Kathleen Valenti / Post

Know thyself.

I used to hate my guts.

Not literally, of course, and not metaphorically in the door-slamming, I’m-never-speaking-to-you-again way of teenagers. I’m talking about my refusal to listen to my gut, to heed my instincts, to trust my intuition or the possibility that I know myself best.

Case in point: a recent health event.

About a year ago, I started having issues with my right eye. It would water incessantly upon waking, then blur, sting and otherwise annoy me for the remainder of the day. Some suggested that vanity was the cause. Wasn’t I wearing a new mascara? Hadn’t I tried a different under-eye concealer?  Didn’t I use a variety of elixirs and potions to send crow’s feet flying?

Well, yes. I guess so. But this felt different. Almost dangerous. Then I remembered: more than six months earlier, I had gotten rubbing alcohol in my eye on a camping trip. (THAT’S another blog for another day.)

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The scene of the crime–er accident–now disguised by snow.

Could the chemical be the cause, lo these many months later and despite the fact I had no previous symptoms?

Confident I was onto something, I visited the ophthalmologist. He listened to my story, gave the standard sympathetic head tilt and nod combo, and told me I had an allergy. I was given eye drops and sent on my way.

Spoiler alert: they didn’t work.

So I went back to the same office a month later, where I saw a different doctor who was on call. He agreed with the allergy assessment and added that I may also have a tear duct problem. Evidently, I don’t cry correctly.

The months crawled by. A new book went to print. I started another. My eye grew worse.

The voices around me told me that I should maintain the doctors’ regimens. They knew best. Yet one voice said they were wrong: my own.

It wasn’t until my best friend echoed that voice and urged me to see a specialist that I finally listened.

I went to a new doctor’s office with an apology on my lips.

It’s probably just an allergy, I said.

I have a tear duct problem, I reported.

I’m sure it’s not the alcohol I’d gotten in my eye 18+ months earlier, I declared.

The doctor examined me, longer and more thoroughly than the others. The diagnosis: corneal erosion.

The caustic chemical that I had gotten in my eye had damaged my cornea’s cell structure so severely that new cells wouldn’t correctly adhere, causing pain and, as it turned out, vision loss.

The good news: the damage and its side effects are likely largely reversible with a prescription ointment applied over the next year.

The other good news: I learned a valuable lesson about listening to myself. (Never mind that it took listening to my friend to get me to do it.)

I’ve gotten a lot of advice over the years, from whether to swaddle my babies to where to go to college to how to write a book. As the years wear on, I’m working on balancing taking in the good, sifting out the bad. Separating wheat from chaff, outside insights from internal understanding.

I find that, save for the eye incident, I’m getting better at it, especially where writing is concerned. I know the stories I want to tell and how I want to tell them. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. In either case, it’s gratifying to know that I have myself to blame. Or thank.

So as 2019 spreads before me, shiny with promise and possibility, I’m keeping my ears open to what I think, what I feel, and what I want.

I’m also making sure that the bottles in our camper are correctly labeled.

How about you, dear friends? Do you know your own mind and follow it? Are you apt to put others’ advice ahead of your own? Or is the whole thing a work in progress as we discern which trails to blaze and which to follow with the guidance of the Siris in our lives?

 

 

 

 

54 thoughts on “Know thyself.

  1. Great post. Hindsight is wonderful, isn’t it? I remember asking my husband his opinion of something. He told me that I have good instincts and to listen to them. I think we all need to listen to our instincts or intuition, and more importantly, act on them.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I learned that lesson with my children and their doctors. One of them, I swear, was trying to kill my son. I did get him kicked out of the practice, but, as usually happens, I’m sure he moved to another state and resumed practice. With everything, but especially with health, we DO know best. If it’s not working, if it feels wrong, if it sounds wrong, we need to listen. I’m VERY glad you got your vision saved!! What an ordeal!

    Liked by 5 people

  3. So happy your eye problem was finally diagnosed properly! Fortunately for me, my ophthalmologists are all Johns Hopkins doctors at the Wilmer Eye Clinic, so I trust them completely. I’ve had tear duct problems (I had to have stents inserted into the ducts) since I have dry eyes, but now I’m having some cornea issues also. I’m glad you persisted and listened to your gut instinct.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. A very touching story. I am happy you are on the mend!
    As for me falling my advice? Nope! I am too close to any situation for me to see what’s really going on.
    For example, a coworker can ask me advice on a problem, and I give the right answer immediately. But when I have the exact same question, I can’t seem to find the answer.
    The same goes for my health. I just can’t seem to deal what is wrong with me, but I keep yelling at my family when they ignore something they have wrong.
    Maybe this year will be different?

    Liked by 4 people

  5. It’s hard to find that balance between listening to ourselves and knowing when to trust others. Especially when those others are supposed to know what they are talking about. I still struggle with that myself.

    Glad you saw that specialist.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Wow, so glad the issue is treatable, Kathy! I have now wandered into that middle-aged-woman dry eye problem (which is why I now were eye glasses more than contact lenses). Our eyes are so precious, and it’s scary when things start happening to them!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Yes! So true!! The doctor who finally (correctly) diagnosed the problem gently reminded me that if my eyes hurt or I have unexpected vision changes, I NEED to come in. It seemed like a “well, doy” statement, but obviously one I needed to hear! Our eyes–and health!–are too important to ignore.

    Sending you moisturized-eye vibes! ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Oh, Kathy, that’s really scary — so glad your eyes and vision are going to be okay! About three years ago I got fed up with doctors doing it by the numbers, telling me my blood work looked fine — when I felt far from fine! I started going to a holistic doctor, who among other things, found I had some serious, but easily treatable, vitamin deficiencies. Within three months I felt so much better — and was angry that no doctor had bothered to test me for that sooner!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Glad you’re eyes are on the mend, Kathleen.

    I’m horrible at taking my own advice. Absolutely horrible. Because taking my own advice usually means putting myself ahead of someone else and I have a terrible “eldest child” responsibility complex. I might need something desperately, like new underwear, but do I buy it? No, because they money is always “better spent” somewhere else.

    Liked by 4 people

    • So true!! It’s incredibly easy to put ourselves last, especially if we’re carrying around that responsibility.

      Lately, I’ve been telling myself that taking care of myself is akin to putting on my oxygen mask first during an air emergency. I can’t help anyone unless I’m in shape to do so. (I typically use this analogy when talking about coffee, but it works for everything!)

      Buy yourself underwear, Liz–plus something completely non-essential!

      Liked by 4 people

  10. OMG, Kathy, what a great post! SO glad you’re doing better. I just interviewed a woman who had breast cancer for 2 years before it went diagnosed because she was only thirty. It took her two years to listen to her own instincts. She’s fine now, but what a nightmare of a journey.

    USE THOSE DROPS! XOXO

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Kathy, I am so glad you stuck with it to get the correct diagnosis! Phew! I unfortunately seem to have the opposite problem: I feel too strongly about my gut feelings! (I was also once married to a medical student, so I feel as if I earned a full-fledged degree, lol.)

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Thank goodness it’s reversible! Nobody needs to learn a lesson with permanent vision damage! I hear you, though. The tumor in my spine was surely just a little knot under my shoulder blade, right? Um, nope. Luckily I didn’t have to learn a hard permanent lesson, either.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Great post and sorry to be late chiming in. Friday was hellish. First, OMG! I’m so glad you changed doctors.

    I had a similar experience with a veterinarian who was quite nice and very personable but she ended up shortening my dog’s life and making that dog quite miserable for what was the end of her life by refusing to listen to me. The dog got osteomyletis from a surgery she had done. Two corrective surgeries later and a wound infection under a bandage that she refused to change because she couldn’t smell what I could smell led to a wound never healed meaning the dog lived in an E-collar for the last 1.5 years of her life. And then she got an incurable fatal version of a doggy staph infection. The emergency vet told me to change doctors and I did but the cascading events were unstoppable by then.

    Lots of guilt and remorse. I’m glad you got your eye taken care of.

    Liked by 1 person

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