An Informational Guide: Too Disabled For Contact Lenses? Not Likely!

I was told I was too disabled for contacts a few times in life. When I was a teen and my glasses first began to cause headaches from the weight of them, that was the verdict. The insurance however did cover, due to the heft of my prescription thinner lenses fully. As an adult they quit doing that and it became a three hundred dollar a year expense, due to the needs I have in glasses. I wrote off contacts and the nightmare stories my not so great parents told me about them had me certain that I was a contact lens away from blindness. They lied and twisted facts to make me fear something that is simply to me now. The simplicity comes with experience and adaptation.

I am not a contact lens expert but I am an expert in being disabled. Like all other people with disabilities I am a master of adaptation. It is how we survive. So when last year my ears began to bleed and the pain in my nose was so great I couldn’t bear it I mentioned it to my doctors, one of them was smart enough to figure out that ehlers danlos syndrome plus glasses as heavy as mine may be a problem. A few pokes and prods later and it was confirmed my glasses when I wear them tear my ears veeeery slowly downward and push the nasal bone up into my head. Wearing glasses became one of those terribly dangerous things.

This left one solution. Contact lenses. I am a wheelchair user with an inaccessible apartment, one arm guaranteed to function, limited guarantees of hygiene due to allergies and the sheer number of medical things that can and do go wrong in a given week. Yesterday I couldn’t use either arm and was relegated back to my glasses. I am still not in them full time but that is as I am told normal. As I said I am not an expert. Its about sixty forty, in favor of contacts now however. I spent weeks hunting for answers on how to adapt contact lenses.

1. First things first, expect it to be hard at first. Then easy. Like all things its a skill that takes practice. You will not be allowed to take your contacts home until you can show them in their office you can get them out and put them in.

2. Its okay to not do it their way entirely. What truly matters with contact lenses is the hygienic environment. Since I cannot stand before a mirror much less reach a sink in my wheelchair I began to cheat. I wash my hands very well, dry them on paper towels, then cover my hand rests and controls with more clean paper towels and put one on my chest for the inevitable dropped lens. This probably won’t work for someone using a manual chair but my point is to adapt the methods to your needs as best you can. My contact lens solution sterilizes so I also compensate by covering my hands in it before I begin, and before I go hand wash I have laid out my eye drops, my solution, my closed contact case on my previous paper towel. This means less fussing.

3. Referring to two not doing it their way. The people who will teach you how to contact lense do not often have to adapt their methods and thus may not know how. I was told to get a mirror with a lot of lighting, to use both hands (and just try because lifting my arm and dislocating it was beyond the comprehension of the very nice but not disabled contact lense woman).I did try that at first as there is a hand dance involved. One hand is to pry your eye open and the other to present the lense just so to your other eye. This of course was not possible for me. I adapted the method to my body by using my middle finger to hold the lens and not my pointer, and moving my head to the lens on my hand. I also do my best contact work in utter darkness and have not once succeeded with a mirror. Its pointless as I am nearly legally blind, I hover in that cusp of low vision that comes before it. If I cannot bend my head down to the other hand I will often use one hand and my middle finger again prying my eye open with thumb and middle finger and my pointer to insert the contact.

4. Everyone, able bodied or not, has to adapt. I quickly became aware of the silky sensation of the contacts in my eyes, and I rather find it pleasant. In my case this is in part due to being able to buffer my intensely dry eyes with a liquid barrier. I expected it to be gooey but my lenses are soft and smooth. Being sensory aware due to autism and some jacked up nerves it was easier for me to without vision find my contact lens and control it. I am the fastest to adapt to this that the contact lens specialist has seen, to date. Many people who can see and are “normal” as much as that exists struggle to differentiate the sensation of the contact lens from the solution. You will find the things that simplify contacts for you.

So now that I gave my vague tips that all boil down to, don’t be afraid to experiment a little and adapt, my method in detail is as follows:

Get up, do not put my glasses on as I get a headache going from contacts to glasses, though you may not. Due to low vision I am very adapted to my house and not seeing but may still step on a cat or their toys. If you choose to experiment with this I highly recommend you practice placing your wheelchair in the same spot and with someone there pace your steps so you memorize the lay out of your house. Things must go back exactly as they were or you will walk into things and otherwise hurt yourself. I go to the bathroom, then put eye drops in and set up my lay out at my desk all the way in the living room. Return to the bathroom, wash hands really well. I pretend I am a surgeon. Return to the chair with paper towels and go back to my desk. I go slow when blind and warn the cats. So far no accidents.

From there I close my eyes and see which eye burns less. My eyes burn first thing in the morning and sometimes it never stops. That eye is going to be the easier one. For me it is almost always the left eye. I save it for last. My right eye has scar tissue that makes it harder to get lenses in. However, even without that one eye will always be harder than the other due to the fact even ambidextrous people like I used to be when I had guaranteed arm functions have differences in each side of their body. My scarred up and roughed up eye tends to be belligerent and sometimes swells up from just eye drops. I also sometimes get hairballs in my eyes while I sleep and do not know it. So I take my time and I put drops in until I cannot feel it then close my eyes and wipe away the excess. This last step seems to really help me in getting rid of debris.

From there I pick up a lens. If its a fresh package I still do this as I found a warmed up contact is a lot easier for me to insert. The solution makes the lenses colder and with Reynauds my cold sensitivity is very high, and this took away an aspect of pain. I will not pretend contacts are painless but they are not agonizing and after they are in my eyes hurt less, so its worth it for me. I drop the lens into my palm on my left hand, aka the useless floppy arm, and clean it as I do on removal. I rinse it well then place it on the finger needed for the current eye. I then put eye drops into the cup of the lens after checking it by holding it very very very close to my eye for defects. This last part took some adapting as I still cannot really see it, so much as I se elight changes without my glasses. So I had to learn what cat hair, my hair, extra grime, too much skin oil, and tears look like via trial and error. This is also true of the dreaded inside out lens. The light refracts differently and you just have to learn. This part I still try for when I do it in the dark but its harder. I needed total darkness at first to succeed due to light sensitivity, and built my way to being able to do this with lights on.

Free of defects I then move my eye to the contact. Thinking of it this way means for me there is less fine motor involved. Others may need to approach it the other way around. The eye drops will sometimes spill or fold the lense but often I get it in on the first try. I close my eye then add more eye drops. You may not need as much ocular hydration but due to having thin eye tissues I have the worst case of dry eye my eye doctor has ever seen. This is a trait that the other people I know with Ehlers Danlos seem to share.

I keep that eye closed and repeat the process with my other eye. If my eye burns and eye drops do not solve it or hurts I remove the lens. There is a list of impossible things you will possibly be told by your contact lens specialist such as “Its impossible to put a contact in backwards.’ No, you can. So its important to remember if your contact hurts take it out. Sometimes I missed a cat hair, once it was torn, and once I had torn my eye the night before due to ye olde super fragile tissues and the lens being stuck to my eye from dryness. I thought I had hydrated it enough and was wrong.

I change the paper towel daily for this last bit before we tackle removal because that has to be adapted too. Rinse your lens case as needed for your solution. I had one where it was a no rub solution but the solution itself was too hard for me. No room for shaky hands or error, then because the peroxide base turned to pure water my eyes reacted and it hurt. You will during fitting be asked about these things, depending on your needs you may have a LOT of options or a narrow field of options for your solution. There were only two safe for me to even try and the first failed. I was lucky that BioTrue which is essentially tears works for me. It might be wrong for you. So clean eye case, leave it where its safe and can dry.
I may take my contacts out anywhere from four to eight hours later, I try to not go over that as personally, and again this may be different for you, my contacts start to get really dry about six hours in and I need epic amounts of drops. The when depends on how I feel. you will master your own eyeball sensations for it. My personal gauge is if my eyes still feel “tired” after eye drops. Often for me tired eyes, or the need to close them without needing to sleep is a sign of dry eyes. I personally apply drops on the hour, sometimes a few times in between.

Removal:
This is for me much harder than insertion still. I am tired so my body is less coordinated. My lenses often do not want to budge. I go through more eye drops at the end of the day than any other time. This is due to the eyeball tear and being cautious. It also has prevented more tears, even in similar conditions of dryness. I was told to press on my lens and drag it with one hand while prying my eye open to get my lenses out. The method taught to me NEVER worked for me. What I do is I look to the side, then with one hand pin the contact against my eye lightly, if it does not squish a little I add more drops. From there I slide the lens towards my thumb adding a little more pressure. This is not poking my eye but a small amount of pressure and it is to me painless. Most of the time the lense pops right out and I can proceed with the ascribed cleaning regimen for my lenses. I then put eye drops in my naked eye, and close it. I always do this one handed, forgoing the hefting of lids to get past my lashes but do open my eyes as wide as I can. This is certainly possible in part due to my eye shape.

I hope this helps someone considering contacts. There is no “If I can do it anyone can,” but if I can do it a lot of other people surely can despite it feeling impossible. It is a skill like any other and takes practice. With that in mind do not expect success the first time, no one truly succeeds doing this their first try. Expect to adapt, expect sensory challenges and if you are disabled or not, don’t be afraid to ask for things like dimming the lights to get started. The people who are working with you are there to help. Don’t  be afraid to do it your way, there is no one way, there are just standards that you must keep in mind. The most important thing is cleanliness. the need to close them without needing to sleep is a sign of dry eyes. I personally apply drops on the hour, sometimes a few times in between.

ely can despite it feeling impossible. It is a skill like any other and takes practice. With that in mind do not expect success the first time, no one truly succeeds doing this their first try. Expect to adapt, expect sensory challenges and if you are disabled or not, don’t be afraid to ask for things like dimming the lights to get started. The people who are working with you are there to help.

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Lessons Learned

Everyone discounts themselves at one time or another. Recently I have faced a lot of self doubt about my public speaking. My wheelchair has given me a renewed terror of public speaking, something I have not felt since my first speech during my years as the Speech and Debate Captain for my high school. This is another reason I went back to Toastmasters. The idea that I of all people could be afraid to give a speech was just mind blowing.

As an autistic I talk too much as it is. I cannot always stop myself, though that is something I am working on. Without treatment for my autism beyond shame, I learned to bottle it up letting my words flow out like the richest cream on stage. Now, I am going to start a new career as a Public Speaker. The difference between what I have done in the realm of Public Speaking and what I am starting tonight is this. I will get paid.

I did not think I was a marketable asset. A part of this is based on what I have heard my entire life. You are too fat, you are too ugly, no one likes pale people, no one likes skinny people, no one likes you. You aren’t worthy, this is the constant message that has been sent not just my way, but towards most children. Any difference becomes devaluing. I was supposed to go to Career Builders tonight to give a speech. I had it ready, polished, and yet two things occured that had me missing the meeting.

My doctor’s appointment ran late. I met my new doctor and obtained my pain medication for the first time in months. I also am going to see a therapist that specializes in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder AND Chronic Pain. My new medication specialist has told me even if this doctor and I do not work out, he will treat me. He didn’t question the validity of my service animal and was understanding about my nearly running him over. I left empowered, yet fighting Reynauds.

It started to snow as we left the office, and we discovered with only 15 minutes to get to the house and drive an hour that I had forgotten my brief case at the house. When we made it home and I climbed up onto my bed to grab it, I just gave in and laid down. Immediately I called the coordinator but, after that I checked my email.

There it was, the reminder that I had signed up for a free online speaking session with Darren LaCroix. It was free, and I hadn’t been so positive I wanted to help Career Builders yet. Key word being yet. So, I clicked the link to the session, locked William out of the room after he crushed my hands and asked my Person to turn up the heat so I could try and stop shivering.

I wouldn’t have given a good speech tonight due to pain, my brain fog, and shaking like a leaf in the wind. I couldn’t remember the opening to my speech and every other word came out as a breathy gasp. I also fell outside of the Comic Book store and my body couldn’t match my brain in fluidity. As I laid down and began to chat with the others in the audience, I woke up inside a bit. I realized a few things as the session wore on. I was left feeling like an asset and not an… well you know.

Some of the information, which I do not want to give in detail here so that you have to go and seek out Darren’s teachings, was pointed and was really just in the form of a question. If you answer it, you have a small portion of what is needed to sell yourself. Other points were broader, metaphorical yet directed.

I am now going to speak for Pay. I will learn how, and the beautiful thing is simply this: I am sellable. I am marketable. It isn’t just being a beautiful redhead, a capable person with a disability, it is also being able to share the information that I have gained through experience and broadening my audience.

I learned a lesson tonight. What is the lesson you have to learn? What will help you find the inner spark? I had lost it this week and now not only is my inner spark found but so is my future goal reset, bigger and brighter than before. I am reaching not for the stars but beyond them, for, I can’t fail. I can only win by trying.

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