The following item is edited from a letter posted by shayla last month in our Eyes Apart Strabismus Support group. It’s hard for some people to accept being referred to as having “lazy eyes.” We know that strabismus eyes work much harder than normal eyes. Shayla used this term about herself with confidence, and she offers the tips below to help us all be more confident with our drifting eyes:
I think you can be socially confident with lazy eyes. I know I am. It’s actually a joke in my family how quickly I can strike up a conversation. I had a great example in my Mom, who also had alternating exotropia for close to forty years before she had surgery.
The only place she wasn’t confident was sports and my dad made sure that I learned how to adjust instead of just avoiding sports. I did debate and theatre in high school and just finished a play’s run in community theatre this week. I just just tell people to look at my right eye if they keep looking over their shoulder! I knew my eyes were off but wasn’t really diagnosed until 17.
It’s funny because today I go in to have surgery. My husband was asking me did I think it would make me more outgoing? My sis was like “hello! girl already talks to complete strangers everywhere we go!
- Preempt strangers who are looking at you. A quick explanation will stop the weird looks most of the time.
- Family/Friends: If their joking really bothers you, say something! They may have no idea you feel the way you do.
- Pictures: You have to ask the person taking the picture to help you out with this. You look away from the camera and then right before they snap the picture look back at the camera. Your eyes will appear straight in the picture (but it takes a couple of times to get the timing down so be patient). I’ve done this with lots of pictures and it seems to work. Or turn at an angle to the camera so you are not face forward to the camera. Models do it, so why can’t we?
All these things have one thing in common: You have to be pro-active and be ready and willing to talk about the condition and your feelings about it. If you aren’t comfortable with yourself, other people won’t be. I make a joke of it: “My name is shayla and pay no attention to that left eye wandering around the room!” Find out what your comfort level is and maybe try it out on friends and family first.
If you don’t know if it’s wandering, watch people for non verbal cues like for example: looking behind them like they think you are talking to someone else usually means eyes are wandering. My best friend will notice if I switch eyes before I realize it myself.
I hope these will work for you.They’ve worked for me for 29 years and counting..(only hours left though!)
–used by permission from shayla
[Lois’ note: I realize many of you did not have parents or family who supported you as shayla’s family did. Perhaps they even pulled you down. But rather than regret what we didn’t have as we grew up, why not work on some of the recommendations shayla offers to make things better now?]
Photo credit: Mikas Vitkauskas