I’ve always been excited about the idea of learning and reading. The prospect that hard work and intelligence pays off and gets you a better outcome. I had trouble learning how to read so my mother stepped in and gave me some extra tutoring before bedtime on a magnetic blackboard I had in my bedroom. Later I took over and often was one of the best in my class through hard work. But already from a young age it took a lot of time and effort to complete my assignments at night so I couldn’t do much else. School was providing the basics but I wanted to know more. Since my eyes would be ‘used up’ after school and after homework I would lay aside newspaper articles and books to read later ‘when I would have time’. Maybe somewhere in summer. When I discovered the beauty of a computer, its storage capabilities and the endless possibilities of the internet I was immediately drawn to this machine but somehow there was something stopping me from learning all the ins and outs. I learned more than most people but all in all I wasn’t satisfied by how little I knew and how hard it was for me to focus on and read the screen. Still, I was inspired by how this machine connected me to the world. Mind you, we are talking windows 98. I even figured out where the problem in the information chain to my brain was located. Information was flowing up on my screen quick as lightening and I wasn’t stupid, I knew that much. So what the hell was going on? The only connection between the screen and my brain was the visual. At least I could already thank Steve Jobs for a graphic interface by then but there was something about my eyes holding me back. Looking back in time there were a lot of indications… As a teenager I would tell my mother things like ‘It’s like I’m merely a spectator, I don’t really feel as if I’m present IN the situation.’ I still don’t really know what stereovision must be like but I’m fairly sure it will address this. There were countless striking remarks and behavioral tendencies I exhibited that should have rang a bell with one of the many medical and educational workers I met during my life time…

Granted, most times I wouldn’t take a flying start when it comes to learning new things but in the end I could always do it. Whatever it was: learning a language, math, solving a computer problem that no one else at home knew how to… It was just about keeping at it. Just because things are harder on me it doesn’t mean I can’t do it, I believed. Eye doctors had always told there is nothing to be done and I trusted in the idea that they knew what they were talking about. Even if I wouldn’t have trusted them… I recently corrected the Dutch (my native language) Wikipedia page myself. The paradox of strabismus: we aren’t good at reading but no one is telling us the truth so sooner or later we will have to read up on the subject.

Notwithstanding some troubles and alarming signs along the way in high school, I went to university with a combative mindset. At the time I had this cell phone allowing me to have a welcoming message shown on the screen when switched on. I set ‘IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING’ after the Adidas ads running at the time and I surely meant it. I must have been the most asocial student in freshman year. Not because I lack the social skills, but I just didn’t have the time and energy for it. Given my slow reading pace I had to read and study every single day, and it would take me hours to get through a few pages. You can probably guess what my credo was at the time: ‘Not because it’s hard , I can’t do it.’ Every single move of every single day was designed to complete my first year at university successfully managing my visual abilities trying to obtain the best result. What I didn’t expect was that my visual situation and ability to concentrate would change dramatically by trying to be a good student. In hindsight I’ve just fought my vision for 4 years, there hasn’t really been a winner since I was on both sides… Already during the second half of the first year I started experiencing double vision. That was five years ago and if you want to know more about how it was handled you should read my very first post. The complete visual system was coming down, taking the rest with it. The most appropriate way to describe the whole story is by using the German word “Schlimmbesserung”. The word describes an effort to make things better that actually ends up making things worse. It’s incredible what kind of trust people have in doctors and how little people care if it’s not happening to them. That German word is pretty cool though.

 It is safe to say there has always been a ‘glass ceiling’ when it comes to learning for me. The harder you try to break it, the deeper you will be cut by the sharp edges and pay the price in health problems. Not trying to break that glass ceiling will cost you in other ways. There is no easy way out of this, unless you are one of the lucky few whose parents accidently found out about Vision Therapy. My VT friend Robert brought an interesting book to my attention. “Suddenly Successful: How Behavioral Optometry Helps You Overcome Learning, Health and Behavior Problems.” After reading ‘Fixing my gaze’ by Susan Barry I had this eye opening revelation, along with many other people, that all this time I had been fighting the wrong battles and an explanation for why they had been so unreasonably hard. ‘Groundbreaking neuroscience!’, I thought. It certainly is. Interestingly enough, the other book I just mentioned was published in 1991…

“When you give remedial education, tutoring or counseling to youngsters with vision imbalances, it’s like trying to drive your car with the brakes on. You won’t get too far. Would you try to nail down floorboards without a hammer? As this federally funded study has shown, learning problems and antisocial behavior change after optometric vision therapy. Once some harmony and balance exists in the vision system, then the youngsters can begin to benefit from traditional education.” ,- Suddenly Successful: How Behavioral Optometry Helps You Overcome Learning, Health and Behavior Problems

I’m not going to go into the incomprehensible cover-up of visual rehabilitation, but it is clear that its absence has left a lot of unlocked potential still to unlock within me and within millions of other people. When things got really bad and kept getting worse, I wondered if there would be anything in the world that would make it worth suffering this much for. ‘Fixing my gaze’ gave me a hint of what it could be. That book didn’t come one second too early… I had always felt like a tiger in a cage, the cage being my own body. The cage kept getting smaller and smaller. Now someone was telling me about a way to break free! It’s like I’ve been living in this altered version of reality my whole life and now I have this unsatisfiable urge to become who I was supposed to be. As Susan Barry states in a more recent article: ‘gaining stereovision was one of the most empowering, liberating experiences of my life’. I really believe it is and I will achieve it or I will die trying. Not because it’s hard I can’t do it, right?

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