Find a Dry Eye Friend
“One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through, and it will be someone else's survival guide.” I love this quote by researcher, author, and speaker Brené Brown because it poignantly describes how others suffering with chronic dry eye have impacted my own journey.
Learning to treat and manage my condition has been a long and winding road. But because friends in the dry eye community were willing to share their experiences and offer some direction, my eyes are much improved from when I started.
Desperate for answers
At the onset of my chronic dry eye symptoms, I had no idea what to do besides apply artificial tears. I knew nothing about the potential causes of dry eye or about the complexity of our tears. But I was desperate for answers. After several unproductive visits to my local eye doctor, I turned to an online community, and I began learning everything that I could about my condition.
One thing that surprised me was how incredibly knowledgeable so many dry eye patients are about their conditions. Now don’t get me wrong: there can be a lot of misinformation online, so finding a doctor to diagnose and treat your specific case is important. But I found that many dry eye patients are highly invested in their healing and in learning about their conditions, so they know a lot. And many were able to point me towards specific specialists, as well as helpful treatments.
Connecting with others
What helped me the most was finding people who have cases similar to mine. I’m a woman in my early forties and a long-time contact lens wearer. My eyes were gritty, itchy, and painful. I started reading online posts from people under similar circumstances, mentally taking notes on what they had tried and then researching those treatments further.
I asked lots of questions, and so many people were so gracious and helpful. I found that people with this condition have great compassion for others who are hurting, so they are willing to go out of their way to offer guidance and hope.
At times, my online questions have turned into private messages and later long telephone calls in which we’ve shared our stories. Having someone to talk to about my condition, especially someone who understands exactly what I am going through, is important. Not only do conversations like this help guide me toward physical healing, but they can also be emotionally beneficial. Telling my story and having someone resonate and validate what I am saying is emotionally healing. Likewise, listening to someone else tell their story makes me feel like I am not alone.
Supporting each other
Obviously, I write for an online community, and through this opportunity, I’ve made some other meaningful connections with other dry eye sufferers.
One of my fellow ChronicDryEye.net team members and I connected over Facebook Messenger after a Zoom meeting. During the Zoom call, we shared our stories and learned that we have similar backgrounds. She was also a long-time contact lens wearer, and her onset of symptoms sounded like mine.
I think we messaged back and forth for two or three hours initially, comparing our cases. We also both see prominent doctors in the field, so we are able to compare the different ways that they treat their patients. We still message each other from time to time to check on the other’s progress.
A meaningful part of my journey
Finding dry eye friends has been a meaningful part of my journey. I don’t have any local friends who suffer with severe dry eye like I do. I do have local friends who have other health conditions, so we are a support to each other as much as we can be. But there really is nothing like having someone who understands exactly what you are going through. Stories from and connections with dry eye sufferers truly have been my survival guide.
Have you taken the 2023 Chronic Dry Eye In America survey?