When I was a child, I thought I had a magic power to move the world with my eyes. Since I was cross-eyed, my brain switched from eye to eye, giving the impression that objects were moving.
In the former Soviet Union, I was sent to a preschool for the developmentally disabled because of my eyes. In the US, I had my first eye operation that left me with a lazy eye. One eye focused on the person I was speaking to, while the other eye wandered off, causing people looking at me to be confused. Kids called me “four eyes” and made fun of my thick Coke-bottle glasses. At age 17, I wanted to end the embarrassment. I asked my ophthalmologist for a second operation to cosmetically straighten my eyes. After the second surgery, my eyes appeared to be straight but they were still slightly misaligned. Since my magic power went away because my eyes were closer together, I thought I saw like everyone else.
At age 29, I was shocked to find out that I saw flat and had 2D vision. For the 3% of the population with asymmetrical eyes, the brain cannot fuse the images from the eyes to create a 3D image.
I was furious that none of my doctors had ever informed me or my parents that I was partially blind and that vision therapy could improve my depth perception. For years, I thought I was stupid for having trouble walking downstairs, driving and being clumsy at sports. I wasn’t stupid. I had been neglected by the medical system.
I am part of the 10% of the population with a hidden disability. While going through vision therapy, I struggled describing my condition and how my depth perception and visual acuity were getting better. Some friends and family didn’t believe me because I “looked normal.” It’s hard to recognize a handicap and limitations when the disabilities are invisible.
I speak out about binocular vision issues to un-hide this hidden disability.
Magic isn’t when we move objects with our eyes. Magic happens when we give voice to the invisible.
With a Perspective, this is Susanna Zaraysky.
Susanna Zaraysky, resides in Cupertino and is the author of a book on her experiences.