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.

Difficulties with Nystagmus

I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend! I worked on Sunday :/

I’ve started interacting on the forum over at www.nystagmus.co.uk (check it out, it’s an awesome place with awesome people). Someone commented that my blog comes across as entirely positive, to which my reaction is…

GREAT!!  🙂  🙂 

I’m so glad because I think that too often a diagnosis of nystagmus comes along with a feeling of impending doom. Which is too bad because seriously, nystagmus takes up maybe 1% of my life, if that (although, with the blog I think about it a lot more now, but I digress…)

So yes, I’m very glad that it is coming across as positive. At the same time, I do want this blog to be realistic. Nystagmus does come with some difficulties. Low vision is frustrating. It is something that has to be accommodated. So here is my list of frustrating things about Nystagmus:

1. I can’t read menus.
Not the kind you put in front of you, but the kind that appear behind counters at sandwich shops and McDonalds. Usually I’ll ask whomever I am with to read it for me. If I’m by myself, then I just stand awkwardly close to the counter. So annoying…

2. Driving
As much as I hate to admit it, driving is an issue. I wax poetic about this topic much more in another post, but let’s just say, nystagmus does affect driving.

3. Sometimes it’s hard to look people in the eyes.
I can tell when people notice my eyes, and my first reaction is to not make them uncomfortable. This means avoiding eye contact. Eye contact is a very important social behavior that you probably don’t think about too much. By avoiding eye contact, people can get the idea that you aren’t confident, or even that you might be evasive or not trust worthy. That’s where we get the meaning behind my beloved phrase “shifty eyes” (though I’m determined to take that one back ♥ )

SO, people with nystagmus are often stuck with the dilemma of interrupting the pattern of a regular conversation by the other person being distracted by the nystagmus, or avoid direct eye contact and risk offending the other person. Can’t win…

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There are other difficulties that come up from time to time, but these are the main things I struggle with.

But can I just say, these are mostly mild irritations. I know I sound like a broken record, but my life is seriously really really normal and great 🙂 Back to being entirely positive!

xoxo

Jo

Shifty Eyes and Memory

Ha! Check out this article from telegraph.co.uk:

Shifty eyes may be a sign of good memory

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
Published: 12:01AM BST 05 May 2007

Moving your eyes from side to side for 30 seconds can boost your power of recall, researchers say.

Horizontal eye wiggles are thought to cause the two hemispheres of the brain to interact more, improving the ability to retrieve memories.

Scientists at Manchester Metropolitan University found people who made horizontal eye movements recognised significantly more previously studied words than subjects who did not make such eye movements. They also had fewer errors in their recall.

Dr Andrew Parker, whose findings are reported in the latest issue of the journal Brain and Cognition, said: “That such a straightforward experimental manipulation can bring about enhanced memory for studied information and lower the number of memory errors is quite exciting.”

The work suggests horizontal eye movements could be helping people to remember.

“We are conducting more research to clarify and extend the current findings,” Dr Parker said yesterday.

“It may help someone recall an important piece of information for an exam.”

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Cool, huh! Now, it’s only one study, not exactly about nystagmus and the publication isn’t scientific, BUT wouldn’t that be awesome if it were totally true? It’s like we have super powers 🙂

xoxo

Jo

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

Job – Yes, I have one!

Whew, it’s been a while since I’ve posted! But don’t worry, I’m back. I’ve just been super busy at work….

…because yes, I work! I went to college and got all edumicatedand everything. As I’ve started to reach out to my shifty-eyed community, I’ve learned that one of parents’ biggest concerns is whether or not their child with nystagmus will be able to work in a normal environment. Which shocked me, because it was something I had never even thought about. Of course I would work, how else do you live?

So, as a person with low vision, what do I do?

I’m a book editor! Yep. I read and edit manuscripts and turn them into books. I also manage the production process, which means I work with the designers who make it pretty, work with the printers who will make lots of them, and various other small jobs that you never think about, but need to be done to turn a manuscript into a genuine, beautiful, readable book.

It’s important to remember that people with low vision (or no vision at all for that matter) certainly enjoy reading just like everybody else. I was an avid reader as a child. For a few years, my bedroom was in our family’s library. I slept surrounded by hundreds of books collected over many many years (some date back to the late 19th century). Literally, anytime I wanted I could reach out and pull a book off the shelves. I began Milton’s Paradise Lost this way when I was about 10.  I can still smell the pages; books are very comforting to me.

Now obviously, my nystagmus is not so bad that I cannot read regular print books. Many shifty-eyed people out there may need a little help. However, there are a great many resources for low vision readers, and millions of books are produced in Braille every year. if you have a child with nystagmus (or if you have nystagmus) encourage them to read! Reading is so important to the development of any child.

And though some careers will not be available to people with nystagmus (i.e. the military) most careers are wide open to those who have the dedication and confidence to pursue them.

To my shifty-eyed friends, what do you do for a living?

xoxo

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!) ***

Welcome to the Shifty Eyes blog!

Featured

Helloooo out there! I’m Jo, the founder and sole blogger (so far) for the Shifty Eyes blog.

A bit about me:

You can always check out my About page, but for those who don’t feel like clicking the link, I’ll just tell you again. I’m a young person who is trying to navigate through newly acquired adulthood. By trade I’m a corporate paralegal, by night I’m a superhero. I also happen to live with a condition called Nystagmus.

Ok, I’m not really a superhero.

A bit about Nystagmus:

The most basic definition is “involuntary eye movement.” There are many different forms of Nystagmus, of which I will not go into great detail here. Mine is called “Congenital Nystagmus” which is a fancy term that means I’ve had it since I was born or shortly after. My particular eye movements are pendular; they move in a smooth horizontal motion, very quickly back and forth. The condition is permanent. There is currently no cure or even effective treatment. It’s difficult to explain Nystagmus and what it’s like to live with it in a paragraph, which is why I have dedicated a whole blog to this particular aspect of my life.

Why a blog?

Turns out, there’s not a lot of shifty-eyed love out there. Only in the past 15 or so years have there been any organized support or information out there for people living with Nystagmus and their loved ones. While these organizations are great when it comes to learning about the physical condition, there is not a lot out there that explains what it’s like to live day to day. Most shifty-eyed people live their entire lives without meeting anyone else who knows what it’s like.

This blog is for all of those people who have Nystagmus but who don’t know anyone else going through the same experiences. It’s also for parents of children with Nystagmus who want to know what it’s like to grow up with the condition. And for everyone else out there, who knows? You may know and love someone with shifty eyes, or you may in the future. I’ll probably also insert my opinions about life and the world in general here and there, because hey, it’s my blog.

xoxo

Jo