Health

Seeing The World More Clearly With Lasik

It was the best $4,000 I ever spent.

I had Lasik surgery in November of 2015, and overnight my 20/600 vision became better than perfect at 20/15.

My terrible vision dragged me down my entire life. I could have let it stay the way it was. That would be the easy and cheaper path, but by November 2015 I was well into my self-improvement journey, and it should encompass all parts of your life that are not optimal – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

My path to Lasik started in the third grade. I remember that day when we were going through slides on an illuminated screen in front of the classroom. The teacher decided to have each student read a slide. Up and down each row she went in order calling on students.  

I sat towards the middle of the classroom and squinted my eyes in a desperate attempt to make out the words while waiting my turn for what felt like an eternity as student after student did their job.  

My heart felt like it was going to beat through my chest as my heart rate increased when it got closer to being my turn. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it because I couldn’t see the small words on the screen. They were a blurry blob and no amount of squinting helped, though I tried.

When it was my turn, the inevitable happened. I couldn’t see the words.  It appeared to my classmates that I couldn’t read, as I struggled and gave up.

The teacher had mercy after a short time and moved on to the person sitting behind me. I was embarrassed and angry at myself.

Soon after this incident, my mother took me to the eye doctor and he said I was near-sighted and needed glasses. My world dropped. Nerds wore glasses and I wasn’t a nerd. I hated those thick glasses we picked out from the rack in the lobby.

When we picked them up, I refused to wear them. I couldn’t face the world looking like that.

After continued struggles and after it became clear to my parents that I would not wear them, I told my parents I wanted to wear contact lenses. I knew a teenaged family member who wore contacts and loved them.

 “You are too young,” was their response.

It became a battle of wills, one I was determined to win. They relented, and we went to see the eye doctor to inquire about contact lenses. The eye doctor, recognizing that I would not wear the glasses no matter what he said, agreed to give them to me. From that day forward, I wore contact lenses.

It was as if a whole new world opened up. I could finally see. 

Even into adulthood I hated wearing glasses, never wearing them out of the house. By my teen years I was wearing disposable contact lenses that could be left in for a few days. I usually extended that, and often wore them for up to a month at a time. I now know how dangerous that was and I’m lucky I didn’t get a serious eye infection.

Even as an adult, people who knew me well had never seen me wearing glasses. I still didn’t feel comfortable wearing them and couldn’t see as well with them as with my contacts.

By my mid-30’s I had become wiser and started wearing daily wear disposable lenses and changing them each day as directed. This was safer but increased my monthly costs.   

I hated the ritual of putting in and taking out contacts. It wasted time. They were also prone to popping out at bad times. My father had to carry an extra pair with him during my football games in case one came out during a game. This happened a few times. Once, as a teenager, one came out in a nightclub and I lost it and had to drive home with one eye.

There were times I traveled for a few days and forgot to bring both my glasses and an extra pair of contacts, which means if one came out I would be almost blind until I got home.

I knew about Lasik, but also knew it wasn’t covered by insurance and was somewhat expensive. 

I didn’t do anything about it, believing I would be wearing contacts my entire life.

The Procedure

That’s me during my procedure on November 15, 2015.

By the summer of 2015, I was lifting weights and lost the extra pounds I had gained through my early 30’s. My “Dad Bod” was gone. At that point, anything seemed possible.

I decided I would explore Lasik.

I did research reading every description of the procedure I could find, every story good and bad, and even studies in medical journals. I researched local providers and compared them. I also talked with people I knew who had the procedure. This was the most important to me since every person I spoke with about it raved about what a good experience it was and how it improved their quality of life.

I worked up the courage to do it and made my initial appointment. When I arrived at the office, it looked like a typical medical waiting room. The Medical Assistant soon called my name and ushered me upstairs. I was in a whole new world up there. This was the area for Lasik patients and it was filled with expensive minimalist modernistic furniture and décor. Knowing that everyone up there for Lasik was paying without insurance, they gave us a different experience than regular patients.

When I asked the doctor about it, he shrugged and said, “Yes, I have a problem with spending money on making it look nice up here.”

He had me put my chin on a chin holder as I looked straight ahead into what looked like binoculars. The device did its job and minutes later, after consulting his computer, my doctor said the words I wanted to hear: “You are a good candidate, when do you want to schedule?”  

I was able to schedule the procedure for two months from then with two initial visits for eye measurements before that day.

He told me that prior to the first visit I would not be able to wear contacts for two weeks. It was ironic that people saw me wearing glasses for the first time several weeks before I wouldn’t have to wear them again. Those few weeks were hard because I remained uncomfortable wearing glasses, and I still couldn’t see right with them.  

The procedure itself was not bad. They handed me a Valium when I arrived. When it was time to walk into the procedure room, I was unsteady on my feet and feeling a drowsy and pleasant intoxication.

My wife was brought into another room that had a large TV and she was told she could watch it.  

They first numbed my eyes with drops, then got to work. It was a few minutes on each eye. I felt no pain, but there was a weird burning smell, as the laser burned my cornea creating the necessary flap and reshaping of my cornea.

That’s one of my eyeballs during the procedure.

When it was over I could see a little clearer. The medical staff gave me two Percocets to take home. My instructions were to take both and take a nap, and when I woke up I would be in a new world.

He wasn’t kidding. When I woke up the world had a sharpness I had never experienced before, even with contacts in my eyes.

It was like going from watching an old TV show in black and white with static and bad reception to seeing the newest science fiction movie in the crispest HD available.

At my follow up appointment a few days later, we did a vision eye test and the doctor said my new vision was 20/15.

Better than perfect.

From 20/600 to 20/15 like magic.

I experienced no side effects, no eye dryness, or no other major issues. Sometimes, if I wake up when it’s still dark outside and drive in that early morning darkness, I do see some tracers coming off the street lights. That’s the extent of any negative effects and it’s not even noticeable any more.  

It’s been a new world since then and even five years later I’m still getting used to it. Despite the $4,000 pricetag, by early 2021 I will start saving money since I calculated how long it would take to pass $4,000 in savings on contact lenses.

For anyone who is thinking about Lasik, my recommendation is to do it. When I did my research, I read some horror stories. They are easy to find. Anyone involved in a service business knows that those who had a bad experience are more likely to leave angry reviews than those who had good experiences. For each of those negative reviews, there are thousands of satisfied patients.

I wish I did it a decade earlier. It would have saved me more money and would have given me an improved quality-of-life when I was younger.

Do your research, find a good doctor, and open up a new world for yourself.

Once you are convinced that this is the path you want to take, don’t save for tomorrow what you can do today. This is true with regard to Lasik, as well as anything else you do that makes you better.

Control Your Fears, Control Your Life

In recent weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of fear. There are few emotions that affect our ability to reason more than fear, particularly the fear of death.

As a nation, indeed as a world, we’ve been grappling with this kind of existential fear for the past several months.

There is fear of the unknown, fear of getting sick, fear of dying, fear of our way of life evaporating before our eyes, fear of going broke.

We seem to have broken down into two camps. The first are those who are allowing their fears to overwhelm their ability to reason and, as a result, are living in a state of suspended animation, somewhere between fully and halfway living. The second are those who are controlling their fear, transcending it, and using it to make their lives better.     

Fear is a natural part of life. Anyone who tells you they never feel it is lying, crazy, or both.  

On its own, the feeling of fear doesn’t equal weakness; but how we react to it determines whether it is a positive or a negative in our lives.  

Definition

Let’s define the word. The Cambridge Dictionary defines fear as “an unpleasant emotion or thought that you have when you are frightened or worried by something dangerous, painful, or bad that is happening or might happen.”

The key to the definition is the last three words – “or might happen.” The things we fear might happen, but they also might not, and this uncertainty debilitates us and causes anxiety for many.   

My Fears

I have many fears, including losing my ability to support my family, not being able to defend them if called upon to do so, and dying young suddenly so I can’t grow old with my wife and see my kids grow up.

Those fears are a part of my life, but they don’t control me. If I let them control me, I would never take any risks and would live a safe, antiseptic, and ultimately unhappy life.

Life is unpredictable. Bad things do happen to good people. How we react to these possibilities tells us a lot about ourselves.

Control Your Fears

To me, Mike Tyson is one of the baddest men who has ever lived. People of my generation remember when, before the shocking Buster Douglas fight, Tyson seemed to be invincible. He exuded a cocky confidence every time he went into the ring that drew people to him. He seemed fearless and unbeatable. Yet, despite this façade, even Tyson felt fear every time he fought.

Tyson wrote: 

“Fear is the greatest obstacle to learning. But fear is your best friend. Fear is like fire. If you learn to control it, you let it work for you. If you don’t learn to control it, it’ll destroy you and everything around you…So one must never allow fear to develop and build up without having control over it, because if you don’t you won’t be able to achieve your objective or save your life.”

I love the analogy of fear to fire. Flames, on their own, are not something to be feared; in fact, fire is life-sustaining and necessary to life. It becomes dangerous and deadly when it is allowed to spread uncontrollably. The key to staying safe around fire is to control it and use it for your purposes. 

Tyson notes, contradictorily, that fear is both an obstacle to our learning and also our best friend. How can it be both an obstacle and our best friend? Think of the fire analogy again. When fire is used to cook our food and sustain us, it can be thought of as our “best friend.” When it’s burning down our homes, it’s an obstacle. It can be both sustainer and destroyer.

If we remain irrationally afraid of fire even when it’s controlled, we won’t be able to live very long. I’m thinking of my furnace that burns in my basement. Those flames heat my house, provide me with hot water, and ensure I can cook my food. It’s fire under control. If I let a fear of fire control me, I would be cold during the winter, hungry, and taking only cold showers.

I respect the fact that my furnace is potentially dangerous, and I would call a trained professional if I had major, potentially dangerous, issues with it.

The fact is without feeling fear, we would be completely reckless, so it acts as a mechanism to provide us with good judgment. It’s our best friend because it prevents us from acting stupidly to our detriment. We allow it to become an obstacle when don’t control it.  

Think of the rare genetic disorder Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis (CIPA), which makes people unable to feel physical pain.

At first blush, this sounds like a good thing. After all, who wants to feel physical pain. Yet, it is extraordinarily dangerous because that pain acts as a mechanism that regulates our actions. We generally fear pain and without that fear we are more likely to put ourselves into dangerous situations.

Fear acts like our pain response. It regulates how we act so we don’t do reckless things without considering the consequences and taking precautions.

Tyson, importantly, focuses on that fact that we have to control our fears. Returning to the previous section where I discussed the things I fear, if I didn’t have those fears I might act in an incredibly reckless way. I might take actions that could harm my ability to support my family or that would cause me to die very young.

My fears, thus, force me to exercise good judgment. Yet, they don’t paralyze me or make me indecisive. In fact, they do the opposite. I’ve learned to control them by thinking through and preparing so I know how to react if I find myself in one of those fearful situations. Think of it like soldiers drilling and training for war. They train so much to ensure their actions become automatic in chaotic situations.

I don’t want to lose the ability to provide for my family, but if something were to happen I’ve built a network of people, learned skills, and would take any job, no matter how menial, to provide. I also take steps to not do stupid things that could lead to a loss of my job.  

Sure, I fear not being able to provide, but it’s under control because I take reasonable steps to prevent it from happening AND I know what I would do if it were to happen.  

I don’t want to die young, but I’ve ensured I have sufficient life insurance to continue providing and have given my family many good memories so that when remembering me they would smile and know that I loved them.

I also obsess over keeping myself healthy by physical training, eating right, and taking the proper supplements. These are steps I can take to keep myself in the best health to hopefully prevent that fear from coming true.

Sure, I fear leaving them too early, but I’m taking to steps to make it less likely to happen, and I’ve prepared so if it does happen things would be as easy as possible for my loved ones considering the circumstances.

Jeff Putnam in his book Setting Yourself On Fire discussed some of the darkest and most defining times of his life to show how he overcame his fears and rose from the ashes to create the kind of life he wants. I highly recommend this book to all, particularly to those going through difficult circumstances.

What is to be done?

The key actions to control your fears and turn them into your best friend are:

  • Search your mind and heart and name your fears
  • Acknowledge those fears and don’t ignore them
  • Take reasonable actions to prevent them from happening in the first place
  • Prepare your response and make plans if they were to come to fruition. This includes running through different scenarios in your head, in a sense drilling your response so it becomes automatic

By taking these steps, you will eliminate the uncertainty and better control your fears.

Life is never a perfectly safe endeavor. There is always some risk inherent in it. Don’t let that risk prevent you from living life on your own terms. Fear can be an impediment to action or it could provide us with the tools and motivation to act. The choice is each of ours.

We are living in a particularly fearful time. You can see it in people’s faces. Fear, however, doesn’t have to be an obstacle. It could and should make us stronger, more resilient, and more prepared to deal with anything life throws at us.  

Testosterone Replacement Therapy 101

Studies continue to show that men’s average testosterone levels continue to dramatically decline. A well-cited 2007 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism demonstrated that between 1980 and 2004 the average testosterone levels of American men dropped 1% each year.

There are many explanations for this drop, which has many negative effects on men, including the increased levels of obesity, the effects of the standard American diet, and increased exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and environmental toxins.

As study of Danish men showed similar declines.

Other studies showing rapidly declining sperm counts, as well as decreases in strength amongst young men. Decreased grip strength is associated with increased risks of heart attack and stroke.

Whatever the reasons for these declines, their implications are profound.

One of my best friends happens to be a men’s health expert who owns a clinic that specializes in Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT).

I’ve learned a lot from Gil on this topic, and instead of writing about it here, I decided to share his hour+ long video where he dropped much knowledge on the basics of this important topic for all men .

I encourage all men, particularly those over thirty to watch the video and become educated on this issue with the kind of factual and non-sensationalistic information Gil provides.

While the topic of men’s health is often demonized, sub-optimal hormone levels can lead to a variety of health problems for men.

No, being on hormone replacement therapy to treat hypogonadism isn’t steroid abuse, no matter what the media tries to tell you.

Gil’s clinic, Elevate Men’s Clinic, is available for telemedicine for those who don’t live near one of their locations. To work with them, you can go to their telemedicine site and fill in your information. Note: this is NOT an affiliate link, and I will not get anything for any referrals. I’m sharing this video and his contact information because he’s an expert and he’s helped countless men get back to optimal hormone levels.

Unfortunately, primary care doctors are generally not informed about best practices, and often do more harm than good when men go to them for help with their hormones.