For something with such a friendly name, I find the “puff test” to be one of the more excruciating things that doctors do to me on a regular basis.
It’s not because it hurts, or that it’s even particularly uncomfortable. It’s just that I find the whole staring into a bright light, waiting, waiting, trying not to blink, waiting, waiting, eyes starting to tear up, waiting—POP! as a little burst of air goes directly into my eyeball to be something that stresses me more than taxes, an annual exam and a house inspection combined. After I’ve peeled myself off the ceiling, I get to do the whole thing over for the other eye.
Why do I hate this test so much?
- The waiting. And thinking about items 2-5 while I’m waiting.
- Having something SHOT INTO MY EYEBALL. I know it’s just a little bit of air, but hundreds of thousands of years of evolution have placed a voice inside my head suggesting not so gently that this is a very bad idea.
- Staring directly at a very bright light hurts.
- Loud gunfire-like noises make me nervous. Especially when those noises are near my head.
- It’s embarrassing to jump out of your skin year after year for a test that doesn’t even hurt.
Walking back home, I contemplated my role in making the puff test into much worse an ordeal than it really is. What if I asked to take a slow blink or take an extra moment to rest my eyes between the first test and the second? So what if my eyes tear up from the strain? What if I actually remembered to breathe?
I wonder, what other things in life have I built up to be extraordinarily difficult when really, all I need to do is re-frame the way I think of them? When do I talk myself into anxiety while I’m waiting for something? What other sensory associations do I have like the puff of air/shotgun parallel that I have nothing to do with reality? When would simply taking a deep breath make a situation measurably better?
Since the appointment, I’ve been reminding myself how lucky I am to be glaucoma-free, with two healthy eyes. But all I know for sure is that I’m damn glad I don’t have to have that test again for another year.