, but it's meant emergency treatment. I've been told that I have advanced glaucoma - this is the outcome of high intraocular pressure. If you look at the diagram below, you'll see the optic nerve at the right of the picture. The optic nerve sends signals to the brain, so that we can make sense of our environment. Those signals include information on light, dark, corners, edges, curves, colours and all the important stuff like text and faces. Oh, and depth!!! We wouldn't be able to walk straight without depth vision!


Coloured diagram of a human eye, with pupil and lens at left, macula and optic nerve at right
High pressure on the optic nerve - credit - Kids.org

I had a great experience with laser surgery eight years ago, and I loved the freedom of never having to wear glasses!! If I wanted cute sunnies, I could buy whatever I liked! The downside, though, was that I took my eye health for granted.


What I didn't realise, was that anyone can get glaucoma. Yes, I said ANYONE. And, once you lose sight, it's gone.

Can you avoid it? Well, yes!!! Here's the tip - go to an optometrist (in Australia, they bulk-bill, so it's free). When you see the optometrist, make sure you chat about glaucoma and intraocular pressure.


They'll do the following:

  • They'll point a little gadget at your eyeball, and it will puff a little air at you. It tickles the surface of your eye, but doesn't hurt. Just stay still ... This thing is a measure of the pressure on your optic nerve - your intraocular pressure, or IOP.

  • The optometrist will also take a photo of the back of your eye. You can see from the image below left, that a healthy optic nerve doesn't look like much light gets through. There's a great gaping hole where the optic nerve ought to be, in the image below right! That's one very damaged eyeball.


Healthy optic nerve (left) and glaucoma-affected optic nerve (right)
Optic nerve - credit - glaucoma.org

If you go to an optometrist aligned with a health fund, they'll probably have a few more gadgets. Those are the gadgets that the eye specialist will use too.


If ever you notice fuzzy vision, spots in front of your eyes, or a cloud coming down across your field of view - this needs to be investigated - and quickly.

If the optometrist picks up IOP, they'll refer you to an eye specialist, who'll prescribe eye drops, and maybe the treatments I'm going through for glaucoma. Please don't think this doesn't relate to you!!!! Get your eyes checked for IOP and glaucoma before the end of the week!


So, my new and improved friendship with Hindsight (yes, I'm anthropomorphising) means that I'm looking back at the things I could do to improve my health, but also the things that people do to be supportive, which I appreciate.


It's when we feel helpless and alone, that we learn how to support others. I'm not saying that I've become a saint!! But I'm closer than I used to be ...


May you enjoy a positive visit to your friendly optometrist, and support from your colleagues, friends, neighbours and family. May you feel part of a loving community!


 


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