Accepting What I Cannot Control
Here is what no one warned me about when I was diagnosed with thyroid eye disease - when my eyes get irritated, it is the worst feeling ever and there is absolutely nothing I can do. The cause is not always clear, most of the time it is completely random, but the feeling is always the same. It is an itch I cannot scratch. It is crying without emotion, tears stream down my cheeks for no reason. The way I react to the light in a familiar room becomes very uncomfortable and almost unbearable. I cannot see, I cannot think, I cannot focus. Whatever I was trying to do is taken away from me in an instant. I feel irritated and helpless.
When I first started having irritated eyes, it was scary. It would happen seemingly out of nowhere and I was stuck in a limbo of time between eye irritation and the aftermath. Once the feeling subsided and eventually faded, I would stare at my eyes in the mirror, searching for indications of a problem. I never found it. All I would see was the veins in my eyes red as blood, and the bags under my eyes puffier than they were when I woke up that morning, swollen like oversized pillows supporting my sick eyes.
Finding what works for my irritated eyes
Of course, there are tricks that are always recommended. Use eye drops. Sit in a dark room. Close your eyes. Breathe. Stay calm. Look at nothing. Wear sunglasses. Don’t look at screens. Put ice over your eyes. Don’t rub your eyes, that won’t help. While the feeling of eye irritation is consistent, the way to resolve the feeling is very much dependent on the situation. The only tricks that have consistently worked for me have been wearing sunglasses, not rubbing my eyes, and breathing.
Instead, I have learned how to deal with it. Patterns I’ve picked up along the way. How my eyes feel before they explode into a fit of fire and rage, unable to handle the simplicities of everyday normalcy, like sitting in a sunlit kitchen first thing in the morning or walking under the blaring white lights at a store to buy groceries. Learning possible triggers to the problem such as going from a normally lit room inside, out into the blaring sun of a summer afternoon, or staring too long at a screen that I forget to blink. But even noticing patterns does not solve the mystery of irritation.
Accepting what I cannot control with TED
Three years into this disease, I have figured out my way of getting through the hard moments. Sometimes I push through it as best I can, wear sunglasses when light bothers me, and take deep breaths when it becomes too much. Other times I have no choice but to admit defeat, lie down, wait for it to pass, and go to sleep if it happens at night. I have learned how to be patient with myself and my body. Some things are out of my control. I just remind myself that like with every other moment in life, this too shall pass.
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