I have had the opportunity to view a lot of blogs popping up about nystagmus (yay!), and I noticed that the majority seem to be by parents and not by people who actually have nystagmus.
At first I was rather surprised. And then I thought about it. For the most part, children don’t really notice the nystagmus. They don’t know the difference between what they see and what is “normal.” I myself did not even know what it looked like until I was a young adult. And when I did finally see it, it freaked me out! Even though I knew a decent amount about the condition and have lived with it forever, it was still unnerving.
And now I know why there are more blogs by parents than by my fellow shifty-eyed friends. It can be scary as hell to see the first time, and I can’t even imagine what it feels like to discover it in your newborn, especially when you have no idea what it is. And you know what? I officially give you permission to feel the following:
Because holy crap, their eyes are not supposed to move like that! In the beginning, parents can go into a headspin about all the different things they think it could signify: loss of sight, neurological disorders, etc. etc. This is a condition that is not widely known, nor is there a great effort to educate the public.
Because this is not what you signed up for. You signed up for a normal child, not one with a disability. Yes, this is a common emotion, and that is totally ok. Be mad! It sucks! but then I promise after a while, you will realize that your child is totally normal, and that this is not necessarily a “disability.” I encourage you to experience this emotion as a part of processing the diagnosis, but I also encourage you to after a while, be open to the fact that this may not be as big a deal as you think it will be.
Frustrated at the lack of information
And let me tell you, I am with you on this one. I think it’s especially hard on parents. You want to be as informed as possible so that you can help your child deal with it. And you know what? You and I together, along with all of our other shifty-eyed friends and parents, we can change the lack of information out there. Write your blogs, talk to the few people who are conducting research. And talk to people like me and to other parents who are going through the same thing. In this way, we can get our own “research.” We can learn from each other.
But I hope that after a while, you step back from all of the hard core scouring of the internet and enjoy time with your child. Because it will make you crazy. And because, look! Your baby is so freakin’ cute! It is WAY more fun to play with them than to be glued to the computer screen! And oftentimes, it is more beneficial to them in the long run. They know there is nothing “wrong” with them; they just want to spend time with Mom and Dad!
Frustrated at some doctor’s “bedside manner” or lack thereof
Man, I’ve heard some awful stories. My own pediatric ophthalmologist was a saint, and I associated going to the eye doctor with watching Yogi Bear cartoons and getting a toy afterwards if I did not cry (As a side note, bribing works. I’m still able to take eye drops without a problem). But not everyone is so lucky. Also, many eye doctors are dismissive. My secret belief is that it’s because they only know enough about the condition to diagnose it and rule out other more “serious” conditions. Which is frustrating.
This one is the extremely large and sensitive elephant in the room. Many, let me repeat that, MANY parents experience shame of their child. They feel ashamed when someone looks at them funny or makes a comment. They don’t want people to see their babies. They wish their children were like other children.
And this comes with a huge amount of guilt.
Parents, I want you to know that it is TOTALLY NORMAL to feel this way, and so, so common. And you know what? It will go away, I promise. Please do not beat yourself up over this. I have nystagmus, and I do not blame you at all. You are human beings. The only thing I ask is that if you do experience this, you never let on to your kids, even once the feeling goes away. If my parents felt ashamed, they never ever told me, even after I grew up. And I think that it’s because of this that I can look at it more objectively now. But please, find an outlet. Blog! Talk to others who have felt the same way! It’s amazing how a little understanding can help heal all wounds.
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So Parents, thus ends my love letter to you, and it is a love letter. You have a tough job, way tougher than us shifty-eyed people do. I so admire you and appreciate all that you go through for your children. Remember to relax and enjoy them.
I will end with a little note from me to you: It’s going to be ok 🙂