Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Writer's Condition

I'll always think of glaucoma as a writer's condition. James Joyce was famously a sufferer, as his eyesight deteriorated whilst he frantically wrote to the end of Finnegan's wake. I've often wondered if this last novel was almost an artistic statement of his condition in some way. Glaucoma is a deteriorating condition, so your field of vision reduces, and the treatment's even now, are about stopping that deterioration rather than reversing it. Once it's gone, it's gone. And it's not an exagerration to say that a writer's eyes are more than the window on his or her soul, but the enablers of the whole exercise. Other people just use them to see, a writer uses them to process, to sift, to transform what we see into words. I was diagnosed with glaucoma about five or six years ago, and I know at least two other writers who have it. Perhaps its those years of reading, or close work against a piece of paper or a screen. Or perhaps its just because it can seem more debilitatiing to a writer, because of what we do - what we need to do. After five years of drops, I went in for an operation on Thursday, a "trabeculectomy." Having never had any sort of surgery in the past this was a new experience. The operation seemed to go well, though as it was under a general anaesthetic I have to take the doctors' words for it. I've now more drugs to take for the next week or so than Shaun Ryder on a weekend in Ibiza, and having a quiet time, before going back in to have the eye checked in a week. There's no pain, but there is irritation, and rather than spending my 43rd birthday in a bar somewhere with a glass or two of Pinot Grigio next Thursday, a quiet night in with my medications is in order.


Jim Murdoch said...

My father has glaucoma and so, since it’s an inherited disorder, it’s something I’s acutely aware of especially now I’m in my fifties. My dad’s became quite bad before it was diagnosed simply because he just thought it was his eyes deteriorating due to old age. He did manage to stay the degeneration by splashing cold water on his eyes and the eye doctors were most impressed but it was only a matter of time before he was registered blind. An operation was never mentioned back then. Maybe it’s new or he was too far gone to consider it. Nice to know I’ll have that option if I ever have to.

Adrian Slatcher said...

Luckily opticians check for this on a regular basis now Jim, so if you've not been checked, ask next time you go.