Monday, February 10, 2014

Matan Drumer on living with and overcoming Convergence Insufficiency

Previously I wrote about how lately my situation more resembles a Convergence Insufficiency profile rather than a manifest strabismus profile. Most of the time my eyes are grossly aligned and I'm aware of both images although I do have some remaining surround suppression. My cyclopean eye is also still somewhat positioned to the right side of my head. Traditionally I used to be an alternating esotrope with a dominant right eye but after some surgeries the situation has gotten a lot more complex. For the moment the issue most impeding me from being more functional and productive is the inability to comfortably converge causing me to have double vision while reading and making it a highly stressful activity.  I've been in this VT game for a while now and I am not worried that in time with the proper lifestyle this will improve and can be remediated.

Looking through both eyes but being unable to sustain convergence... That sounds like the situation my VT friend Matan Drumer (31) experienced before entering VT. Matan entered VT  at the age of 27 after figuring out CI was the thing keeping him from reading properly and advancing academically. It's impressive he was able to pinpoint the problem and take constructive action towards a solution. That's always the first step. He engaged in an intensive year of visual training followed by another year and a half of less intensive training. The changes he describes are profound and encouraging!

How did his life improve?
1. Before starting Visual Training he used to be tired all the time. This is not the case anymore.
2. He could not pass his driving test. He would lose concentration because of the abnormally high amount of physical exertion needed to coordinate his eyes and see. Using his mirrors correctly and figuring out his relative position to other vehicles seemed impossible. Joining traffic and changing lanes was very risky. He felt like a gambler while driving. No longer.
3. Previously studying had not seemed sustainable and he was forced to pause his studies. After his reading improved by ameliorating eye teaming, he was able to resume them.
4. He feels a lot more comfortable in social situations now. He feels like he can be more open en relaxed around people because he feels more in control of his body and can anticipate and read others' intentions better.

He emphasized that improved ocular motor and muscle control is only the start of a series of amazing changes. Once he learned to operate his eyes and eye muscles correctly and effortlessly, the perceptual changes were intense and overpowering. He feels most people, even practitioners in this field, often don't really understand how visual improvement goes beyond motor and perceptual changes and into the functional and social realm. 'It feels like an awakening.'

Nowadays he still experiences (visual) ups and downs. There are days when Matan feels really sharp and it's easy to read. He confided that it feels like taking a drug. 'It's as if everything is "flowing". My reactions are fast. My thinking is quick. It's really cool.' On the bad days things are harder but never as hard as they have been before VT. I once asked Susan Barry the same question about ups and downs. She said 'I still have good and bad vision days. Only now the bad days are good and the good days are very good.' 

On the topic of stereo vision Matan is less clear. He thinks he had some stereo vision before VT or at least some of the time. He has always viewed the world with both eyes but that might have made bad eye coordination all the more confusing. He is however positive that VT has enhanced his stereo vision and his ability to navigate space allowing him to get his driver's license.

Naturally I was curious about what exercises he had done to accomplish all that. He talked a little bit about the famous Eccentric Circles and the Aperture Rule. Incidentally I myself have rediscovered the Aperture Rule this week and am enjoying the exercise much more as 'perfect execution' (who are we kidding :)) gets closer and closer. Knowingly he added that in many cases the 'how' you do a VT exercise is more important than the 'what'. I couldn't agree more.

Experiences and stories like these will certainly keep me going for another year as I eliminate my residual CI. As ocular motor skills keep improving, all these great improvements Matan is talking about might be just around the corner!

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