What began as a story about tenacity and resolve ended up being actually about shame and worthiness.
Back in 2009 I was sold laser eye treatment. After 20 years of wearing glasses I was enticed by an email offering me a free consultation – I booked mostly out of speculative curiosity than a serious enquiry you understand…more fool me…
The whole process of the consultation was so alluring and with each passing minute I was increasingly certain that I wouldn’t be leaving that beautiful pristine private healthcare building without securing my treatment.
Once my mind is made up about something I want, I don’t let anything get in my way – patience isn’t one of my virtues but I can usually re-frame it as tenacity and resolve and that makes me feel better.
The price tag, even with the money-off voucher was £2200. I was eager. I decided it was going on my credit card – my annual bonus would cover the bulk anyway…
With no appointments available in Leeds for a whole 3 weeks (eye-roll. I really am so impatient) I ended up booked my laser surgery for a more imminent date in Sheffield – 35 miles down the M1 motorway.
It was all set. I was excited.
The day came and I caught the train to the Meadowhall Shopping Mall in Sheffield. The eye surgery clinic was above an optician store in the busy mall.
As I was signing the consent forms in the beautiful reception, a nurse greeted me and asked who would be picking me up after the treatment.
“Oh, no it’s fine, I’ll make my own way home on the train, no one is picking me up”
“Then we absolutely can’t proceed with your laser surgery today I’m afraid, we can’t let you leave unaided” was her reply.
So, I lied.
There was no way I was NOT having this treatment today. I was far too excited and my determination got the better of me. I made a fake phone call and returned to say “It’s all fine. I’ve called my husband and he’s coming to collect me”
Relief all round.
The procedure itself was over and done within a matter of minutes. It didn’t hurt and whilst my sight was blurred I could see enough to get around.
I was guided into a darkened room to have the after-care talk…and it was then that lightning struck.
Searing pain in both eyes, like someone had flung acid into my face. My knees crumpled and I threw my body forward and inhaled sharply. My eyelids clamped shut and I winced as the tears streamed down my cheeks. I wasn’t crying, it was just my body’s reaction to the pain – a vain attempt to wash away what couldn’t be washed away.
The nurse gently reassured me that the pain would subside and she guided me to a seating area in the downstairs opticians, made me a warm drink and left me alone to wait “for my lift” to arrive.
As I sat there, in my dark sun-glasses, eyes streaming and eye-lids still clamped shut, I breathed deeply in an attempt to settle my racing thoughts. Nobody knew I was here and I couldn’t open my eyes for more than a split second without searing pain and blurred vision.
“What now Sanae?! Think! Think!”
My dogged determination would see me through this day!
After a few minutes I stood up and as casually as I could muster, I walked out of the shop and into the busy mall. Blind except for split second blurry snap-shots of what was directly in front of me, I nervously and slowly walked to the Mall’s exit and the taxi rank.
I allowed the throng of people to guide me for the most part. Everyone seemed to be bumping into one another and jostling anyway so I was no exception.
It seemed to take ages but I made it outside. Even through dark glasses and shut eye-lids the brightness of the sun intensified the piercing pain in my eyeballs. The shock and pain took my breath away and I couldn’t move for a good few minutes. I steadied myself against a wall.
I managed to get a taxi to the train station and once there, I asked the driver to walk me to the ticket clerks window. He kindly did without hesitation, when he saw that I was obviously blind…
I told the ticket clerk that I was heading back to Leeds and asked for her assistance. She exited her booth and held my arm and walked me to a bench on my correct platform and in a slightly louder voice that necessary (which amused me) she said “It’s not the first train you hear that you want. It’s the second train that’s going to Leeds”.
I was assisted by strangers and on-lookers on and off the Leeds train and as I had done so in Sheffield I made my way “blindly” across Leeds station to the taxi rank for the last leg of my journey.
I can’t tell you how safe I felt once I was inside my own home. As soon as I got in and shut the door behind me I suddenly felt overcome, my knees started trembling and I started to cry.
I ran myself a hot bath and lay in it, in a state of mild shock.
As the evening wore on, gradually the pain disappeared, the blurry sight cleared and I was overjoyed by my 20:20 vision.
I hadn’t told anyone before I went but afterwards, of course, I told people, friends mostly. I was expecting them to be amused by my “blind journey” story and to admire my tenacity, grit and determination.
Instead they were stunned. Incredulous. Sorry.
They questioned why I had put myself through that. Why had I not told my then husband? Why had I not arranged with him to be with me on the day? And if not him, why I hadn’t called them, my friends, who would have gladly brought me home safely?
I didn’t know it then but the truth is, I was full of shame.
I was ashamed for choosing to spend £2200 on myself. Who the hell do I think I am? I’m not good enough. What will people think?
I was afraid and ashamed that I didn’t deserve it so I didn’t tell anyone.
I believed myself so unworthy that I couldn’t even ask my own husband to pick me up – that would be far too much time and effort just for “little ol’ me” and instead I put myself at risk.
The surface story that I was telling myself, of tenacious determination and badass rebellion (I can do what I like with my bonus money!), was simply a cover for the underlying shadow story of “I’m not good enough. I’m not deserving enough”
Now as I reflect on that story 8 years on, I am pleased that the laser surgery was a success and I love having 20:20 sight, I celebrate the kindness of the strangers who helped the “blind woman” find her way home and I feel compassion, deep loving compassion, for the woman that I used to be who didn’t know better.
But what stands out the most is how much our shadow stories block us from truly experiencing love. I didn’t trust the love of the people who loved me.
Until we truly trust, value and love ourselves, we’ll always be held apart from the love that abounds and surrounds us.