I've had diplopia, or double vision, all of my life. It's there whether I'm wearing glasses, contacts, or nothing at all. My childhood optometrist said it's because of the extreme difference in vision between my 2 eyes - that my brain can't converge the 2 images because one eye sees so much better than the other. I'm told surgery can't correct it since I don't have a crossed-eye. During my last couple of years of college, I started doing artwork that reflected the double vision. This blog is a brief summary of those 2 years.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Not Headaches...Just Head Problems

Did you know you can have a migraine without a headache? Migraines have different stages, and some people just don't go through the "ache" stage. I think I may have had a migraine a couple of nights ago. I was at a school function and the lights began to feel really bright. A headache began over my eyebrows, but it slowly went away. Over the next couple of hours though, I began to feel worse and worse. I was dizzy, kinda of naseous, and my head just felt weird. I felt spacy. I could feel the loud noises pounding in my head...not a painful pounding but a resonating pound - I could feel noise. As I was going home, I could feel the oncoming headlights doing the same thing to my head, like I could feel the lights passing by. When I got home, I laid down in the pitch black and silence until most of it went away. The dizziness did not fully go away until I woke up the next morning.
I've had the same problem numerous times before, but I had never thought that it could possibly fall under migraines. I do know it usually occurs when I've been straining my eyes too much or ignoring the image out of one eye. It most often occurs at movie theaters. I don't like going to see action movies on the big screen anymore because they mess with my head. It's like I can't handle so much loud noise and movement all at once.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

On to Painting

After drawing class, I took a semester of Senior Painting to make some pieces for the Senior Show. Again, my theme was double vision. It just seemed right after the successes of drawing class. I painted large 5 foot paintings with acrylic and tape. The focus was large, flat shapes and to show how the images overlap. In reality, many colors become flat for me as the images overlap. The blacks and whites stand out some, but the middle greys blend together. Here are most of the paintings from that semester.

(These pictures were taken quickly in a gallery where the lighting wasn't so great. So forgive me that the colors don't look right.)


Originally written December 2007.
It's sooooo incredibly exciting to see my own world on paper. They are drawings that I can make sense of and understand. I conquered my own visual world instead of invading someone else's! It's no wonder so much of my previous work has felt unsatisfactory. How can it be good when I'm just making up what I draw...including what I think I'm supposed to see?

Drawing, Drawing, Drawing

Originally written December 2007. The "Feet drawing" referenced was a realistic drawing of feet with a toetag that I had drawn the year before.
I saw my feet drawing from foundations today for the first time since Spring. It's a good drawing, nice rendering, fairly clear message. It's not Hannah's rendering by far, but I'm proud of it. But it's so different from what I'm doing for drawing class this semester. Looking at the feet drawing, it's obvious time and hard work went into the piece. It looks like a piece of "art." How will this semester's pieces be perceived? There are no clear marks that represent the many seconds, minutes, and hours of time. I know I spent just as much hard work and time on my new pieces, but they remind me a little of pieces non-artsy people see when they say "I could do that. How is that art?" It's art because of the process (which has always been my favorite part) and because of the reality behind it. I got bored with rendering the feet. It was one short pencil line after another that seemed to go on and on and on. My process this semester took me through so many ups and downs, questions and revelations, experiments and results. I rendered the feet realistically mostly to see if I could. Mission accomplished.I'm not exactly sure why I decided to draw my double vision this semester. More reasons have appeared as I've draw, but I started out simply with "I want to." Frankly, I didn't want to. It was a daunting task, an emotional rollercoaster. Then the reason became "I have to." I can't explain this one, except that deep down I knew I had to do it. I brainstormed other options to draw, but this was the one I kept coming back to. It was just one of those ideas that had to be gotten out so I could move on to something else. Another reason appeared that was "This is unique." Paul Gauguin said "Art is either plagiarism or revolution." I wasn't striving to be revolutionary, but I believe all of us want to create art that is unique...that says something about us, about the world, about life as we know it. Plagiarism is rarely the goal, though it often seems to be the result. With so much art created in the past and present, it seems like almost everything has been done. Almost any piece can be looked at and described as "that reminds me of so and so's work." I researched abstract art to see where I fit, and yes, my work is comparable in style to other artists. But I found none with the uniqueness of being double. I know I'm not the only person with diplopia, but I am at least in the minority. My fiance asked me if I saw my double vision as a blessing or a curse. Knowing I have a slight advantage on the uniqueness area is a blessing. The most recent reason is because "This is me and my reality." No matter how proud I am of my other drawings, there is still some dissatisfaction in knowing it is just a drawing of what I think I'm suppose to see. The double image drawings say more about me and my world than any art I have created.At this point, I wish I had not procrastinated so long. There are so many other things I want to try drawing. Things look so different on paper than in reality. But I also know if I was not so pushed for time right now, I probably would not be facing my drawings with such vigor. It would be a slower process without vitality. I draw and draw and draw. I tune out the world around me because I know I have to draw. I forget about the people sitting near me or the TV in front of me and don't realize the dogs are barking at something outside. I'm focused, and that's only because of a deadline. I concentrate because I'm stressed and am counting down the hours until Tuesday. I wish I knew how to hold onto this feeling when I'm not stressed.

Avoiding Drawing

Originally written November 2007
I've walked past my drawings in progress every day since the project first began and I've cringed everytime I see them. I'd pick up the conte and draw here and there, but rarely for long.But buckling down and getting it done has made me focus on why I've avoided the task for so many weeks. It's so much easier to feel sorry for myself when I look at the paper. I don't feel sorry for myself. I can't. But I do. I've tried pushing that feeling away so often since September. I try to say I've distanced myself emotionally from my double vision and the therapy, but it all surfaces when I least expect it. Like looking at the Christmas tree my fiance and I just put up. I love that we get to do things like that together, but it doesn't make me feel good to look at the tree because all I see is lights. I see double the amount of what's on it and half are blurrier and bigger and they block the couple of ornaments I bought him that mean so much to me. I was driving down the road tonight...the first time I've driven down Main Street at night since the Christmas lights have been put up. They should be so pretty, but instead they just get in my way. The lights on the poles block part of the road and just mix with the lights of oncoming cars. Before therapy, fireworks were about the only lights I didn't like. (The other lights had bothered me too, just not quite as much) Fireworks aren't quite as pretty when they're so many lights that you no longer see the original design. I know the therapist said things will get worse before they get better, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. And there's no guarantee that there will be a "better."
I really don't like to draw. I'm pretty sure that's a recent development, but the feeling is so strong that I can't remember what it felt like to enjoy drawing. The only thing I've really drawn lately is for drawing class. I've always worked really close to my work, which means both images are fully focused. Drawing double means I see 4 of what I'm drawing. The longer I draw, the more I realize what I'm seeing...2 hands drawing 2 lines that equal 4 lines.
Please don't feel sorry for me. I've allowed myself to feel sorry for the night, but I don't want to extend that to anyone else. Deep down, I believe my disability/difference is no worse than what anyone else experiences. It's just a different experience.I suppose we all go through our sad moments.

Like vs. Dislike

Originally written November 2007
Honestly, I don't like to draw my double vision. Have I posted that already? I like the final outcome and showing how confusing my visual world can be, but I get bored drawing the same thing twice. The transparency of the images is carrying over into painting class. I'm slowly becoming obsessed with seeing through objects. The vision therapist wants me to switch my focus back and forth between my left and right eyes. The more I do that, the more I'm seeing past an object to what's behind it. I wish I could paint what I really see...colors don't mix much when they overlap. They're completely separate colors that happen to be in the same space on my picture plane

Vision Exercises

Originally written November 2007.
The vision therapist had me hold a pencil out in front of me and slowly bring it towards my nose. I brought it towards my right eye instead. She pointed this out to me and had me do it again. I concentrated hard to bring it to my nose, but I brought the pencil towards my left eye this time. I don't know where the center of my face is! So now I've noticed anytime I think my face is centered with something (and I'm looking directly at it), my head is really turned slightly to the left so that I'm looking directly at it only with my right eye.
This is my sister wearing a pair of prism glasses from Vision Therapy.

The Ins and Outs

Originally written October 2007
I'm realizing more and more how little I know about what I see. For instance, with objects that are very near to me--the left eye's image will be on the right of the right eye's image. For distance objects, the left eye's image will be to the left or almost on top of the right eye's image. The result is that objects viewed from my left eye appear closer together than objects viewed from my right eye. I've never paid much attention to that detail.

It's also interesting being able to see through objects. For instance, one eye sees my hand and the other eye sees a different angle so I'm looking through my hand. It entertains me.

Thankful too. I was thinking today...I'm so thankful that I'm able to see. I'd much rather have my distorted vision than be completely blind. My sight and my sense of touch are the 2 senses that I'd be miserable without.

Tracing, Venting, and Remembering

Originally written in September 2007
I wrote out a few sentences (cropped them) and traced the double image. It was REALLY hard. I couldn't figure out which of the 2 markers I saw was suppose to be tracing the double part, and what I see out of my left eye is jumpy. It kept moving left and right, up and down. And then when I traced it, I saw 4 of each letter overlapping so now it's really a jumbled mess to me.
My mom says when I was 3 years old, I told her about a haze I saw around objects. When I was barely 5, I had my first visit to an opthalmologist. He had me cover one eye and tell him the image that was on a screen across the room. I did fine with my left eye covered. But I remember covering my right eye, and the doctor carried me across the room until I was nose to screen. Only then could I see the birthday cake image. He diagnosed me with amblyopia (lazy eye). It's a miracle that it was discovered early, or else today I would be completely blind out of my left eye and it would wander wherever it wanted to go. The doctor wanted to start patching right away. My glasses would not arrive for another week, so I went to kindergarten with a patch over my good eye and no glasses to help my see out of my bad eye. I was so scared that I made my mom stay in the school's office for the first few days. I was embarrassed too. A patch over my eye made me stick out like a sore thumb among my peers. I remember having to learn some things more quickly than my classmates in order for school to be easier. There was a number chart going across the room that counted the number of days we had been in school. Each day, another number was added. I couldn't see the numbers so I had to memorize them. (I'm actually thankful for this because now I have a great short-term memory when it comes to memorization exercises)
I also remember coming home from school after the first day I had worn the patch. I sat on the couch snuggled close to my mom and we both cried. I remember struggling emotionally many times after that, but my mom claims I never talked about it. She says that after that one day when I cried, I never complained about my vision again. By third grade, the eye doctor said nothing more could be done for me and I could quit patching. I had accepted that my eyes would not be perfect and I'd always see double. It was years later before I found out the doctor did not believe me when I said I saw double. Until I was 19, I was labeled as having "shadow vision." When I showed my doctor the thumb drawing, he finally believed me. But he still said nothing could be done for me.
I began researching vision therapy and found a therapist who wanted to take me on as a patient. She said a lot of "maybes, possiblies, and mights" but she seems excited for the challenge, as my eyes seperate the images more than most of her diplopia patients. She claims she's told many people about me already. But it's so much more than attempting to fix my double vision. There are so many emotions that I shoved under a rug when I was told nothing could be done for me. Now that there's a glimmer of hope, that rug seems to have disappeared. I feel like I'm 5 years old again. I'm working to find the same strength I found then, but this time I understand more. I know about the complications and obstacles I'll face if the therapy does not work. I know the problems I've already encountered, and I've tried to imagine many years ahead of me with the same problems. I haven't been able to just cry once and be done with it.

I need more than just a therapist

Originally written September 2007
I started vision therapy a week ago. It's too soon for the double vision to be helped, but the therapy is forcing me to see the double image. I know I'm not really clear on this point...I've ALWAYS seen double, but the therapy is forcing me to SEE it. That probably doesn't make sense to anyone but me. The double image is alway there. It never goes away. But the therapy has gotten me to study what I understand the intricacies of it.
For almost 20 years, I have tried to suppress what I see out of my left eye. Now the therapist is working to reverse that. I suppose it's a good thing, at least it is for drawing class. It's easier to observe and sketch my double vision if I'm not trying so hard to not see it.But it was really interesting driving the other day. It was pouring rain and I was lost. The cascade of rain made my lack of depth perception even more obvious. I had just begun getting used to paying attention to what I see out of both eyes instead of just one, so the double lines, double truck, and double steering wheel kind of messed with my head. I was ready for the song Jesus Take the Wheel because I sure didn't want to be in the driver's seat right then.


March 2005
Before this class, I had drawn double only 3 times. This was the only one that came out fairly accurate.

What if I don't see double?

Originally written September 2007
God broke down a wall last night at church. The sermon was on dealing with the devil and fighting what the enemy puts in our way. At the end, Preacher said "I'm going to obey God. Whoever can, come down here to the altar and pray." I went down and began a simple prayer. Suddenly I was pouring out my heart about vision therapy, snotting all over the carpet. I've put up a strong front since the day me and Momma cried on the couch in Kindergarden over the patch I had to wear. I've had my frustrations and fears since then, but I've done well pushing them aside. I see double and I'll deal with it. The doctors had told me there was no way to fix it. I've compensated for it for this long, so I can go the rest of my life without too many major issues over it. Then we find a vision therapist that cannot believe my eye doctor did not try any kind of treatment. (I found out too late that one reason my old doctors didn't try anything was because they didn't believe me. Apparently they had never encountered a patient that sees double. I finally brought in a drawing and one said "You DO see double!") The therapist said a lot of mights, maybes, and possiblies, but it was the first time there had been a glimmer of hope.
I didn't realize how much I would love to have single vision and yet see out of both eyes until yesterday. (One solution the doctor mentioned was to train my brain to ignore my left eye. I would see single but be blind out of my left eye. thanks). It really is a desire of my heart.
I was expressing a few doubts to Shaun about how likely it would be for the therapy to correct my vision. He shushed me and said it will work because they'll be praying for me. It did not hit me until then that it's something I need to be praying about. It's going to take a miracle from the hand of God for the therapy to work.
I can trace back to elementary school my trait of not getting my hopes up. I've trained myself not to get my hopes up about anything so that I won't be disappointed. If something goes well, I'm ecstatic. If it goes wrong, oh well. But how can I have faith that God will heal me without getting my hopes up and setting myself up for the possibility of a HUGE disappointment?
I can't really imagine it -- I'd be able to see depth perception. (The doctor says I see in a 2D, flat dimension. I see like an artist would paint or following depth cues such as an object farther away is higher and smaller on the picture plane.) I could read without feeling nauseous. I wouldn't have such a hard time driving at night because I won't see double the amount of lights. My reading efficiency might jump to college level instead of a 6th grade level. My left eye might not cross when objects are too close. I'd love to have all of that. I won't pity myself or be mad at God if I see double forever. But wouldn't a correction of vision by an incredible testimony?

I'm scared.

I've Seen Double for 23 Years

This blog originally began as an assignment for Senior Drawing class in college. I had decided to spend the semester drawing what I see (double) and was required to keep a blog about my progress. I began vision therapy around the same time, which brought up a lot of suppressed emotions. I won't say art was my therapy in working through those emotions, but the vision exercises worked alongside my art to help me understand my "disability."
The majority of this blog will be pieces I have cut from the old blog. You get all of the good stuff without the boring "class talk" that had to be included.