Overcoming anxiety, PTSD and gender dysphoria have all done wonders to help me see the road ahead of me. Almost all of these accomplishments and struggles in progress have been helped along the way by the Veteran’s Administration. One thing they recently assisted me with has helped me literally see the road ahead of me better than I ever could have expected. I now have glasses.
I’ve known for some time really that I needed glasses. But, I couldn’t afford to get new ones. At the age of 20, I started working in a dimly lit workspace on the ship. I spent 12 hours a day looking at radar scopes and found that I needed glasses to overcome the strain to my eyes. But, after I left the navy three years later, I found I didn’t need them anymore. Then, at the age of 27, I found myself working at night, deliverying pizzas. Again, I found that I needed glasses. I couldn’t see the street signs until I was much closer. So, I went to the local LensCrafters in the now defunct Westminster Mall and found a nice set of frames that worked well for me. Well, until I put them in the chest pocket of my sweat shirt and then gave my then girlfriend a hug. I didn’t think my vision was that bad. So, I didn’t get them fixed or replaced. Even though I probably should have.
Now, at the age of forty, I’m comparing my vision to that of my friends. One friend has had laser surgery. Needless to say, she has laser vision. The other regularly wears glasses. Sometimes, we would go for walks around the neighborhood at night. More than once, I found that I couldn’t see what they were referring to off into the distance. That’s when I started thinking about getting glasses once again.
Last summer, I found myself living in a homeless shelter. My lodging there was funded by the VA. I had no idea the VA offered so much help to veterans. I mean, I had been taking advantage of counseling at the VA hospital. But, I didn’t know they offered dental assistance to homeless vets and a clothing closet for homeless vets. And of course, the funding for sheltering homeless vets. Once I got settled into my current residence, which is transtional housing for homeless female vets, I made a call to the optometry office at the VA Hospital in Denver to see if they could help me get glasses. Or at least an eye exam.
It turns out that the VA doesn’t do eye exams. They outsource that to private practice doctors and then reimburse them. It indeed would be possible for me to get an eye exam and a free pair of glasses. But, first I needed a referral from my primary doctor. That was easy enough. But, of course being the epitamy of government health care, I would have to wait approximately 6 weeks for them to send me the paperwork. And sure enough, just like they said, it did take six weeks for the paperwork to arrive. In the packet, were instructions to take the paperwork to the doctor I picked from an approved list of local eye doctors they had worked with before. I live near the VA hospital and Rose Medical Center. Thankfully, there was an eye doctor on the list who had an office at Rose. So, I called and made an appointment.
It had been literally years since I had an eye exam. I knew they would dilate my eyes. But, I was also expecting the puff of air in my eye. I guess that is old fashioned. They don’t do the air puff thing anymore. The staff was very nice. But, since I’m still a little edgy about being seen as trans out in public and the VA paperwork has my male name on it, I went in guy mode. It all went very smooth. I didn’t think the dilation of my eyes was a big deal. That is, until I actually walked outside where I was exposed to the giant fireball in the sky. The little cardboard sunglasses they gave me before I left didn’t seem to help much. And thankfully, I didn’t have to go far since the VA hospital was across the street. I had to at least make it over that far to drop off my prescription. I staggered up to the intersection, did my best to look at all four corners. And then listened for motors while scattering across the pavement. And then it was another fun few minutes across the VA parking lot and into the front door. *phew*
The VA keeps their eye glasses office in the prosthetics office. Which after some thought, seems to make sense. In the back of my mind, I was remembering the wide range of selection the Navy gave me when they sent me the only model they made. I was certainly hoping that the VA had a wider selection and didn’t refer to any of their frames as birth control glasses. Thankfully, I was greeted by at least five trays of eye glass frames to pick from. It only took me a few minutes to pick the very stylish and kind of understated rectangular metal frames similar to what I’ve worn in the past. I even got a chance to choose whether or not I wanted Transitions lenses that become sunglasses when they are exposed to the sun. Although I know Transitions have been around since the 80’s (I remember my Dad getting them when I was a kid), actually having them feels like I’m living in the future.
It took about 3 weeks to get them. And now, I can finally see. The afternoon after they arrived, I found myself gawking up at the recently exposed and newly completed capital dome on the Colorado State House as I staggered through Lincoln Park. I remembered what my mom said about wearing glasses for the first time as a child. And although my eyesight was 20/20 when I was younger, there was still that awe of seeing individual leaves on trees and striking detail on tall skyscrapers. I am truly grateful for what the VA has helped with so far. Improved eyesight is just one of the many improvements they have made to my life. I deeply appreciate it.
Since I don’t like what my face looks like, I won’t be posting pictures of me sporting my news specks. Rest assured, they look absolutely stunning. 😛