THE APPOINTMENT

Picture this: a youngish girl, awkward but aww, perks up the courage to dial the number of her Optician. It has taken her 6 months to get to where she is today.

 

6 long months of staring at screens for hours on end, late nights, blurry mornings and that one time her dog's tail caught her in the eye. 6 months of eye related worry and extremely mild headaches, while a disembodied (but bespectacled) voice occasionally said things like "book your eye test" and "book your fucking eye test" and the one time an email was sent by someone in the office asking whether she still even needed that eye test voucher.

 

That girl was me. I went to the optician last week. And before you faint in awe, or hurt your hands applauding, let me tell you this: YES, in many ways I am an anxiety super heroine, but you need not build that statue. Show me your love by getting out to your own medical appointments (YAY LIFE ADMIN).

 

I went to the optician this week, and I'm'a tell you ALL about it, so pull up a chair and get comfy, pal. This shit is about to get anxious and then better and then anxious again.

 

Before I launch into my DAY OF APPOINTMENT, let me tell you these two facts: 1) when I made the call, I hung up so quick I think I somehow managed it before I even finished pressing dial and 2) you can book appointments online - so don't even put yourself through that whole "talking to a person" shit. Now, get in my verbal DeLorean and buckle in - we're going all the way back to Wednesday.

 

Vroom-wooosh

 

It's 9ish. Morning. My hair is a mess. It always is. I can feel a gnawing on my brain cord: you're going to find out you're going blind today. All I can think about is all those STUPID articles about diseases being visible through the eyes and how so many optician appointments have resulted in the discovery of glaucoma, diabetes, MS or a brain tumour.

 

10ish. I can feel a tightness in my chest that increases each time I think about my looming appointment. I haven't been for an eye test since I was 14. If I have a tumour it could be 13 years in the making. FUUUUUUUCK.

 

1ish. On the internet. An article about diabetes. I definitely have diabetes. A clickable link about all the illnesses an optician might identify. Am I getting enough iron?

I settle into a buzzfeed quiz about face shapes and glasses, but it asks too many questions about skin tone and there's no field in which I can type "banana milkshake" so I click through absentmindedly and then read something about jawline and contouring and parallel lines.

Something about illusions. "ILLUSIONS, Michael. A trick is something a hooker does for money" I hear GOB Bluth in my head. My mind flips around like an acrobat when I'm nervous.

 

1:45 one of my work rocks leaves and I feel lopsided. I sit between two beautiful people at work, who have become a great comfort to me. They're totally different, and each of them make me feel safe in their own way. On a day like Wednesday, I realised worriedly that I was going to have to cope with only one of my two rocks. The afternoon was promising to be a bumpy ride.

 

2ish. I touch the place on my head that I imagine my tumour to be.

 

2:03...ish. I've audibly whimpered at least twice since lunch. Desperately (and I mean desperately) clutching at anything to keep me from slipping into derealisation, I ask question after question after question after question to the guy who sits on my right. Patiently, he answers everything from: HOW DOES A TRANSITION LENSE WORK? To CAN YOU READ THAT SIGN? (Sorry!) and it takes every ounce of self control I have not to grab him by the face and start screaming: YOU DO THE TEST. YOU DO THE TEST. CAN YOU TEST MY EYES? PLEASE. YOU TEST MY EYES!

 

3ish. In what is very possibly a misguided but well-intended attempt to put me at ease, one of my colleagues tells me about her recent eye test. "The woman was so impressed with my eyes." She says "There was this white stuff at the back of my eyes. You have it as a child and it depletes as you age. I had loads of it. I have young eyes."

Ew, I think and, naturally squeamish, I squeeze my eyes shut, recoil and then shudder. She notices (because it's hardly subtle and she isn't an idiot) and says "oh no, are you okay? White stuff is a good thing, don't worry. It's black you don't want."

The air around me becomes solid.

 

3:05

It's black you don't want.

 

3:10

It's black you don't want.

 

3:25

It's black you don't want.

 

3:33

It's black you don't want.

 

3:34

It's black you don't want.

 

3:47

It's black you don't want.

 

4:05

It's black you don't want.

 

4:15

Walking to my appointment I float at least a foot above the ground. Dizzy, I push forward, hearing only the vibrations in my own mind and a momentary snippet of a guy I went on a date with busking Losing My Religion. Brilliant. This is the part of the film I find out I have a fucking tumour. All I wanted to be was a RomCom girl. I was born to be a RomCom girl. I'm weird and clumsy and that makes for good RomCom material.

Of all the films my life had to be, I REALLY didn't want it to be anything that would open with "based on real events". Tragic.

 

THE APPOINTMENT:

I do whatever the optician version of "checking in" is and go for something called a pre-test. It's very rare that anything good comes from pre-anything and I find it irritating.

The lady (is she an optical nurse?) makes me watch a balloon. This is ok, I think, and I am straight back to my recent trip to France.

OK, I can do this, I think as a green flashing light loses it's shit in my face. "Calm down, Green Flashing Light" I imagine saying to it "I'm chilling." And then the optical nurse says these words and I fly into an anxiety frenzy: I am just going to take a picture of your eye.

 

Say what now? You're going to do a what to my what? Wait. A photo of my eye? What on earth? Why do you want a photo of my? Oh HOLD UP - this is the part you look for a tumour?! Like, RIGHT NOW? This might just be your job, honey, but this is MY LIFE.

 

"Put your forehead against the headrest please". Involuntarily, I lean forward.

 

FLASH.

 

And then my eye appears on the screen. Coooooool, I think, and then I see that the back of my eye is covered in black.

 

The world stops.

 

I get so dizzy that I barely remember dodging the air bullets of the glaucoma test. "Try to relax" she keeps saying but I can't hear her. All I can hear is my colleague's words echoing. Round and round and round they go.

 

It's black you don't want.

 

The next few minutes are a blur. I go back to the waiting room, water in hand and try not to think about what just happened. My mind is my nemesis. I try googling "healthy eyes" but Google seems confusing and I'm sweating so much, I can't grip my handset so I give up.

 

Not for the first time in my life, I try to think about the reality of a brain tumour. I know my local MP had one. That's just about all I know. I think about all the times I have been dizzy and start to mentally berate myself. This will teach me for not keeping up with my life admin. Idiot.

 

I clench my jaw and look into one of the many mirrors. I notice my eyes; they are bright with the tears I'm holding back. Slowly, I give myself a nod. You've got this girl. You've got this. Do NOT cry.

 

I think about how determined I am to face my demise with dignity. I give myself about 3 months. I'll finish my book, I'll get my blog out as much as I can and then I'll burn pale.

 

"A Nelly Roberts" a man shouts. I think that's me.

 

I give myself one last look and then follow him into a room.

 

"You can put your stuff on this chair" he says and I notice his kind eyes. Omg I am dying. He feels sorry for me.

 

E

C

F

G

L

The first one

No

Yes

The second one

The first one

The first one

No difference

 

He stops the test to ask me whether I'm ok. Nervously I qualify that I don't like medical stuff, apologising repeatedly although I know I don't need to.

 

The first one.

No difference.

Yes.

Five.

Now.

It's black you don't want.

IT'S BLACK YOU DON'T WANT.

 

I don't say it aloud, but it would make for a better narrative if I did. When the test is done, the optician asks me if I am ok and points out that I seem very tense. I explain about the black on the eye photo and ask that he please tell me if I have anything to worry about. I picture myself as a strong heroine, poised on the edge of the precipice. I am ready to hear the worst.

 

Very slowly he says this: "the black on he photo of your eye is the shadow caused by the camera. Your eyes are totally healthy and you have nothing to worry about. Your colleague is an idiot."

 

I exhale for 5 years and do an internal happy dance. I breathe a big breathe. I finish the test.

 

"You were right." He says, "it's just distance for your right eye." He writes me out a prescription and I'm led back to Air-Bullet Lady who says something about 2-4-1. Because of her previously non-reassuring "the optician will talk you through the photos" ways, I decide not to listen and wander into the glasses cave.

 

Have you ever tried to make a decision immediately after a period of intense anxiety? It feels very much like being in a cave: very little air, walls all over the place and 10 million unblinking pairs of glasses staring back at you (I don't have all that much experience of caves).

 

I try on every pair. I hate them all. I hadn't planned on living for long enough to actually have to choose a pair of glasses. I was just going to go 3 more months with my one blurry eye. Why waste the money when you have a bucket list to get through?

 

"How long are you open for... Deborah?" I say reading a lady's name tag.

 

She smiles at me and tells me there's no rush and that they're open until 7. She's a lot warmer than Air-Bullet and keeps smiling while I say her name 6 more times in 30 seconds of small talk. She does look a bit taken aback, however, when I hand her my bag and ask her to put it somewhere safe.

 

Deborah follows me about talking about frames and stuff and then another customer asks a question so she's gone for a bit.

 

I ring my Dad. "Dad, I've been here 45 minutes." I say

 

"Where?"

 

"Listen Dad," I say "I know this isn't exactly how our conversation went, and I'm sure you said some witty stuff (like when you pointed out I should put the glasses on my face), but I'm trying to keep this overly detailed and uninteresting story going here so please keep up. I'm at the opticians and need to get these 4 pairs of glasses down to just 2... Just because... Well there's a 2-4-1..."

 

Eventually he told me to take a selfie from the side to see myself in profile. Great idea. I'm too self conscious to take selfies in public though so, all 4 pairs in hand, I shuffled around looking for Deborah. She's smiling again, and only looks a little scared.

 

"Those are two round for you." She says and (just like that) we are down to 3.

 

"Those are a definite." Hurrah! They were the ones I thought were a definite.

 

"We only have two decisions to make now, Deborah." I say "and it's OK, because I'm here until 7"

 

"I'm not." She laughs, she then enlists a man to help and he chooses which of the last 2 I should take. Brilliant.

 

Deborah takes me to the tills and starts to talk about scratch resistance. "Oh your left eye is perfect!" She says with a smile.

 

"Thank you!" I half shout "I knew he was my favourite!"

 

She looks like I might have frightened her and asks me (not just a little nervously) "Are you sure that you're totally happy with both pairs of glasses?"

 

I try on my second pair and notice that there are two raving lunatic caterpillars on my face.

 

OMG MY BROWS.

 

"Would it be the worst thing in the world if I changed them?" As Deborah's mouth says no and her eyes say yes, I bolt back into the cave and start on trying glasses so fast I'm not all that dissimilar to Willow Smith in "Whip My Hair Back and Forth".

 

*

 

A couple more false starts later and I've whittled it down to 4 pairs of glasses. I'm wandering around looking forlorn, when a kindly lady approaches me and says "excuse me dear, are you Anneli?" I nod apprehensively.

 

"Deborah had to go home, but she told me all about it... are these the four?"

 

Different four. "Yes." I say and I look around the cave in panic. I am the ONLY customer left. But who's counting.

 

"Would you like to show me?" She says

 

I start to whip my glasses on and off again as she makes encouraging faces at me. It's quite nice actually. It reminds me of School Sports Day.

 

I'm just going through the selection for a third time when she shouts "Andrew?" And a vertically challenged man approaches. "Which of these do you think suits her best?" She asks.

 

*

 

In a weird pageant I'd never quite foreseen, I am stood in front of 8 members of staff. Some of them look amused, others sympathetic. All of them have a look of determination that makes me think they wouldn't make a terrible zombie apocalypse team.

 

"You can do this."

"Show us again."

 

So I do. One at a time I showcase the four pairs of glasses (with Andrew's help - apparently I'm incapable of finding my own ears) and one by one they tilt their heads like tilting things.

 

Mid-way through the ensuing vote, my best friend calls and asks where I am. When I tell her she shouts "STILL?!" Before explaining that she'll go home and walk the dog. "God knows how long you'll be."

 

"It would be a LOT quicker if you just came here!" I hiss. But she's hung up. The prospect of facing a bus journey alone is the nudge I need and as Andrew puts the two pairs through the till, one of the judges (I mean members of staff) actually claps.

 

Not totally sure which glasses I bought, I dash out of the shop just in time to meet Sarah and she sits patiently with one earphone in and listens to this very long, overly detailed and underly interesting story spanning the 2 hours and 8 staff members it took to FINALLY get me some glasses. 


MEdical Angst?

You're not the only one. I can barely google without being drawn into some diagnosis or another. 

Please get in touch and let me know of your disastrous medical appointments.

Or leave a comment below.

Anneli RobertsComment