I grew up with migraines. I had multiple brain scans, tried all sorts of medications to dull the pain, saw neurologists, did acupuncture, and even saw an optometrist—all of this to no avail. Some of the doctors I saw actually told me that I was fine—no tumors, 20/20 acuity, nothing was physically wrong with me. I got to a point where I just accepted the fact that I had migraines. My head was defective and there was nothing that could be done.
The worst of it was when I was in high school. All of the different pain medication did nothing but mask the pain for a little while and I was taking them on an almost daily basis. My doctors decided to try me on anti-depressants to see if that would help clear up my migraines so that I wouldn’t need so much pain medication. I don’t think I realized this at the time, but looking back I am able to see that taking anti-depressants for two years just took a bad situation and made it worse.
I was already self-conscious about being slower than everyone else, I was already self-conscious about not being smart enough, I was already on the verge of giving up on my education and on myself, and this medication really just amplified those feelings. For most of my sophomore and junior years of high school, I just fell deeper and deeper in to this pit of feeling worthless and dumb until I eventually hit the bottom of that pit and just stopped caring all together. I stopped trying in school, I acted out, and I made very stupid decisions.
I became the kid in class who everyone else saw as a slacker, and eventually I fully embraced that persona. At the time, I thought that it was normal to see double and for things to go in and out of focus and to skip all around pages when reading and to have to reread things over and over and to have burning and bloodshot eyes at the end of every day. As far as I was aware, everyone saw that way and I just didn’t have the willpower or the strength to overcome those obstacles like everyone else did—I was a slacker.
When I stopped trying in school, my migraines started to improve (it’s hard for me to look back and not think ‘DUH!’), and by my senior year of high school I was completely off the anti-depressants. In terms of my mood and how I felt about myself, I got much better. But then I started trying again. And then the migraines came back. Being in college at this point, I made a conscious decision to push through the pain. I had goals and aspirations now, so pushing through the pain was my only real option.
Then I found vision therapy: I found out that seeing the way that I saw was not normal. I was seeing through poorly coordinated and controlled eyes. I found out that I was not alone. According to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), 1 in 10 children have vision problems significant enough to impact learning. And I found out there was something that could be done.
I used to have migraines 5 days per week and now after being in an active vision therapy program to remediate my visual deficiencies for 4 months, I don’t even remember when my last migraine was; no medication needed. Even more significant than that, not only did I gain the ability to read efficiently and get through my day pain free, I gained the confidence to reach for my goals.
I am incredibly blessed that I didn’t need to try in high school in order to do well. Without that gift, I would not have been able to get to where I am now and to be honest, I don’t want to think about where I might have ended up. What about the kids that aren’t as lucky as I was?
To say that finding vision therapy and OCVT has changed my life is the understatement of the century. I have gained so much. My hope is that my story can reach kids and adults who struggle and inspire them to not give up hope and to not give up on themselves.
No one should ever have to struggle the way that I did and the way that so many others do.
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