Susanna was born with strabismus in the former USSR. The photo below is “of me in 1979 in Russia with a play phone, where you can see that my eyes were really crossed,” she writes. Susanna is a speaker, world-traveler, writer, and more. I’m fascinated with all Susanna is accomplishing in spite of her strabismus, and I asked her to share her story with us. Susanna writes:
In the Soviet Union, where I was born, doctors didn’t operate on strabismic babies or toddlers to straighten their eye muscles. But because my two divergent eyes made me look so weird, I went to a daycare for retarded and mentally handicapped children although I was not retarded.
My 1st surgery was at the Jewish Hospital (now called Barnes Jewish) in St Louis, Missouri, when I was three years old. After the surgery, I had a lazy eye which was straightened when I was 17 at Kaiser Santa Clara Hospital in California. It was a huge relief to me to wear contact lenses and have straight eyes. People stopped looking at me funny. I could tell when people weren’t listening to what I was saying because they were too busy trying to figure out which eye to look at. In 2006, I read the article, “Stereo Sue” by Dr. Oliver Sacks, when I was surprised to find out that I didn’t see like most other people. Prior to finding out about Susan Barry, I didn’t know that there was something called depth perception and that I didn’t have it. Finally, I had an explanation for why I was bad at parallel parking and merging traffic.
When I asked my optometrist who was fitting me for contacts if it was true that I couldn’t see in 3D, he looked at me funny and said, “Really, you didn’t know?”. He seemed to think it was no big deal as his aunt couldn’t see the tree outside of her window. I’ve been to over 50 countries. I’ve seen Macchu Picchu. I’ve been to the Coliseum. If there’s another dimension of life to which I am blind, I most definitely want to see it.
After reading “Fixing My Gaze” by Susan Barry [see below], it took me another year and a half to commit to vision therapy. The financial impact of paying for it on my own, as my insurance would not cover it, was the most important barrier. But as soon as I embarked on my journey to 3D, I encountered major psychological stumbling blocks during vision therapy appointments and outside the doctor’s office.
I am a traveler and adventurer by nature, but his road to 3D is the most difficult journey ever. No sign posts, no express bullet trains, no maps. Just hard work every day. And faith. Man, this takes a lot of faith in the power of the brain to change. I speak seven languages and have written books on learning language through music and the media and budget travel. Vision therapy is harder than writing books, learning languages or traveling in former war zones. It’s a journey through the mine fields of my brain and past struggles with being cross-eyed.
I created my blog, One Eyed Princess, to document the trials and tribulations of doing binocular vision therapy as an adult because I needed an avenue to express myself. Few people around me could understand why I was suddenly getting tired or had trouble driving at night. The blog was and is a form a catharsis and a way for me to reach out to other people going through the same thing.
Please feel free to visit my blog: http://www.oneeyedprincess.com and comment.