Those of us who have strabismus do not like to be referred to as having a lazy eye. We are not lazy. Because our eyes don’t work right, we often have to work much harder to accomplish a task than those who have normal vision.
But if any form of strabismus could be referred to as a lazy eye, it would not be the permanently turned eye that people most often associate with the phrase “lazy eye.” It is so hurtful to many of these people to be labeled with that term. Many have said in the support groups that when people call their eye lazy they feel people are really implying that the person is lazy. Please do not do it!
I have intermittent alternating exotropia, which means one eye or the other will turn out at times. (Since my surgeries, my eye turns are not as noticeable.) Our eyes are not lazy either, but in the safety of our support group, where we all understand, I used the term “lazy eyes” recently to describe the battle we face. Here is the description I shared:
My strabismus is more like two lazy eyes that neither one wants to carry the load, but both want to be the boss because they can’t get along with each other. My eyes are like two unruly two year olds, and my brain is like the mother that is always telling her children to stop fighting and play nice together and share. I suppose the therapy is like discipline…argh. My brain has to insist that my eyes do it, but my brain doesn’t like it much either. Like the parent who says, this discipline hurts me more than you, maybe?
This is the challenge we face every day. Hopefully my sharing it here will help you see just a little of that battle also, and to reach out to someone with strabismus. Those with permanently turned eyes usually have very little control over the turned eye. And those of us with intermittent or alternating eye turns work very hard just in order to keep our eyes focused long enough to see.
I see posts in our strabismus groups or our comments areas almost daily from people who have been wounded because of social isolation, or taunts and teasing about their “lazy eye.” People with strabismus have difficulty making eye contact. Not only are they embarrassed about their turned eye, but when they look at you it often appears that they are looking away from you.
You can make a difference for these people! One of the best ways to show that you care about a person with an eye that turns is simply to look them in the eye as you talk with them. It may appear that they are looking over your shoulder or at something else in the room. But they are not. You are the one looking around the room, because you don’t understand how their eyes work. They are looking at you!
Photo credit: martina perhat