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  • Sense of Self

    The first week of September, my right eye started to water. I was annoyed, but didn't think too much about it. It's not like it's uncommon, having happened at some point every year for the last several. But it usually goes away, and it doesn't usually get as bad as it did this year.

    As of writing this, I've had four consecutive good days, which probably seems like nothing, but feels like everything. Until now, I haven't had more than two good days. 

    I know. You're talking about a watery eye, sheesh, quit your whining. But here's the thing - let's say your wrist hurts. You can ice it, sit down, watch tv, probably read books, and do things to rest it. Same with your leg. Any time something goes wrong with the body, it is a real nuisance, but when it's your eye, it affects everything! My reading has gone way down over the last five months, because it's a pain to have to stop, remove glasses, wipe eye, replace glasses, pick back up book, every few pages. If nothing else, it breaks the immersion and therefore, the enjoyment. It's not the end of the world, but it does suck! 

    Towards the end of November, my patience with the whole ordeal started going downhill, enough so that I started chasing down doctors. I was desperate to get an actual plugged tear duct diagnosis, since it usually gets handwaived as general conjunctivitis. I got my diagnosis, and I got antibiotics. It helped for several days - it didn't make the watering go away, but it got rid of the mucus, or eye gunk. But then, that started coming back, and it started watering more frequently. I'd say in September, I would wipe my eye every couple hours. By Christmas, it was multiple times an hour for the most part. That's the kind of thing that starts to feel really disruptive and draining.

    I'd been told by the eye doctor that if the antibiotics didn't work, they'd need to probe and irrigate me. Since that didn't sound fun, I put it off for as long as possible, but finally caved and called the eye doctor back. Only, they didn't send me straight to the helpful doctor, they wanted me to come back into the regular office. There, they performed a test that concluded that my duct was plugged. (Well gee, you think?) Then they agreed to send me to the other place for the procedure...in another 10 days. 

    I was at the point where nothing had worked, I finally had people agreeing with me on what the problem was, but I couldn't do anything but wait. If I had a dollar for every time a doctor asked if I'd been massaging it and using warm compresses, I probably could have covered my copays. I'd have to make Matt wait on me while I paused games to wipe my eye because you can't kill baddies very effectively with your eye gunky and dripping. For such a little problem, it was affecting everything. When something is affecting everything like that, it becomes a pain in the butt, or maybe just not worth it, to do things. I didn't really want to watch tv or movies, because I couldn't concentrate. I didn't want to go out really, because the cold and wind just made it worse, and I felt like wiping my eye constantly in public was just asking for fifteen thousand germs. 

    I'll be honest. The whole ordeal really hit my sense of self. I did the bare minimum to keep life running, but the things that made me feel like me didn't happen. I didn't read, or write, or do art, or play games, or any of that. Makeup wasn't worth it, so then playing with my hair wasn't worth it, so then, well, maybe I'll put on a clean shirt eventually.

    So, last week, I went to have my probe and irrigation done. The long and short of that is that they stick a probe (or two) into your tear ducts and fish around for a bit. Then they squirt a bunch of saline into your duct to flush it out. 

    Yes, I was awake the whole time. They made me keep my eye open too, which was uncomfortable. I can't say as I'm real good with the whole "stuff in or near my eye" bit. They did give me numbing drops, so my eyeball proper didn't feel anything, but my duct was completely plugged, so I really don't think it numbed much of anything in there. Best I can describe it is "pinchy" feeling. At one point I felt a POP next to my nose, and my immediate thought was "Holy cow he just punctured my nose".

    The doctor didn't seem overly optimistic about how it went, since when they injected me with saline, the majority of it came back out and went all over me instead of running down the back of my throat like it was supposed to. He said to give it two weeks and if it didn't work, the next step would be surgery.

    My eye was kind of okay that day, but by the next day, it was back to being watery and gunky. That night I finally snapped and just sobbed. I just couldn't do it anymore. I didn't want to fork over the money for surgery (hello high deductible!), but I couldn't do this either. I felt broken and awful and crappy and nothing was working, and it's not like a this happens to very many people, so it's not like anyone actually understands how stupid and crappy it is. 
    I noticed while I was crying that excess tears were only running down the left half of my throat, meaning nothing was coming down that right duct. By that point, I was so well and duly cried out that I was more amused than anything. 

    The following night, I was sitting on the couch, massaging my tear duct, as usual. I poked around a little higher up than usual, because why not? I felt some pressure, so I kept rubbing it, and then there was a POP at that spot near my nose again. THAT was odd. Then stuff started running down the back of my throat and continued for a minute or a little more. I was just sitting on the couch all nonchallantly, but I was thinking, "WHAT JUST HAPPENED?" 

    Can't say as I have any good pictures. Mom sent me a video of some guy's tear duct exploding, and this was nothing so dramatic. Clearly, I did something with that massaging, because my eye hasn't been watery since. I'm very very thankful, because the more time passes and I haven't become a watery mess, the better I feel about it. But I've also realized that my calibration for how watery my eyes should be is now way off. If my eyes water at all, I start to panic a little. I also rub at my eye out of reflex, it seems. Well, nothing else to do with my hand, might as well rub the imaginary water away. Lastly, I massage it just a little bit a couple times a day, almost superstitiously. Maybe it'll keep it clear if I just keep massaging it. Maybe it does nothing. Maybe it's Maybelline. 

    So, all that to say, blocked tear ducts are awfully annoying and I don't wish them on anyone. I don't doubt that this isn't ordeal isn't over for good, and I'll be dealing with it again down the road. But at least for now, I get a breather. If it stays good for a couple of years before I have to try antibiotics and irrigation again, I'll be pretty happy. I feel like surgery for it is inevitable, honestly. Maybe it's not, but that's how I feel at the moment. Of course, I'm also still wiping imaginary tears, so the whole thing is still too fresh for me to be objective.