Early last week I experienced some flashers and increase of floaters in my left eye, which as I knew, could be signs of retina tear or worse, retina detachment. I got quite worried about the eye, but was quite reluctant to go to the hospital straightaway during this movement control order due to Covid-19. At that time I had stayed home for more than 3 weeks without leaving the front gate.
Just like many of my clients, I googled to understand more about the symptoms, possible causes, treatments, and prognoses. I also started to imagine if I had only my right eye left, how my life was going to be, how long it would take me to adapt. I thought about relearning a lot of skills that require the coordination of both eyes, like touching the finger tips of each hand, driving and playing badminton.
I noticed how my family was worried about me. Normally my parents have the tendency to delay doctor consultation and treatment, and prefer the natural ways of healing, but this time it didn’t happen. At one point, I realised it seems that I was the only one who was still more chilled about it. (I mean of course I know the severity, but at the same time I was observing the symptoms closely and I didn’t wait for more than 3 days till I saw an ophthalmologist).
This reminded me of some books and research I came across long time ago. People often underestimate their emotional resilience and ability to adapt. People without a disability rate the utility or value of life with a particular medical problem significantly lower than those who actually live with the disability. For example, blindness is thought to be much worse by those who have sight compared with those who have lived without sight for years. (refer to Gilbert et al., 1998).
I mean, I had taken some time to imagine what might happen, and even done a little practice pretending it happened. If what I imagined really came true, I have had some time to be prepared for it, and to adapt to that psychologically first. So to me who has been experiencing all this, things seem easier (mind you, it isn’t that easy as I have to sleep sitting for 1-2 months). But for people who only imagine it, it all appeared harder.
This is something I often want to explain to my clients, especially those with generalised anxiety and OCD, those who over-worried about what might happen in the future. Things often seem much harder when you imagine it, and people have the tendency to underestimate the ability of adapt and cope! So I often say, “When it really happens, you will do just fine. Of course it’s not going to be easy, but believe me, You Will Adapt!” (What more, quite often the things they worry won’t happen anyway).
Immune neglect doesn’t just lead to more worries about things that people believe they won’t adapt, but also have big impact on our important decision making, this might include decisions to seek medical testing, get divorced, or file for personal bankruptcy (refer to Hoerger, 2012). Do have a thought about these examples!
So really, believe that you will adapt if unfortunately what you worry about really happens.
(To those who care about my eye: At the time of writing, my left eye is still in the beginning of a recovery process following laser procedure to treat the three retina tears. I’m still seeing a lot of floaters (and blood) in the left vision.)