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A Raw and Real Interview with My Husband About Dry Eye

Recently, I sat down with my husband of 19 years to discuss his perspective on my chronic dry eyes. What I thought would be a casual conversation turned into an emotional discussion.

Relatively healthy most of our lives, we’ve never faced any chronic health issues before. So this difficulty has really been one of our first long-lasting experiences with the “in sickness and in health” clause of our vows.

Gary is logical, blunt, and thick-skinned. These characteristics provide a nice balance to my personality, but sometimes these things that I love about him make him seem a little unempathetic. He just tells it like it is, and dry eye is a sensitive topic to me. Still, I asked him to be honest. Here is our exchange.

Our exchange

How dry eye affected us

Erica: How has my chronic dry eye affected you? What changes have you had to make because of my condition?

Gary: Now, not as much, but early on, you were always stealing away to our room and being unavailable. You were less available intimately. [I give him a darting look.] What? You asked me to be honest. [I nod.] Because it was in the evenings most of the time when you were hurting. Once you did everything you had to do for the day, you were out.

Erica: Well, I was hurting. The only relief I could get was to close my eyes.

Gary: I know, I’m not faulting you for it. It just became our new normal. It was what me and the kids came to expect.

Light sensitivity

Erica: Are there any other changes you had to make?

Gary: You always want the lights low.

Erica: Why did I want that?

Gary: I’m not really sure. Something with your eyes.

Erica: It’s because my eyes were sensitive to the light. They’ve gotten better now, less sensitive.

Other changes

Gary: And then you got all into the diet thing, which didn’t bother me. (I switched to an anti-inflammatory diet.) You were always cooking more because you had to. It was like an experiment. It was actually a neat by-product. I didn’t mind it; although, our son did because he was a little more picky.

Erica: Anything else?

Gary: You were always talking about dry eye stuff and reading about dry eye stuff. I like talking about turkey hunting and elk hunting, but at that time, you liked talking about dry eye stuff. You were always researching it and talking about it.

A grieving process

Erica: From your perspective, how has dry eye affected me emotionally?

Gary: Early, when it was bad, it was the equivalent of finding out a parent was terminal. It was almost a grieving process of finding out that you were going to have to live like this for the rest of your life. It was kind of a “woe as me” mentality early on; it really was the stages of grief. As you had success in looking into it, it changed more from that to a tenacity, like “I’m going to figure this out.” Now, it’s completely switched to “I’m going to keep on plugging and beat this.”

Erica: You’ve never said anything negative or discouraging to me about this difficulty. Do you ever get tired of hearing me talk about my eyes? If so, what do you do to stay positive?

Gary: Here’s the thing. It’s not my thing. I’m your outlet. Who else are you going to “nerd out” to about all of this stuff? That’s part of my role. Let you “nerd out” about it. The only thing I get tired of is the lights.

An emotional moment

Erica: How do you feel about me trying different procedures and treatments?

Gary: I’ve come around to the view that this has become your hobby, like hunting has become my hobby.

Erica: It’s not a hobby, though. It’s my quality of life. [By now, I am emotional and tearing up.]

Gary: What I’m saying is, most people would expect to use doctors and treatments that are immediately available. They would have settled with care that is local. You’ve gone outside of our area looking for treatment, and you’re thinking about going further. It’s become like your hobby. Would you have considered doing this if you weren’t writing about it?

Erica: Yes. That kind of hurts my feelings. And I think you are wrong. In how heavily involved I am in hearing different people’s experiences with dry eye, I see that lots of them go all over the country desperate for help. It’s not a hobby. Yes, I enjoy writing about it; it’s an outlet; it’s therapeutic. But it’s not a hobby. If I could choose to not have to live with this, I would.

Gary: Well, viewing it that way has helped me be totally supportive of whatever you want to do.

Different points of view

We stopped there. Obviously, this was a very honest and emotionally-charged conversation. I didn’t expect to be in tears by the time it was finished, but even so, I’m glad we had it, as it helped both of us more clearly see the other’s point of view.

This discussion also illustrates how even someone living in such close contact with a dry eye sufferer doesn’t fully understand our plight. We need others who do.

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