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When People Ask Why I'm Wearing 'Sunglasses' Indoors

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“Why are you wearing sunglasses?”

I’ve gotten this question often during the past 20 months. With each answer I give, people say they’re amazed at how I managed for 19 years.

I wear my “sunglasses” from the moment my eyes open in the morning till they close at night. I have Irlen syndrome, and my brain processes visual information incorrectly. It’s not an optical condition. I wear grey tinted glasses that help my brain process information and make my life a lot easier.

Without my glasses, I see moving patterns across everything. Up until 20 months ago, I had never seen the sky as blue; in fact I tried to avoid looking at the sky as it was awful for me.

I struggle to read. I’ve never read a full book. When I read, the page sparkles, rivers form within the text and it becomes wavy. I often listened to what others said about books rather than reading them myself. I could never read the board in school; I would copy off the person next to me. It worked, as I am now at university studying for my degree.

I have poor depth perception; I walk into things as I do not realize just how close they are. I always fall up and down stairs, because I see them as smooth slopes, making it difficult to judge distance.

I deal with debilitating migraines in certain lighting. I lose my speech, vision, and all strength in my limbs before vomiting. I am very light sensitive; I always have headaches, especially under fluorescent lights.

For 19 years, I had no idea none of this was “normal.” I thought everyone saw patterns across everything, that text moved and they got headaches. It took hearing someone else talking about how their child would see everything in triplicate for me to research Irlen syndrome. Then I realized I have it, too.

My tinted lenses massively reduce all the struggles I used to have. They’ve not fully disappeared, but they are a lot more manageable. I rarely experience patterns across things, I have only had one migraine in the last 20 months, and I find it easier to read, although I have yet to read a book. A pair of tinted glasses has made an amazing difference to me.

The next person you see wearing tinted lenses may also have Irlen syndrome. They allow them to experience the world in a less stressful and stimulating way. If you really must ask someone about their glasses, instead of saying “Why are you wearing sunglasses?” ask them why they wear tinted lenses. Many people with Irlen syndrome will be happy to explain how their condition affects them.

Take a few minutes to watch my video and see how well you could manage the way I did for 19 years. Could you?

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Originally published: November 22, 2016
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