Gaining perspective through vision therapy
Session 2 of vision therapy brought new challenges. Like a 3rd grader excited about finishing her homework, I reported what I had done the previous week to my therapist, Dawn. She looked over my worksheet.
As we walked to the blue line, she brought out a beanbag. I nervously asked if she was going to throw that at me (I don’t say throw to me because I can’t catch). She laughed heartily, ‘no!’ and explained that I was going to throw it from one hand to the other in an arch over my head.
That was worse.
I dropped that beanbag over and over and over again.
I felt awkward and uncoordinated. Tears started to fall. Although I knew Dawn wasn’t judging me, I felt embarrassed. What I later realized was that those tears were from a very long time ago. They’d been locked in a vault, held captive by my stubborn refusal to look like a fool. Tears of buried pain for being inadequate.
But we all have tears that have been hidden away. Given the right circumstances, those tears can jump out and surprise us. We all feel inadequate in some area of our life. Until we face the difficult emotions and resolve what they mean, they threaten to burst open the flood gates.
When I brought the beanbag home to practice, I dropped every. single. one. My husband compassionately held back his laughter. Funny thing is, though, once I got over dropping it in front of Mike, I felt better. Mike didn’t walk out saying I was a failure as a person because I can’t catch a beanbag.
My ability to catch a beanbag doesn’t determine my worth in his eyes.
Mike went out of town the next day so I had to ask some friends to help me do therapy. At first I worried that they’d laugh at me. They each watched me drop that beanbag over and over . . . and they didn’t laugh.
It may seem silly but I saw that my eye-hand coordination didn't determine my worth in the eyes of my friends. I probably knew that was true but there was something about having it confirmed that made me feel loved.
During one of my sessions, I asked my friend to talk to me during an exercise as a way of making it more of a challenge. That really wore me out. Instead of a 30-minute recovery time, I dragged myself off the couch at 45 minutes. Later that day I went swimming and had difficulty keeping track of my lengths.
. . . but, that night I caught the beanbag several times. Booya!
All of this is new and awkward for me. I didn't want to ask my friends to help me do those seemingly silly exercises. I didn't want to fail in front of them. I didn't want them to make a special trip to my house, interrupting their busy lives. It felt vulnerable. I'm grateful both for their help and this process that required me to ask for it.
A few days later I visited my parents. They're in their 80s and are dealing with aging issues. While I was there, they had a couple of guests. After about 10 minutes of lively conversation, my Mom got up and said she needed to go lie down. She mumbled that she was confused and couldn’t keep anything straight.
For the first time, I knew exactly what she was talking about. She wasn’t being crabby. She couldn't tough-it-out. Her brain was tired. It’s difficult for her to keep pace with rapidly flowing conversation. I finally get this! It’s like me and that stupid beanbag.
Sadly, however, for my mom and many elderly, on top of not being able to follow conversations, they have the disappointment of knowing that they're not able to do what they used to do . . . and probably never will. When I’m done with therapy, I can lay down for ½ hour and get my energy back. My mom fights against brain fog every day of her life.
But my mom's brain activity doesn't determine her worth. Even though it’s difficult for her to follow a conversation, she's still a human being who deserves love and attention. She deserves compassion and respect. Her limitations don't diminish her worth.
Difficulty with comprehension also happens with people who have a traumatic brain injury or a concussion. It can also happen with those suffering from attention deficit or dyslexia. We don’t see the difficulties people are having in their brain because there is no visible sign. They aren’t using crutches or have a bandage wrapped around their head.
This whole experience is helping me be more aware of our brain’s complexities, difficulties, and most importantly, its potential. I'll be more patient with others, understanding there are things that I can't see hidden within the skull that impacts behavior.
What will I learn next?
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