Having an old artificial eye replaced with a new one is not always a straightforward process for everyone. There can be some big blocks to actually picking up the phone and making an appointment to finally get rid of that old eye. Even if it’s causing grief or is just not looking right, taking that step can be difficult.
There are a couple of reasons for this. One big barrier is the effect of a bad experience with previous eye fittings. If someone has experienced rough handling, pain, an unprofessional approach or a resulting artificial eye that didn’t meet their expectations, there is little incentive to either return to that practice or even to try a different ocularist. After all, what guarantee is there that the next service will be any different? As the saying goes, ‘once bitten, twice shy’. Once trust has been lost, it takes time for that trust to be regained.
The other obstacle is an interesting one – the fear of image change. An eye, no matter whether it is real or artificial, or has a good or bad appearance, is a part of us. It becomes integral in our self-image. When a new eye replaces an unsatisfactory one, some people struggle with what that now means to them and who they are. It’s particularly difficult to take the step when the unsatisfactory eye has been around for a large part of the person’s life. Having it replaced can mean an adjustment to how someone is seen and responded to, which might be confronting. And an eye with a poor appearance might have provided a good excuse to stay away from parties and social events; losing it will remove that excuse.
I saw this theme explored recently on a medical TV drama series. A Chief Medical Officer in the program had a hip problem and so walked with a crutch and a limp. She’d been like that for years, was used to it, and had established a persona in the hospital as a highly respected and intelligent doctor. An opportunity arose for her to have surgery to replace the damaged hip and lose the crutch. The program did an excellent job of showing her reluctance to go ahead with the surgery because it would mean losing the crutch and therefore her identity.
We had a client in this week who received his first eye prosthesis. Although he was excited at the prospect of restoring his appearance he also said that he was quite traumatised at the idea that he would have to break a few of his habits. Over the last few years he had been wearing hats and sunglasses day and night, and when playing guitar in a band. The idea of stepping out from behind his disguise was a bit challenging.
We understand that taking the step to have an eye replaced can be an anxious time. It is difficult to change any aspect of ourselves we have grown used to. Some of our clients find that talking about this fear up front is helpful as it reduces this anxiety. Have you experienced difficulty adjusting to a new eye and a new image. We would be interested to hear how you managed.