Tonje Lilleås

Loosing Focus – I got optic neuritis

I was loosing focus, in the most literal meaning of the phrase. As I stood there trying to hold my presentation for the managers, I found it impossible to see what my next slide was about. “I must be very tired,” was my instant thought. But I wasn’t afraid. And I didn’t for a second think it was going to get any worse.
If you’re here for the photography, I ask you to have a bit of patience. Or check out some of my portfolio work.

Loosing focus is a photographers worst nightmare

As a photographer you rely on your camera to be quite good at focusing. But to make sure you nail focus on a landscape or a portrait, you can’t allow yourself to rely solely on the camera. Your most important tools as a photographer are your eyes. You use them to see images, fine tune compositions, and lock in focus. Loosing focus is a photographers nightmare, or at least it’s this photographers nightmare.

All the tests

When I got back to my office after the presentation, I sat down to write a few notes of the feedback I had gotten from the managers. As if I was struck by lightning, I couldn’t see anything but a horizontal lighting shaped, rainbow colored light out of my right eye. The rest was a dark grey, foggy mass. Again I concluded that I must be very tired, and decided to join my colleagues for coffee in the common area. The lightning slowly disappeared, and I was left with seeing nothing except from fog out of my right eye.

I went home to rest, but figured I’d call and check if the ER thought it would be worth coming in for a checkup. They did. And so I went. What I expected to be a short examination resulting in a conclusion that I was tired and needed to rest, turned out quite differently. I got to see an eye doctor that told me I was not only loosing focus, but my eyesight. I had optic neuritis and needed immediate treatment.

From there everything snowballed. What I had thought would be a short checkup at the ER, turned into days at the hospital. I got heavy steroids through IV, had a lumbar puncture, did a visual eye response test and other neurological tests. And an MRI.

How will I be able to create?

”How am I going to be able to create?” This was my first thought as I understood that I might be loosing focus for a while. My doctors had reassured me that my eyesight most likely would be back to normal in a while, and that the time before it was would be shortened by the steroids. However I didn’t know when my ability to focus would be back. And I knew that taking away my ability to create, meant taking away an important part of functioning for me. I was terrified. Not of loosing focus per se, but of loosing my ability to function.
I’m still not able to focus properly with my right eye. And I write “still” not because it’s been particularly long. If I knew I was halfway to recovery, I would say it wasn’t a long wait left at all. However the uncertainty of when I’ll have my ability to focus back, makes the waiting game seem very long and tiresome. Also there’s the part about waiting for the doctors to figure out why this happened, if there’s any underlying circumstances that I need to be concerned about.

Loosing focus, but staying positive while I wait

I’m glad the doctors are taking things seriously and doing all the testing. However waiting for the results is challenging. Not because I think they will come back with negative answers that will impact my life long term, I’m confident they won’t. And if the results are bad, I’m confident I’ll handle it. But maybe that confidence is just on a cognitive level. I don’t know. 

Even if I’ve been concerned about not being able to create, my mind has been in the right place all along. I’ve been able to think that this is something that will pass, that the tests will show that I’m good. However I’m not solely mind, and it kind of feels like I’m waiting for the body and soul to catch up with my mind. I’m feeling easily drained of energy and a bit irritable to be honest. I guess other people waiting for results like this can relate. Or at least I hope so.

Finding a way to create

”But Tonje, you’ve created this post. Surely it can’t be that bad?” You’re right, I have. And I’ve spent days doing so. I write through an app that allows me to dictate text through speech. The images was shot one day, edited over the next few days. I spent days on a post I usually whip up in a couple of hours.
But I agree with you, I’m creating. Which means I’m functioning. I’ve decided loosing focus can’t mean that I stop creating, it has to mean that I do so differently and at a slower pace.

So what now? I keep waiting. I wait for answers as to why this happened to me, and I wait for my eyesight to improve and go back to normal. But more importantly; I have gained an even bigger appreciation of being able to create, so I create whenever and whatever I can. I hope you’ll follow my journey.

All the best,




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