Could the secret of life be polarized sunglasses?

***Very Important Note*** The information contained in this blog is NOT scientific or supported by research in any way. The experiences with various medical, quack, holistic, and utterly random interventions that I cite here are purely anecdotal and may or may not relate to anyone else’s experience in any way. I am not a doctor, nurse, pharmacy tech, or avid watcher of medical TV, my medical experience is limited to “Mom/Band-Aid dispenser/Forehead fever checker.”

I have been diagnosed at various points in my life with adult ADHD, social anxiety disorder, depression, and anxiety. Some of which I may have had, to some extent, I guess. I hardly have the education to flatly reject a diagnosis by an actual medical professional.

However, some weird things have come together in my life just lately. A faculty member at the school I work with saw another education specialist about his dyslexia and other reading disabilities, and she showed him how to use colored transparencies to dramatically improve his reading. By *dramatically* I mean – this man had never even considered higher education before and is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree, after a few consultations with a specialist just a couple of months ago. Furthermore, he enthusiastically told me “I am reading… and LIKING it!”

Well, as another education specialist, how could I help but be intrigued? So I did a little digging and found references to “The Irlen Method” – based on a contention by author/therapist Helen Irlen. Her work has been dismissed by many as sheer quackery, but my friend’s success was so dramatic that I had to at least check it out. So a few days ago, I received the book “The Irlen Revolution” as part of a larger Amazon order. (side note: I have never been formally diagnosed with bibliophilia, and if there is a treatment available I am decidedly not interested.)

So this morning, after yet another sleepless night, I got up and started working on my homework. I immediately, as usual, became irritable, distracted, edgy. At first I assumed it was the subject matter – my final exam for Conflict Resolution is a very long paper on the Virginia Tech mass murder, hardly a cheery topic. In my usual ADHD manner, I was reading a little of the reference materials, writing a sentence or two, checking my Facebook, playing a FitBrains game, reading a little more, maybe writing a little more, checking my Twitter feed … well, that is what I almost always do at homework time. And work time period, come to think of it.

When my computer slowed down (because I had about 15 windows and tabs open) I needed a new distraction to kill time while my game loaded. So I picked up the Irlen book and opened it to the attention disorders chapter. I didn’t read, I skimmed – but it did not take long for me to get the gist of the idea behind Irlen’s whole theory. In a teensy weensy nutshell, here it is. Some people are extra-sensitive to harsh lighting. So going to school under florescents, or sitting in doctor’s or hospital’s waiting rooms (florescents), or shopping at mega-stores (yep), or driving at night past people who have those HORRIBLE blue super-bright headlights, or reading things that are printed on bright white paper in bright light, is overstimulating, distracting, and crazy-making.

Thinking about it based on other, prior rants — one of the main criticisms of the ADHD diagnosis is that it is becoming more and more common as the years go on. Twenty years ago it was very rare. Fifty years ago it was unheard of. Detractors use this argument to contend that there is “no such thing” as ADHD, discipline in schools is just getting worse or teachers are getting lazier and can’t handle normally active children or whatever. I know these arguments. I have MADE these arguments, which is a huge part of why Ti Bo was not diagnosed until after he was required to repeat a grade (bad mommy!)

But what if the dramatic increase has more to do with how many schools and other public buildings have converted to cheaper but harsher florescent lighting in the past twenty years? The number of children who actually, no kidding, have ADHD could have remained perfectly stable – but the number who were just jumpy and twitchy from the lighting would have increased dramatically, would it not? And now we are all switching over to compact florescent bulbs in our homes.

It also caused me to recall something my own mother said to me about five years ago when she visited here in NC. We had a need to purchase some things, so I drove to Wal-Mart. It was a gray, dreary sort of a coastal day, so neither of us was wearing shades, but as we walked in the front door, she put her sunglasses on.  She explained to me that because of her self-diagnosed ADD, Wal-Mart made her crazy – but if she wore sunglasses to cut down on the visual stimulation, she could handle it.

So what makes mild-mannered, calm, generally friendly and easy-going Chandra transform into PsychoFreakChan who wants to strangle kittens and blow up balloon vendors? Generally, doctor’s waiting rooms (see previous rant), public school and community college buildings (my poor freshman stats professor probably did not deserve that harsh critique, in retrospect), Wal-, K-, and other large  Marts, staring at my computer screen for more than five minutes, those unbelievable horrible blue headlights, and my office.

So just for my own personal quasi-scientific “hmm, I wonder” purposes, I am writing this blog with the lights off in my kitchen and dining room and just natural daylight coming in from the big window behind me, with the brightness on my screen turned as low as it will go, and wearing polarized sunglasses. I’m almost done writing now, and I haven’t clicked over to another screen yet. I’ll keep y’all posted if anything new develops, in the meantime I think I am going to go “summarize changes to campus policies resulting from the shootings, ” because maybe, now, I can.

1 Comment

  1. RV said,

    December 13, 2010 at 1:08 am

    Hey Chan,
    As a life long migraine sufferer I learned early on that too much harsh light on the eyes was THE primary trigger. I wear sunglasses outdoors always unless it is just too dark to see with them on. You may be on to something there.

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