Yesterday I got a probable diagnosis of glaucoma, an eye disease. I wrote about this in a post on my HinesSight blog, "Not so fun day: I probably have glaucoma."
One bit of good news is that this was detected in an early stage, since I get an annual eye exam because I wear contact lenses and am severely nearsighted.
Another aspect of getting the likely diagnosis is that it's given me an opportunity to observe how my mind has been dealing with the news. Which really is just another way of saying, How I have been dealing with the news, since there's really no difference between my mind and me.
Everybody is different. But I suspect my mind works in much the same way as many other human minds. Here's a rundown of some of the central themes that have been running through my head since yesterday afternoon.
Could be worse. A glaucoma web site informed me that going blind (quite unlikely in my case) ranks #3 in people's medical fears after cancer and heart disease. However, the survey dates from 2002, before Covid.
I've been recalling what a promoter of Stoicism said in a talk I listened to a while back: "Your life is someone else's dream life." His point, which makes good sense, is that no matter how bad off you are, out there in the world are people who would gladly trade your problems for theirs.
So while I'd prefer not to have what appears to be glaucoma, I'd be a lot more disturbed if I'd gotten a serious cancer diagnosis, or told I needed major heart surgery. Of course, I'd be happier if I'd gotten a common cold diagnosis. I just prefer to look on the bright side as much as possible.
Get the facts. When I got home after seeing an ophthalmologist that my optometrist had referred me to, my first thought was that I didn't want to do any Googling of "glaucoma." But that soon was followed by a second thought, Why not?
In general, I'm a believer that knowing more about a medical problem is better than knowing less. Sure, you can overdo being an Internet M.D. Searching out basic information made me feel better, though, because the flip side of my Could be worse frame of mind is visualizing just that: the worst.
Since glaucoma can lead to blindness, in my more frantic moments my mind would picture what it'd be like to be sightless. Not a pleasant prospect, especially since I enjoy writing and reading so much. So it was good to read "with early diagnosis and modern treatment, blindness is very uncommon."
Some thinking is good, some is bad. There's a fine line between pondering what I need to do to deal productively with what appears to be a glaucoma diagnosis, and allowing my mind to obsess about this.
I've tried to be gentle with myself, realizing that it only has been a bit more than 24 hours since an eye doctor told me my test results were "suspicious of glaucoma." This was a shock to me, though my optometrist had raised the possibility a few weeks earlier.
What I've had to do today is tamp down repetitive worries that don't lead anywhere positive, while engaging in thinking that will help me -- like trying to figure out why I'm not able to set up online access to the two clinics where my optometrist and ophthalmologist work so I can ask them questions that way.
Often my mind seems to operate with the crazy rule of "Worrying about a bad thing will stop it from happening." Actually, I've found that most things I worry about happening don't, while other problems pop up as a complete surprise.
If the goal is to be happy, be happy now, not later. A corollary to the observation above is that today I found myself on a late afternoon dog walk having thoughts along the line of, "If I couldn't see very well, it wouldn't be as much fun to go on a walk with our dog."
But then it'd dawn on me that right now I'm seeing just fine, and I'm on a walk with our dog. So I should be happy doing that, not worrying about how I might be less happy at some point in the future. Sure, that's possible. Yet so are countless other things, most of which can't be predicted.
In my saner moments I'd realize that life is uncertain. I don't have a heart problem. However, until recently, I didn't have a glaucoma problem. So what if I had a totally unexpected fatal heart attack while I was on a dog walk, worrying about my eyes rather than enjoying the walk.
I wouldn't want my last thought to be an unnecessary worry. Or, a worry that I had been worrying too much. As I recall I said in a recent post, if we make our moments pleasant, those moments will produce pleasant minutes, hours, days, and years.
Of course, that's an ideal. More realistic is to do our best to make our moments pleasant, understanding that some will be unpleasant. That increases the odds that if something bad happens to us, it will have been preceded -- and hopefully followed -- by good times.