Seeing My Eyes Now

Last updated: September 2023

For years, I would look at photos and my focus would go straight to my eyes. How big they were. How bizarre they appeared. How different they looked. How they were not the eyes I knew. They were not my eyes.

Lately, something has shifted. As my eyes have changed into my new normal, I am no longer taken aback by how drastically different my eyes look in photos. In fact, I am more struck by the fact that I look at my eyes and see myself for the first time in years.

Eyelid changes

My right upper eyelid lowered gradually after my symptoms for thyroid eye disease (TED) went away from my day-to-day life. I watched it slowly droop back down as the months went by. I felt good to have at least 1 eye look relatively more normal than it had in years.

My left upper eyelid took its sweet time. I would joke with my TED doctor that my left eye was always 6-9 months behind my right eye in terms of progression. But that’s what happened. I would see progress in 1 eye and not the other.

Conflicting emotions

There were many moments of discouragement and doubt when it came to my left eye. Would it ever look normal again on its own? Would the swelling ever let up enough so the lid could drop down just a little bit more? I will be honest, I did not think it would.

This left me feeling sad at first. One eye was looking better, why wouldn’t the other eye do the same? Sure, the left eye had shifted around a lot more because of the swelling around my eyes but that does not mean it wouldn’t come down.

The sadness turned into acceptance. Acceptance that this was just how things were going to be. If I really wanted change, I could do surgery but I did not want to even consider surgery as an option so I really had no choice but to accept it.

Seeing my eyes in the inactive phase of thyroid eye disease

I got used to looking in the mirror and seeing my wonky left upper eyelid staring back at me. When I would feel down about it, I would remind myself that Patti Smith (my favorite writer and musician) has a damaged left eye from falling off stage during a concert. If she can live with a wonky eye, so can I.

Then 1 day, something changed. I was washing my face in the morning, as I do every morning. I noticed my left upper eyelid had dropped when I was not looking. To be fair, I stopped paying much attention to it because I thought it would remain the way it was. Further back, wider, and more open than my right eyelid turned out to be.

I started crying. I gave up hope I would ever see this eyelid open again a long time ago. Seeing it closer to how it used to be for the first time in almost 5 years was overwhelmingly emotional. Finally, another step on my journey has been completed.

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