Surprises of Lasik: A Librarian’s Tale

With exception to the extremely liberal political beliefs (libertarian, here – both sides be cray), I would openly admit that I fit most stereotypes of librarianism. I post more pictures of my cat on Instagram than I do of my husband, mostly because the former is more photogenic. Children toss my gifts aside, knowing that they’re books or hats I’ve crocheted. I care more about your Hogwarts House than your astrological sign and own more than one item that brands me a Ravenclaw. I wear more cardigans than Mr. Rogers and am forever the proud nerdy girl… with the 20/1100 vision to prove it.

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I got my first pair of glasses in the second grade and if my parents had been present enough to make me actually wear them, my vision probably wouldn’t have been near as bad as it was by middle school, when I finally got contacts. By high school, I’d embraced my bespectacled nerdy identity, though, and rarely chose contacts over glasses. I actually enjoyed glasses as an accessory and still miss the bejeweled red cats eye pair I wore in the 10th grade. As an adult, I’ve owned several cute pair and once readily and confidently told a man off for trying to “neg” me about them.

Him: “You look cute without your glasses.”giphy3

Me: “Thank you. I look cute with my glasses, too.”

I bought my favorite pair last year and regularly received compliments on them, with their touch of sparkle on the corners and on the temples. I like wearing glasses. What I don’t like, is not being able to see without them, at all. When I lived alone, forgetting where I put my glasses was a unique hell. I’d stumble around checking all the routine places I could’ve left them: on the back of the couch, the kitchen counter, the shelving in my headboard. Since Jake and I got married, it hasn’t been a rare occurrence for me to call to him from the other room, because I’ve misplaced my dark brown glasses on our dark wood furniture, before getting in the shower.

Awkwardly adding glasses to any activity best enjoyed sans glasses isn’t much better. Fortunately it wasn’t too cold when Jake and I went skiing, because wearing goggles over glasses didn’t work nearly as well as placing 3D glasses over them… which also sucks. Just last month, Jake and I went canoeing with my family and when the canoe tipped, I was lucky I didn’t lose them entirely, especially considering the fact that I hadn’t brought another pair. Sure, contacts might be an option, but they cost $50 per set and aside from my wedding day, I could never justify them as a priority. Even then, I wore the trial pair and never actually bought any, because while I might prefer the photos and can generally enjoy outdoor activities with contacts, they don’t allow me to focus on anything up close. My vision is just not sharp enough for anything but glasses. Or it wasn’t, until now.

After 10 years of longing for it, I finally got Lasik last Friday. It was actually one of my conditions for having children. Yes, I want kids, but I don’t want to chase them around the bathtub or the lake or my grandmother’s pool without the luxury of sight. I’m also not fool enough to think $4,600 elective eye surgery is going to be anywhere on our list after we buy a house and have babies. It was sort of a now or never deal in my mind and the realist in me had begrudgingly accepted it as the latter, until this past June, when I had the opportunity to max out my flex account. I made an appointment with the major Lasik provider in the area, was approved for $2000 in zero interest financing, and the surgery was scheduled. After years of frustration that I couldn’t even function without my glasses, of knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that this would be my demise in the zombie apocalypse, it was actually happening!

Y’all, for a long time, I have prided myself on my awareness of advertisments. My bachelors degree was heavy in marketing and nutrition, so I’ve always been critical of claims like “gluten free” and “natural” and “30% free!” There’s never been gluten in sugar; the word natural has no legal definition; and it’s not free if it’s more per ounce. So I’m a little disappointed in myself for being as surprised as I was by some of the consequences of Lasik that don’t seem to be widely published. Such as…

It fucking hurts.

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Zetus, lapetus, you guys, Lasik is painful. Everyone I’ve ever spoken to downplayed how awful this procedure would be. All of the ads and doctors told me I’d feel some “discomfort.” My “discomfort” expectation was having a tooth pulled. My reality, however, was having all of my wisdom teeth out. While the actual surgery didn’t hurt, by the time Jake and I got from the Metro to Cherokee, I actually thought something had gone  wrong, I was in so much pain. My eyes were on fire and Jake immediately turned around and drove back to the surgery center, where they told me everything was fine. I was healing “beautifully” and “discomfort” was to be expected.

As much as I wanted this procedure, at one point, I actually told Jake that I wouldn’t have gotten it, had I known how much pain I would feel. When I texted the doctor to tell him I felt like I had sand in my eyes (downplaying that it really felt like someone had ground sand into my eyes), he said it was totally normal. Every source online agreed, stating that while it wouldn’t be painful, I’d feel like I had something in my eye. SINCE WHEN IS THAT NOT PAINFUL?!?! They all suggested I just sleep all day, but it’s hard to sleep when your eyes are melting out of your damn head like you’ve just looked at the Ark of the Covenant. It’s also hard to sleep sitting up in sunglasses, which is required for the first 24 hours.

Perhaps it’s just me. Maybe I’m a little bitch and Lasik isn’t that rough. Maybe, though, everyone just forgets how much it hurts, because they’re so glad to be rid of glasses. Which brings me to my next point.

I kind of miss my glasses. 

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I’m a librarian, folks. Glasses are part of the uniform. I’m like a superhero without a cape, over here. Without my glasses, my hair falls differently and my face looks weird. I’m seriously considering bangs, because I have too much visible forehead. I’m a makeup every day girl, for the most part, but with glasses, it’s not super obvious when you skip out on the eye makeup… which you have to do for two weeks after Lasik.

Glasses were a pain in the ass, as a necessity, but they were kind of fun and cute as an accessory. I just got health insurance in the past two years, so my cutest pairs are relatively new and stylish. Jake has always liked me in glasses and has suggested I get the lenses replaced with clear glass, but that feels a little silly… like wearing a fake cast and we all know where Ted Bundy ended up.

I wore contacts off and on through high school, but as an adult, it’s been a rarity to see myself without my glasses. It’s not that I don’t like the look. I chose to wear contacts at my wedding for a reason. It’s just that I don’t look like me yet and it’s honestly a little jarring. It’ll take some time to get used to Belle Sans Glasses. However…

It really was worth it.

I’m not gonna downplay it, because half the frustration was in the surprise. I had a bad weekend, y’all. A coworker told me the night before my surgery that I’d smell my own eyeballs burning and he was right. What he didn’t know, though, was that the sheer terror of moving a millimeter in the wrong direction, outweighed any disgust I’d feel. Everyone talks about Lasik like an in-and-out thing and it is… but it’s really scary. I wasn’t just awake for the procedure. I was an active participant. If I looked away from the green light, I can only assume that the laser plastic surgery scene from Logan’s Run would’ve been the result. It was tense and nerve wracking and there was only one chance to get it right. After the fact, for whatever reason, having my corneas burned down was shockingly painful and I was miserable for three days.

On Monday, though, Jake and I went to the movies. We saw Annabelle: Creation and for the first time, I was able to shove my face in his shoulder during the scary parts, without skewing my glasses. My eyes were tired and dry afterward, but I couldn’t wait to see a 3D movie wearing only one set of glasses! That night, I was able to read in bed for the first time, without worrying about falling asleep in glasses. I woke up and reached for glasses, but they weren’t there.

In February, Jake and I are planning a ski trip. I’ll be able to wear the goggles this time. The next time we go hiking, I won’t have to suffer through contacts, because I can finally wear just $10 sunglasses. When I give birth, I’ll actually be able to see my baby, cuz no one keeps their glasses on during childbirth. I’ll have slightly better chances of survival in the ZA, because sight or no, I’m still so much The Indoor Girl. The pain has mostly subsided one week later and while I wish someone had informed me of the cost, they were right about the benefits. Still, this librarian misses her cape a bit.

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I’m glad I wasn’t hot as a teenager.

Growing up, I was not only chubby, but also an early bloomer. This meant that I was naturally taller than the other kids my age and grew breasts sooner. In the sixth grade, when the other girls still wore t-shirts with glittery puppies on them, I shopped in the women’s section and experimented with taping down my breasts like Roberta in Now and Then. Spoiler alert: don’t.

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I also happened to have a mother who swung between the extremes of neglectful and overindulgent, letting me go without a bra and put on extra weight in the first place, only to eventually fight the insurance companies to fund my breast reduction at age 15.

It wasn’t until I was 24 years old and 90 pounds lighter than a year before, that I began to consider diet and exercise just a part of life for all people and not just those who struggle with their weight. My high school years were spent watching TV, playing the Sims, and enjoying Elevensies and Fourth Meal, before they were cool. My favorite outfit was pretty much stolen straight from She’s All That, consisting of combat boots with ribbons for laces, overalls, a turtleneck, and thick black framed glasses. I wasn’t morbidly obese at the time, but I wasn’t Rachel Leigh Cook, either. Since I was never great with makeup and still prefer portable drug store options, 15-year-old Belle was pretty strictly a concealer and lip balm gal, on a fancy day. In short, I was never that girl who wore Abercrombie and Fitch.

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It. Was. Awesome.

Y’all, I got to do the high school thing without any of the “I have nothing to wear! I’m not going!” crap that I’m faced with on a daily basis, now. I was a lot of things in high school. I was smart, funny, driven, mouthy, relatively responsible, creative, loyal, and insightful. Being hot, having people appreciate my appearance first, was just never a priority for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not entirely consumed with my appearance, today. I often rejoice over the fact that I’m officially old enough to be mistaken as an overworked stay-at-home mom, on the rare occasion that I go out in an oversized t-shirt, Star Trek pants, and flip flops. When I’m at work, however, it’s all A-line Zooey Deschanel dresses, cardigans, and full makeup and jewelry. I have to be a professional, these days, and that takes a lot more work.

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Still, even at my most dolled up, I’m not what an average guy would refer to as “hot.” I have nice legs, hair, and clear skin. I’ve also never seen my own ab muscles and don’t know how to use foundation. I’ve never been comfortable in a bikini, even outside of my own standards of modesty, because I’m still… soft. Extreme weight loss comes with stretch marks, no matter how you do it and honestly, I don’t really mind. Yes, yes, I’d love to be 20 pounds lighter and it’s certainly a goal, but this is good, too. In fact, it was good at 24. It’s awesome now.

Y’all, I am officially at a point in my life where everyone is soft. The girls I envied in high school, who could put away 4,000 calories and still maintain their lithe, athletic figures no longer run five miles a day. The one who wore that prom dress with the slit cut to her waist only gets to exercise when she’s chasing her two kids around the McDonald’s play yard. We’re all wearing mom jeans now and I have fifteen years of experience on the high school hot girls. When I look back at my nerdy girl, awkward years photos, the nostalgia isn’t tainted by envy. There was only one way to go from Carrie White bleeding in the locker room showers and that was up… or you know, to prom with fire. Fortunately, I chose the former and I am in my hot years, now.

Living in Fear: A Millennial without Health Insurance

I don’t have health insurance.

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That’s right. I’m 28 years old. I’ve had a house fire, a miscarriage, a divorce decree with my name on it, a bachelor’s degree, a teaching certificate, a master’s degree, more student loan debt than I’m willing to admit here, and a car payment. I’m an adult in all these ways, but I’ve spent most of my adult life without health insurance.

To be clear, I am not blaming anyone. That’s not the point of this post. I made my choices, starting with the decision to marry at 19, kicking me off of my father’s insurance and continuing with the decision to pursue a master’s degree, rather than enter the workforce as a full time teacher, earning me benefits. Just as the aforementioned student loan debt is no one’s fault but my own, so goes my lack of health insurance… and it sucks balls.

You hear the statistics of uninsured Americans and occasionally someone posts a Go Fund Me link on Facebook telling the horrifying tale of a 27-year-old melanoma victim who just wants to live until her son’s fifth birthday. No one ever talks about what it’s like to just be uninsured. No one really mentions the people who simply can’t justify paying a $200 monthly premium for government mandated coverage with a $3,000+ deductible, just so they can get a couple of asthma inhalers every year. The penalty for not doing so, by the way, is still less than two months of this worthless “insurance.” Personally, I’m a professional researcher and found a loophole, so I’ve never paid the penalty, but it would still be my preferred choice… which means living without health insurance.

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During college, I didn’t feel the effects of my lack of coverage so much. My mother did fund a root canal, after the dentist refused to start pulling teeth from a 20-year-old (glad it wasn’t a broken arm, Mom), but despite my morbid obesity, I was generally pretty healthy. I suppose the most profound healthcare issue I had was my miscarriage, but my state government actually has a fair resource for low-income pregnant women… emphasis on the word fair.

When I got pregnant, I received WIC and state funded doctor’s visits, so I could eat well and get the prenatal care I needed. God had other plans, though, and at 11 and a half weeks, I lost the baby. According to americanpregnancy.org, after 10 weeks, the chances of an incomplete miscarriage rise. I was nearly to my second trimester, but after a tearful few hours in the emergency room, I was sent home. I wasn’t referred to a physician, who could prescribe me pain medication. I wasn’t told to report for an ultrasound in a week to make sure pieces of my dead baby weren’t left behind, which could potentially kill me. I was sent home… without instructions of what level of pain to expect or how long I would bleed. That’s what it’s like to miscarry on low-income health insurance.

About a year later, I received a call from my step-mom telling me that I would once again qualify for my dad’s Blue Cross Blue Shield, until age 26. At this time, I was 23, so three years with insurance was a saving grace after five without.

As my 26th birthday neared, I made a half dozen doctors’ appointments. I got a pap smear and an eye exam and a final teeth cleaning. I visited the chiropractor as many times as I could and made an arrangement with one to let me pay cash after my coverage expired. Thankfully, when I hurt my back at 24, I was insured, because there’s no other way I could’ve afforded the treatment to gain the ability to fully straighten my right leg. On the eve of my 26th birthday, I prayed. I asked God to please grant me my health until I got a full time position and the benefits it afforded… as I did for the next two and a half years.

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When you don’t have health insurance, you live in constant fear of injury. live in constant fear of injury, regardless, because I regularly hit my head, but without insurance, everything is a risk. A trip to the wildlife refuge reminds you of the story you read about the guy who was bit by a rattlesnake there, while hiking. A day of swimming makes you question every mole you’ve ever had. An ice storm has you envisioning the bills attached to a fractured wrist. When your best friend buys you a heat gun for Christmas, you vow to save it for the day you get your insurance card. Even dating has you wondering about how much birth control will cost out of pocket and what to do in the case of an unwanted pregnancy. Every single sickness, no matter how normal, calls to mind the fundraiser for the woman who found out she had breast cancer at age 25. When your long-term boyfriend asks you to go on a romantic ski weekend with him, you recall the article about the woman who’s in debt for the next fifty years after being airlifted to a hospital.

It doesn’t improve your nerves that every concerned family member tells horror stories about people they’ve known without health insurance. Over Christmas, I had to explain to an aunt that, no, I wasn’t lucky I hadn’t gotten leukemia like her first husband did at 29; I was a statistical norm. Awkwardly, I also had to note that it wasn’t worth paying the premium because I was of “prime childbearing age,” because I’m not a candidate for the Mother of Christ.

I’m a pretty consistent blogger, y’all. I know there are times when I’m a bit more reliable than others, but I can usually be counted on to post every week or two, but I’ve been terribly ill. Last Monday, I woke in the morning to feverish chills and shaking. I called in to work, thinking it was a one day thing, happy I at least had paid sick leave. The next day, I woke feeling worse, after a night of getting up to pee every few minutes. After calling in sick, I pulled up my trusty physician Google, who reported I had a bladder infection. It wasn’t urgent, I read. I just had to drink a lot of water and it would be over in a couple of days. What a relief. I had an important training Wednesday morning. As long as it didn’t get to my kidneys, I was fine. Y’all, I literally felt the moment the infection entered my kidneys, during that training. After 30 minutes of sitting in rapidly increasing pain, I asked to speak to my boss in the hall… where I broke down and told him I had to go to the doctor.

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I drove 80 miles an hour to the Urgent Care clinic, sobbing to my Gramma, who told me to go and she’d pay for it. When I arrived, I was informed that my visit, which took all of 15 minutes, would cost $130. A nurse took me to the back, took my temperature, asked my weight instead of weighing me, and put me in a room. A doctor came in, asked my symptoms and agreed with Google. He literally did zero research and just prescribed an antibiotic and something for the pain.

I keep telling people that I was really sick, but no one seems to get how far the infection had apparently progressed. While the doctor seemed to think I might be able to make it to work the next day, the increasing pain seemed to disagree. My body didn’t seem to be responding to the antibiotics at all… not that I could afford to get a second opinion. That night, the pain was so intense that I went through my medicine cabinet and found some muscle relaxers, hoping they’d help me sleep… because I’d developed a sharp pain in my right side.

According to Google, I could be suffering from a number of things, from an appendicitis to an ectopic pregnancy to kidney stones… all of which would cost a fucking fortune to treat at the hospital and could be fatal if ignored. I found an old wives’ concoction that was supposed to help kidney problems and got up early in the morning to make it. The fever had gotten so bad that after mixing my apple cider vinegar/water/baking soda drink, I started to feel woozy, rushed to make it to the bed… and woke up on the floor, not sure where I was or how long I’d been there. I couldn’t tell up from down. I couldn’t stand. Thank God himself that I couldn’t reach my phone, because there is nothing more terrifying than waking up on your floor alone, with no idea where you are or what’s going on and no one to help you. In that moment, the possibility of financial ruin from an ambulance ride or emergency surgery meant nothing to me. I was petrified and had read nothing of these symptoms online. I’m also pretty sure Jake wouldn’t have appreciated the horrifying 6:00 am call of me incoherently telling him I needed help and couldn’t afford an ambulance. I mean, it’s not like my Gramma could help me down my stairs.

As a woman without health insurance, though, I did the only thing I could. I don’t know how long I lay there bargaining with God that I’d accept any emergency surgeries he had in mind, if he’d just wait until I was insured. Eventually, I was able to rise to my knees. Somehow, the glass of vinegar and water hadn’t entirely spilled. I downed it and crawled into bed in my vinegar soaked shirt… where I simply prayed I didn’t need to go to the hospital, now that the fear had subsided, and I went to sleep. A few hours later, I woke to find the pain in my side was now bearable. By God’s amazing graces, the vinegar concoction had worked.

I didn’t get well as soon as the doctor told me I would. On Saturday morning, Jake woke to me crying, because I was never going to get better. On Monday night, I left work early. On Tuesday evening, I still had a fever. At times, I wondered if perhaps I’d been misdiagnosed. I thought about returning to the Urgent Care clinic, but it was just too expensive, unless I was sure. I’d just have to wait it out.

Yesterday, I actually felt well enough to go shopping, on my day off. By the end of the trip I was exhausted. I’m still recovering from what was apparently an epic infection… not that I knew that, because the doctor I saw asked few questions and ran zero tests. I got lucky… and God gave me one last glimpse of life without insurance before mine kicks in on April 1st.

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