Celebrating 5 Personal Strengths That Dry Eye Brought to Light
Last updated: October 2022
There is a polarity between suffering from a chronic illness and realizing that a disease can bring good things to my life. A deep chasm between my painful flares and the victories that were forged within those experiences.
I can only control so much about my chronic dry eye; the truth is, I have no idea if it will improve. However, it has taught me things, and I can choose to celebrate them. Because of my medical issues I’ve learned how to creatively solve problems, skillfully filter my medical team, teach my kids about managing their health, and more.
Here's what I’ve learned about myself thanks to dry eye.
I can creatively solve medical problems
I have solved a lot of problems in my life, but figuring out medical problems is quite different from the things I had dealt with before getting chronically ill. Once I started dealing with the narrower issue of chronic dry eye, things got even harder.
During my first year dealing with chronic dry eye, I asked 2 different eye doctors for help. I wanted glasses that could help me drive and keep my eyes safe from windy days. I was practically begging them, since I couldn’t run the heat or A/C in my car due to the severity of my dryness. Both doctors shrugged off my question and said they had nothing like that in their medical toolbox.
I was discouraged. I felt alone and sad that there were no answers. Then, I realized that the fact that they did not have answers didn’t mean that there weren’t any solutions.
I can and should rely on myself more
I had to reframe my mindset that doctors were exceedingly helpful and could fix everything. So I went to work and took things one question or task at a time. I finally found my own way to wraparound sunglasses and moisture chamber glasses.
I learned that I can and should rely on myself a little bit more. I have continued to develop this skill of finding helpful lifestyle management tools, such as figuring out how to open eye drops when my arthritis is flaring in my hands and how to advocate for myself in different situations.
I have an eye for people
Pun intended. After meeting with many eye doctors that didn’t help me, I realized I need to trust my gut more. I am now a better judge of character when it comes to reading a doctor and predicting if things are going to work.
Sometimes all it takes is a small comment or watching their body language to realize whether or not they will be a supportive medical provider. I think of it as putting them through a sieve to quickly find their essential skills and strengths.
Before I had medical issues, I was rather timid at the doctor. I am now quick to ask questions that will help me determine if they should be my doctor. I have no time or money to waste when it comes to getting good treatment for my eyes.
With effort, I can develop good routines
The first time I traveled after developing chronic dry eye, I forgot my eye drops. But it didn’t happen again, because I took steps to help me remember to pack them. I remained proactive; I developed routines for staying on top of refills, keeping preservative-free eye drops stocked throughout my home, and making sure I wake up early enough to put in my eye drops before my kids are up for the day.
I can turn health tasks into teaching moments
I am extremely open with my children about my health and medications. I do this to teach them several lessons, including medication safety. Thankfully, it’s easier to openly teach them about my eye drops than my pills since I don’t have to worry about a fast motion turning into a crisis.
My kids are interested in my eye drops and love watching me put them in. (If only this were the case everywhere - I’d have less eye drop anxiety!) We even play a game now where they have a fake eye drop bottle that they pretend to use.
When it’s “time for mom’s eye drops!” I try to use these moments to talk about why my medications are only for me and how theirs are different because their health is different. I emphasize that their bodies do not need my medications, and my body wouldn’t benefit from their meds.
Ultimately, I’m thankful
Despite all the pain and harsh situations I’ve gone through since developing chronic dry eye, I am glad for the way it has helped me grow. I may have more health struggles than the average person, but I have used them for good. So here’s a big thank you to my unexpectedly helpful dry eyes.
Has having dry eye helped you better advocate for yourself?