Hello there, friend! Welcome back to my infrequent and random blog 😄 Today I have news and a story – I finally, finally have tinted glasses to help me out with my light sensitivity! I’ve been trying to get these for 18 months, and it has been a surprisingly arduous journey… I can’t tell you how delighted I am to have them on my face as I type this to you.
Look, they cuuuute! They’re a pale orange-pink tint. I’m literally seeing the world through rose coloured glasses now!
Part of my sensory processing disorder is that my visual sense is over-responsive. I’m especially sensitive to fluorescent lights, and can feel quite dizzy and unwell under them – something that I’ve struggled with my whole life without knowing why! Shops, jobs, appointments, studying… fluorescent lights are everywhere. I often had to leave classes at school and university because the lighting was making me feel so terrible, and for a while even got special permission to wear sunglasses in exams, without understanding why I needed them 😅
Now I know that this is something called Irlen Syndrome, a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. For me, this is a subset of my SPD (kinda just a different term for my over-responsive visual system), but it can occur on it’s own too! Symptoms of Irlen Syndrome can include:
I was very aware of my light sensitivity, but I thought that everybody sees the static I see around words on a page or screen 😆 Turns out, nope!
Irlen Syndrome can’t be treated, but it can be hugely helped by wearing tinted lenses. There are lenses available in all the shades of the rainbow, and different strengths of each shade, and there’s no way of knowing which lenses will work best for somebody’s brain except to get tested and try them out.
Okay, so I read about Irlen’s, it’s very obvious I have this, I just needed to go get a test to find out which lenses are best for me, and then I’d have a super useful tool to help me manage going out… this sounded like it should be fairly straight forward, so Mum and I thought we’d try to get these glasses before I even went overseas for my SPD treatment last year.
We went to two different behavioural optometrists here in New Zealand, the only ones in my city, and both appointments were unmitigated disasters.
The first optometrist told me that it was all in my head, and had I tried yoga? He wouldn’t give me the test. I left in tears.
The second optometrist was somehow even worse?! She told me that I was making it up, because adults couldn’t have SPD. She was so horrible to me right from the beginning of the appointment, and at this point in time my SPD was untreated, and I was very, very vulnerable. She refused to give me the test, and I ended up having a small sensory meltdown. No test, left in tears!
At this point we decided to leave the glasses until later 😅 I tried out some different sunglasses, and found a pair with pink lenses that gave me some relief.
While I was in Denver for treatment, my occupational therapist recommended a behavourial optometrist for me to see, and this time she was lovely, very used to working with people with sensory issues, and I finally got tested for tinted lenses! But unfortunately, turns out glasses technology in New Zealand is ahead of the US and completely different (who knew?), and my prescription got very lost in translation. I ended up with glasses that had the right tint, but that I couldn’t look through 😆 We didn’t have enough time for them to be redone before we needed to go home.
Fortunately, back home in New Zealand, our regular optician had heard that there was a optometrist nearby who did Irlen’s testing! Not a behavioural optometrist, a regular optometry practice that happen to be really, really great at helping people with visual processing difficulties! Mum went to see them first this time, just in case – and they’re wonderful. I went for two appointments last week, the usual eye test, and the Irlen’s test. We decided to start over because by this point, I had such a hodge-podge of test results from different places. Both the optometrist and the optician were so great and so understanding of my slowness! I have poor sensory discrimination, and it can take me a while to figure out which of two options is better, which is mostly what eye tests involve, so I was so grateful that they were so relaxed and helpful 😊
The Irlen’s test was much more comprehensive than the last one I did, but when I compared the lenses afterwards, the shade I ended up with was almost identical, which is cool! My visual sense is much better at discrimination tasks than my other senses, but it can still be a bit dodgy when there’s other sensory pressures, so I never really know if I can trust what my brain thinks is best. So the fact that I ended up selecting the same shade twice is very reassuring!
I’m still getting used to them, but I love them! I think they’re definitely helping with my light sensitivity. I’m so excited to try them out in fluorescent lit places, I think they’re going to make going out so much easier.
Seeing la vie en rose from here on out!
I hope you’re doing well friend. Talk to you again soon.