Supplemental Vision Therapy
This is my response to Susanna’s question: How did you do VT on your own without an optometrist? (which Lynda asked that I start in a new thread).
Instead of recounting my entire experience, I thought I could outline what I’ve been able to do without formal vision therapy and let this be a discussion thread where people can add supplemental or unorthodox means they have discovered in their transition from seeing in 2-D to 3-D. I also want to say that I wish I could afford vision therapy, and imagine it would make this process much faster and easier for me, but unfortunately being an indebted student with no income, I don’t have much of a choice.
Fortunately, with contacts, I had 20/20 vision in each eye to begin with (I just looked through one at a time), so I was able to assume that my eyes were both functioning fine, I just had to learn to use them differently. I also was able to speak with a vision therapist in Houston (before moving) who diagnosed me and told me I would be a prime candidate for VT. My attitude has been that the world is my laboratory (or VT office), and that if I choose to, I can treat the process of perceiving about anything in it as an exercise in itself.
I am positive that I was benefited by having grown up playing tennis and basketball. I worked extremely hard at these and somehow maintained the attitude that if I worked hard enough I would succeed. Of course, I had no idea what was actually making acquiring these skills so difficult. I also think that learning to play guitar and growing up with video games has made learning to see easier for me.
First, I think I’ve probably done most of the more common VT exercises that you are familiar with. I made myself a Brock string, did pencil push-ups and tracking exercises, I bought a pair of anaglyph glasses, and have experimented with eye-patching. Of course, I always wonder what I might be missing out on that would make this easier.
Then there is everything else I have more or less made-up as I go along. I hope that others can add to this list as well:
- A plane- One of the first things I worked on was seeing two sides of a piece of paper held to my nose at the same time. Then I did the same with my hand.
- Mirroring- I try to imagine depth in the mirror. This is a mathematically satisfying exercise since I know that the distance to myself in the mirror is twice that of myself to the mirror. For some reason this helps me. At first, I also used the mirror as a way of learning to become aware of the muscles moving my eyes, and how certain movements felt. T
- Windows and doorways-these are great because you know when you look through them that everything is farther away on a z-axis.
- Drawing- I’ve been working through Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain which has been really helpful. It’s a great source for feedback since before my drawings lacked depth.
- Basketball and tennis- I imagine that any sport that you enjoy helps.
- Playing with a ball- I like to lie on my back and throw it in the air straight above my face. I also suspended a ball from my ceiling and did eye tracking exercises with it.
- Video games with eye patching (especially first person shooters)
- Fusion of lights in low light settings
- Magic eye stereograms- I still don’t see these all the time. But then again, a lot of my friends and family don’t either.
- Eating- I think many people have commented on how they begin to pay much closer attention to what and how they’re eating. One of my earliest joys was watching the spoon in my hand go in and out of my Dairy Queen frosty.
- Other odd things- I’ve done a lot of socially awkward things which involve acting like a kid (which produce the feeling and thrill of discovery). If I see something that catches my eyes, I stop and enjoy it until I’m satisfied. Sometimes I’ll kick fences or pick up rocks and throw them. I even climbed a tree one day just for the hell of it. These kind of physical interactions provide great immediate feedback as to the location of objects and the amount of space surrounding them.
- Imagination- I know this plays a role. For an interesting take on spatial memory and imagination I suggest “Moonwalking with Einstein”.
- Nintendo 3ds- a lot of fun, plus the ability to take 3d pictures for viewing later is a great way of capturing those moments when I am really enjoying binocular vision
- Sunlight- being outdoors and all types of movement help.
- Prayer and faith
- Relaxation- anything that calms me down. Even a drink or two will often help.
- Understanding the visual system- I’ve done a lot of reading to better understand the physical and cognitive aspects of the visual system.
This is probably the hardest part for me. It’s hard to believe what I’ve been missing out on my whole life. It’s hard to trust in a new way of seeing when I know that my old way got me where I am. It’s hard to put in the time and effort with all of my extra-VT demands. Sometimes I have a hard time accepting how beautiful the world can be, and sometimes I have a hard time accepting how ugly it can be. Sometimes my brain wants to accept and use the images from both retinas, and sometimes it takes a lot more effort. Sometimes the feeling of being immersed in the world can be thrilling and sometimes it can be frightening. One quote that has stuck with me through all of this is: Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.- Philip K. Dick. So here I am, working to accept the reality that I can see in 3-D and trying to make it stick to the point that I no longer have to think about it.
I think people have to be ready for VT to get the most out of it. All your comments suggest that even if you've had no formal VT.
One of the activities that most helped me with VT was my past and ongoing experience with playing the piano. As with you with sports, I experienced getting better with practice, and the best practice meant figuring out what I was doing wrong and trying something new. Piano playing (and swimming too which I did a lot of) also require using both sides of the body at the same time and that too might have helped develop good bilaterality.
I've had stereovision now for 8 years; I still practice some VT on most days, and my vision is still improving. Like you, I often feel like a little kid just seeing things for the first time. Only in the last year, have I been able to see a bird so distinctly that I can see a worm hanging from its beak or can see the way it bobs in flight. I don't get angry anymore about what I've missed in the past because most people don't appreciate what they have. Today, while jogging, I passed a woman walking with her head down, listening to something through earphones. Meanwhile, the blossoms are coming out everywhere and there was a mockingbird singing loudly, mimicking robins, sparrows, and cardinals. I stopped to watch the mockingbrid and could see it in detail, including the way it opened its mouth as it sang. The woman with earphones experienced none of this so, in many ways, learning to see late in life wakes you up to enjoy a lot more.
I no longer think about trying to see in 3D, but I am aware on all days that I am seeing in stereo. At times, this awareness does make me feel apart from other people. I mentioned this once to my husband, who has been an astronaut and flown on the Space Shuttle three times. He said that he understood what I'm feeling because he has seen the earth from space, and he has floated in microgravity. These experiences are hard to share completely with others, yet are always with him.
Thanks so much, Blake. I'm going to be referring to your list and reading both Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain, and Moonwalking with Einstein. The eating part, I can relate to! Anything in the lower half of my vision is fare game for 3D experimentation for me. I can make my feet smaller, and my coffee cup hollower.
Also, I still enjoy doing physiological diplopia exercises by holding a finger five inches from my nose, looking out at an object (the moon, a doorknob, a stoplight) and seeing two fingers; then looking at the finger and seeing two objects.
I did not get a good report from the retina specialist today, so I have to be happy with my new ability to switch to 3D for lower half vision only tasks. Unfortunately, seeing complete 3D in upper distance is impossible with the blindness in my retina, and it only goes away when I suppress my right eye.
Impressive! You did all that on your own? Incredible. How did you deal with the side effects with no supervision? I started to feel like I was losing my mind about 8-9 days in two therapy after 3-4 sessions. I slept for 10 plus hours and felt like my brain was trying to see in double.
I totally understand the frustration with "How could I have missed this my whole life?" That's even further exacerbated when I tell other people what I'm doing and they are shocked that I can even drive or see that someone is standing further away from someone else. The looks on their faces tell it all. I've had to really work on that psychologically and focus on those childlike moments of wonder. As Susan Barry stated, even though we've been stereo-blind, we still may take in more beauty than other people who distance themselves from the world with gadgets or by staring at the ground. I've seen more countries than most people I know who have perfect vision and are binocular.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? We make our lives beautiful by focusing on the good stuff.
Congratulations again for doing so much work on your own! Bravo!