Let me set the scenario: having failed to see anything in the first visual field test, which they ran three times on one eye and once on the other, today I went back for a second one. This time an assistant tested me. And then the actual optician came and tested me.
Both times I saw the same thing I’d seen the first time. A pale field with a square black dot in the middle. Lots of coloured fringing around the edge of the field and the dot. With both eyes, I couldn’t see anything flashing at all until the central dot (at which one is supposed to stare) moved dramatically to one side. Then I could see flashing clearly. Additionally, as I stared at the pale field, the whole thing went black, leaving only the central dot visible with a fringe of white around it. Which is why I couldn’t see the flashing things. They were in the black. If I blinked, it would clear for a split second before going black again.
Ok. So. Brace for this conversation, because it is a pretty good example of every interaction I have with medical people / every interaction anyone with ME/CFS probably has with medical people:
Optician: “I’ve never seen this result before. You should be able to see something.”
Me: “I’m seeing things when it’s off to one side. Otherwise it just keeps going black.”
“Well, that’s fine.”
“But aren’t I supposed to see something?”
“But I’m not seeing anything.”
“No. But if you can’t see any of these things, then you should be blind.”
“I’m not blind.”
“Then you should see these things.”
“But I’m not seeing these things.”
“But you’ve just said the test says I should be blind.”
Optician sighs theatrically. “You saw them fine last week, when I tested you.”
“You didn’t run this test on me last week. One of the other ladies did. And I didn’t see anything last week, which is why I’m back this week.”
“You did see things, and I did test you.”
“No, it was a young woman with brown hair and spectacles.”
At this point a voice from the front desk calls in: “She’s right. Karen tested her. Was it Karen?”
Another voice pipes up: “Yes.”
I resist the urge to lean over the desk and go “AHAHAHA HOW’S THAT FEELING?” But I suspect by this point my body language was saying it for me.
The optician and I lock eyes. She’s busted and she knows it. I fleetingly wonder how much shit she gives the desk staff, that they’ve gone to this much trouble to listen in to this conversation, which is being held in a separate room off the main corridor, a full twenty feet from the desk.
She says: “You saw everything fine.”
“I didn’t see anything. That’s why I’m back.”
“I think you’re seeing it but failing to recognise what you’re seeing.”
“No, I’m not seeing it. When the dot moves to the side I can both see AND recognise it, no problem.”
“We’re looking for a pattern.”
“I’d call consistently being unable to see anything a pattern. I’ve come here because I’m having trouble seeing. You’ve checked my eyes and they’re healthy – I don’t even need a very strong prescription. But I’m having trouble seeing some things.”
“FINE, I’LL DO A LETTER TO YOUR GP.”
Dear medical people: if someone presents with something you haven’t seen before, DON’T ASSUME WE ARE LYING.
Anyway, fuck that noise. You may now worship my Hilfigers: