ANN Conference 2011 – Kick Off

Wow!

The ANN Conference started this afternoon. Today was mostly checking in and meeting everyone; the official workshops etc start tomorrow. But I gotta tell you, it’s been really amazing so far.

I started at a round table for adults with nystagmus. And can I just say, I have never felt more comfortable with a group of perfect strangers in my entire life. There is just an instant connection; an understanding. It’s not that I feel particularly self-conscious when I meet people without nystagmus, it’s just always there in the back of your mind. You get used to expecting that look of recognition when people realize that your eyes move unexpectedly. Here, I feel an incredible freedom to look around anywhere I want and not have to potentially have that moment with someone . I don’t know, it’s hard to explain.

And that’s just it: I don’t have to explain. Everyone just… knows.

I can’t wait to get started tomorrow. I’ll be blogging straight from the conference, so there will probably be a few posts throughout the day. I will not be blogging during the Youth Panel because I’ll be leading discussion 🙂 but I will post something about it later in the evening.

I’ll also try to pick up a few more personal nystagmus stories from individuals. Maybe I can even recruit a guest blogger for down the road. If you are at the conference, hit me up people!

Talk to you soon!

Jo

Happy Two Year Anniversary!

Exactly two years ago today I started the Shifty Eyes Blog!

Wow, what a couple of years it has been. I started this blog because i really felt like there wasn’t a lot of information about how people lived with Nystagmus available on the internet. Now there are so many blogs, I can’t keep up with them all! And I couldn’t be happier. I think connecting with other people is one of the best ways to deal with this condition, for both those who live with it and for their loved ones.

I’ve said this before, but Nystagmus really doesn’t take up that much time in my life. I’ve talked about Nystagmus more in the past two years than I have for my entire life preceding this blog. I swear, my dog’s allergies affect him more than my Nystagmus affects me. There are a lot of things I could say today, but I think what I really want to say is, turn off the computer and go live life.

We all run in to obstacles. They don’t define who we are. One of my obstacles happens to be Nystagmus, but for all I love my blog, I am not “woman-with-Nystagmus”. I’m Jo. I have a husband and a very naughty dog. I read too much, and worry about whether I should change my cell phone plan or if I remembered to make my student loan payment. I watch ridiculous reality TV shows and write a little on the side. I have poker night with my buddies and play video games with my nephew. I’m happy.

I’m Jo. Now, go be you.

A Great Nystagmus Blog

Hey guys!

Life is crazy right now, my wedding is coming up (yikes!) so I’ve been VERY busy with last minute details. Work also always keeps me jumping. But I wanted to make sure I give you all a heads up: one of my fav blogs out there has recently been re-launched!

If you have been following The Shifty Eyes Blog, chances are you have already checked out this amazing nystagmus website  by a fellow shifty-eyed friend named James . He founded http://www.nystagmus.co.uk/ long ago, way before this little creation began. What’s great about his blog is that it’s not just his own musings and experiences (although that’s in there as well, and always interesting). This website hosts a forum for anyone who wants to talk about nystagmus, including people who live with it, their families, and even researchers who are involved in nystagmus studies.

It’s quite a community. While I love my blog and all of my shifty-eyed friends that follow me, sometimes you just need the support and ability to talk to multiple people who are experiencing the same things as you. The forum provides an excellent way to do this.

And after a brief down-period between Christmas and New Years, it’s back up with new content and all shiny and new looking! I encourage you all to go take a look and talk to people (if you haven’t already). I know we have a lot of new nystagmus-parents out there; here’s another great place for you to get some information and feedback.

Say hi to James for me!

-Jo

New Job, New Challenges

Hello my faithful shifty-eyed friends!

You can’t imagine the past few months I’ve had! New job (actually, new career), wedding planning…. well ok, that’s about it. But it is all-consuming! A few things I have learned in my little blogging hiatus:

*          *          *

1) You can have nystagmus AND have a job that requires regular contact with high-profile executives (CEO’s, CFO’s VP’s, etc).

I now work in the corporate office of a Fortune 500 company. Crazy, right?? And I didn’t get this job through any connection or as a favor for someone. I applied, interviewed, and got the job all on my own. I find that the more I attempt to do, the more I am able to accomplish. Just imagine all the awesome things I would miss out on if I let my nystagmus stop me.

Do people notice my eye movement? Absolutely. I can see that they do. But I try very hard to choose not to worry about it. I know for a fact that people who get to know me hardly notice it after a while. It hasn’t hindered me at all.

2) Wedding planning is proving to be a larger life challenge than my nystagmus.

No joke. What I had originally intended to be an intimate gathering of people I know and love has ballooned into a 255+ member event. And a giant dress. Which I love, but makes me break into hives when I think about how much money I spent on it.

Oh well. At the end of the day, I’m just happy to marry the person I love more than anything in the world, no matter how we get there.

*          *          *

Well, that’s it for now! I will really make an effort to post more. On a lovey note, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of support this little blog receives. Your comments always make my day, and I encourage you to keep talking to me and to each other.

xoxo

Jo

Personal Nystagmus Experience – Mike

You guys have to read this, it’s pretty awesome.

Our friend Mike introduced himself in one of the comments on here, and told me he was writing about his personal experience with nystagmus, which I think is great. The more we share, the more we can help each other.

So he wrote this great post called “Nystagmus? Oh, you mean like astigmatism!” on his blog. Here’s his description:

*     *     *

This article is no more than my personal version of a story you can find elsewhere on t’internet from others in the same, and often a far worse, position than I. It is a work in constant progress. At my last look I think it had undergone around twenty five significant revisions. You can surmise from this that perfection is some way away!

The “Shifty Eyes” blog is a good place to start if you want accuracy and brevity with a positive and informative slant.

Editorial thoughts

What follows is extremely detailed as I have tried to do a number of things I haven’t seen elsewhere.

Firstly, I have covered my entire life from diagnosis upon starting school to date. That’s (ahem) four decades. I could have skimped but the act of writing itself triggers memories and new insights and I want this to be my one and only definitive statement.

Secondly, I made a conscious decision to put in as much detail as possible. Basic descriptions of nystagmus are easy to find. Detailed descriptions of the effects are less so. The effects vary between individuals so there never will be a party line but many people pass through life with no diagnosis, or a diagnosis but no insight into the impact, so I wanted to highlight those things I attributed to other things like short-sight but which should rightfully be attributed to nystagmus.

Thirdly, I wanted to try and capture how the many tiny aspects of it can vary over time. What seems major as a child is inconsequential now but vice verse.

Fourthly, I made a conscious decision to make this a work in progress. However, the idea was to get it out there and tidy it up later. It may well turn out to be akin to painting the Forth bridge.

Finally, I have yet to enable “Comments” for this post. I wanted to see where my thoughts took me. Once I am satisfied I have something near finished and I have linked appropriately elsewhere then I will welcome comment.

*     *     *

I’ve been reading over his post again, and realized I had forgotten how honest, forthright, and hilarious it is. This is probably my favorite personal account of life with nystagmus that I’ve seen yet. And that’s not just because he gives this little blog a shout out (Woohoo!).

No, I like his post because it’s very unaffected. As for myself, I unfortunately have a bad habit of squishing a moral in with almost every story. Sometimes I feel so protective of my fellow shifty-eyed friends that I forget to just tell my side of things the way it is without trying to teach anyone some sort of lesson. Mike has the gift of letting his true personality just exist while contemplating on his life experiences with nystagmus. Sometimes that’s the best way to try to explain to others what it’s like.

It’s a long account, and at times hilariously tangential, but completely worth the read. So to my shifty-eyed friends and family alike, I encourage you to go and read his excellent  post.

 xoxo

Jo

Nystagmus Q&A

We need a good place  for questions and answers here at the Shifty Eyes blog.

I know a lot of people reading this blog are parents and loved ones of people with nystagmus. Sometimes it can be hardest on those who do not have shifty eyes. It’s very difficult to understand what it is like, especially for those with smaller children. I mean, I have a hard enough time articulating my experiences with nystagmus. It can be almost impossible for children who may not even realize that they have it.

So, if anyone has any questions for me on what it’s like to live with shifty eyes, please feel free to comment me here.

xoxo

Jo

P.S. My expertise lies in day to day living and social situations. And by “expertise” I mean I live from day to day and encounter social situations :p I’m not a doctor, so I’ll do the best I can with medical questions, but you should always always refer to a specialist. If I can’t answer, I’ll certainly try to help you locate the information you need.

3 Great Things About Nystagmus

Most of the time, I don’t even think about my nystagmus. Other times, it can be slightly difficult to live with. However, on occasion, there are some really awesome things about my nystagmus that I’ve come to love.

1. It’s a great conversation starter
At times I can be socially awkward (try not to be too shocked). However, there is always one thing I can talk about safely when I get to know someone. Some people ask, but others will notice without saying anything. Either way, it makes me confident to speak up because I know more than most people about that topic, and I’m always eager to make people feel at ease about it. I also like to make them laugh, leading into positive thing number two…

2. I have a cool parlor trick
Explaining my nystagmus to people can sometimes be very dry, and at times people don’t know quite how to react. They think maybe they should feel bad for me. To lighten the mood, I’ll say, “Wanna see something cool?” and then spin around in circles like a crazy woman. Which is funny enough on it’s own, believe me. I think if that were the end of my talent it would still be pretty hilarious. Or maybe I’m just easily amused.

But I digress. Once I stop spinning in circles, my eye movement increases so quickly and to such a degree that at that point, I really can’t focus on anything at all, I just see the world spinning in front of me. They go back and forth as far and as fast as they can go. I don’t really know why they do this; my spinning must aggravate it somehow. It’s pretty fascinating to see (or so I’m told) and people usually laugh out of amazement.

And all I have to do is spin around in a circle once more in the opposite direction to get my eyes back to normal. Like I’m unwinding 🙂

Now whether or not people actually think this is cool is irrelevant. When I do my little trick for them, they know that I am not ashamed of my shifty eyes, and that I take it so lightly that I can joke about it with anyone. I really think that’s what puts them at ease more than anything else.

3. It makes me different, in a good way
Not to get all after-school-special on everyone, but I really like that it makes me unique. It’s something you don’t see everyday. It can even be a beautiful thing, in an uncommon, off-centered kind of beauty, and isn’t that the best kind there is? Besides, don’t all girls want their eyes to be unforgettable? 🙂

There are more great things about my shifty eyes, but I think those are my favorites. To my fellow shifty-eyed friends, what do you like about your eye movement? Parents, what do you love about your children’s nystagmus? I assure you, it’s not all bad. Sometimes it can be wonderful.
Jo

Nystagmus and Driving

This may be one of the most sensitive topics for people with nystagmus. As you can imagine, anything that affects your vision may affect your ability to operate a vehicle. Let’s talk about driving and nystagmus in general, and then I’ll tell you a little more about my experiences.

Can people with Nystagmus drive?

It depends on three things:

  1. How extreme the nystagmus is. It may be that a shifty eyed person needs to get a note from their optometrist/ophthalmologist saying that it is safe for them to drive.
  2. General vision. Many times nystagmus is accompanied by low vision. A person with nystagmus will need to take the same eye exam at the DMV as any other person would do. This test can be taken with glasses on, but that will mean that the driver would need to wear the glasses at all times while driving.
  3. Where the person lives. It’s my understanding that in the UK, the driving requirements are much stricter than they are here in the US, and it’s much more difficult for people with nystagmus to get a license there. Also, every state in the US has different driving requirements.

Do I Drive?

No, I do not. Can I drive? Technically, yes. In the past I have gotten my permit, and have driven a great deal. However, I have never gotten my license. Just because I can drive does not mean that I am comfortable driving. Because of the way my particular nystagmus reacts to movement, fast glances and checking blind spots are challenging. I’ve been in some close calls before. My worst nightmare is not seeing someone in time, making a movement, and then getting into a huge accident on a freeway that kills somebody.

So, for this reason (and others not having to do with nystagmus) I have chosen not to drive for the moment. This may change someday, especially if I have kids and need to drive them around. But even if I do get my license, I will probably keep driving at a minimum

Does not driving affect my life?

Yes, it does. This is probably the single greatest nystagmus-related challenge for my personal life. I live in Los Angeles, which is probably one of the biggest pro-driving societies in the world. Not driving can be seen as being irresponsible. It also means that the public transportation system is often times lacking. In order to have any kind of personal life, I depend on getting rides from other people. My friends have been great about this, but I know that sometimes it can be frustrating for other people. I try to pitch in for gas if I’m being toted around a lot.

I do have a fantastic boyfriend who is very understanding about my not driving. I won’t lie though; it has come up as an issue. I can imagine how frustrating it is when there is a family event at his house that he has to pick me up and drive me back for. It also affects how much he can drink when we go out, which isn’t fair to him. He is very kind about it, and has let me taken my time with the driving issue. He never complains to me, and for most of the time, it’s not a problem. But I can see that it’s frustrating sometimes. I struggle with a lot of guilt about this.

As far as work goes, luckily, I work just blocks away from my house, so I have avoided the challenge of getting to work for now. Whew!

So yes, driving is an issue all shifty-eyed people have to deal with. It’s a sensitive topic. No body likes to think they can’t do something simply because of the way they were born. We appreciate all the understanding and shifty-eyed love from all the “normal” sighted folks out there 🙂

xoxo

Jo

*** (Hey all, there are updates to my driving journey here and here. It’s good news!) ***

Does Nystagmus make my life suck?

In a word, No!

Or rather, if my life sucks, it’s for entirely different reasons. Like, I overdrew on my bank account (again) or my dog ate my shoes/Starbucks cup/box of chocolates that I thought was high enough up on the table but it turns out he can jump up there.

Now of course, I can only vouch for my own life. I’ve only very recently started to look for and read about other people who have Nystagmus (mostly through the internet), and I was seriously shocked to read how some people have had a really hard time coming to terms with their condition. I’ve given some thought to this, and have three things to say:

  1. Everyone has different experiences in life whether they have Nystagmus or not. Some people’s childhoods are more traumatic than others. And I’m pretty sure Junior High sucks for everyone. It may be easy to blame Nystagmus for many of life’s socially difficult situations.
  2. I’m lucky to live in a place where bullying is frowned upon and accpeting different kinds of people is taught at a very early age (thank you southern california). This isn’t true for everyone. I imagine life experiences really depend on what environment you are in.
  3. My Nystagmus is not as severe as others may be. Something that I did not know growing up is that there are many different types of eyes movements, some of which may be more noticeable than mine. Also, my null point is not particularly awkward; I look just slightly to the side. For other people who have either more intense eye movement or a more difficult null point, Nystagmus becomes a more visible condition, something that people will notice right away.

It may seem by looking on the internet that more people have a hard time with it than those whom it affects peripherally. My hope is that the majority of people with Nystagmus actually live normal lives, and the reason you can’t find those experiences online is because they have less need of support groups than those for whom it really is a challenge every day.

Now back to my life. Why didn’t it suck?

My Family

Growing up, my Nystagmus was a non-issue. Looking back, I think my parents did a FANTASTIC job of not letting me feel like I was different than anyone else. We didn’t ignore it: certainly every time I went to the eye doctor it was something that was addressed (mostly just her saying “no changes” and reminding me to relax while I read the E chart). My mom would pester me about using my null point too much (because I would often favor one eye, which was bad for the eyesight in the other eye, not because she didn’t want me to use my null point) but other than that, there wasn’t much of a need to talk about it. Really, the astigmatism that often comes with Nystagmus was more of an issue because I had to wear glasses, but astigmatism is very common. Other kids in my class had glasses for the same reason.

My Friends

I don’t know if I just lucked out, but I have never not made a friend because of my shifty eyes. Certainly children are curious about things that are different, but because I never thought of it as a disease or something that made me a freak (thanks mom and dad), I just explained what it was when they asked, and that was about it. For the most part they thought it was pretty cool. Also, most of the time when people get to know me, they completely forget that I have it to the point where they don’t even see the movement.

Example: I went to elementary school with one girl for 9 years (k-8thgrade). She was a friend, and we grew up going to each other’s birthday parties. After grade school, we went to separate high schools, and I didn’t see her again for probably 5 or 6 years. Then, we ended up both working together at the same day-care center. It was great to see her again, and it’s always fun to work with people you know. We worked side by side all that summer. One day, one of our co-workers brought up my Nystagmus in a passing conversation. She then replied, “Oh yea, I totally forgot you had that!” Even after 5 years of not seeing me, and then working with me for a few months, she STILL didn’t notice my Nystagmus! And the movement never stops, so I know it’s not because my eyes didn’t move very much.

It’s a weird phenomenon, but it happens all the time. The people close to me totally forget that I even have it.

In reality, I myself hardly ever think about it. It’s just an accepted part of my life. My vision has always been the same, and I probably think about it as much as anyone thinks about their vision. My boyfriend has really sensitive eyes (they get very dry and red, especially when he is tired) though his vision is pretty much perfect. He thinks about his eyes more than I think about mine.

So yea. Life’s pretty normal for me.

xoxo

Jo