Everyone has a secret insecurity, whether it’s visible or tightly wrapped under their clothes.
Mine is quite literally on my face for the whole world to see: I have a lazy eye, also known as a squint or a turn of the eyeball. There was never a light-bulb moment where I thought I should apply to Embarrassing Bodies to fix my eye, but rather a series of moments that led up to it. I was heavily bullied for over a decade when I was younger because I wore glasses. I needed a high prescription but the bullying was so intense that I chose not to wear them, which made my vision suffer.
I asked opticians for contact lenses but was told that surgery was my only option. After several tests it was determined that I would get severe double vision and my brain wouldn’t be able to learn that both eyes needed to act as a pair, and so I opted against it.
Later, as an adult, people kept pointing out the turn in my eye, which only made me more aware of it. I became reluctant to interact with new people for fear that one of us would be left feeling embarrassed.
Eventually it got to the point where people were constantly asking me things like: ‘Where are you looking?’ or, ‘Oh sorry, I didn’t know you were talking to me’, which is when I decided to apply to the show. I didn’t actually think I’d hear back as most people who go on it are at the end of their tether, with hugely serious problems that felt bigger than mine. A turn in the eye is so common.
After a few email exchanges, producers called to say they were interested in a segment on my condition as they’d never really done one on eyes before. I then had to undergo a psychological test to make sure I’d cope with being part of the show and any backlash that may follow. A CRB check (criminal record check) was also done and is standard practice to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
The final processing stage was an invite to the studios in Birmingham for a test screening, which I miraculously passed. Being on the show was an eye-opening experience, no pun intended. So much work goes into even a small clip; I had more than four appointments at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and security was super strict, as the Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai was also being looked after there at the same time.
I mostly hung out with the camera man Phil and the researchers Mel and Tonia, and only had a brief meeting with Dr Dawn during filming of the scene in the studio.
I met some incredible doctors and a wonderful optometrist and after various tests it was decided that although surgery was the intention to straighten the eye, it wouldn’t be suitable as it carried too many risks, similar to what I’d been told before.
They also spoke about the effect of wearing glasses and how when you don’t, your eye will turn even more as it’s tired.
The final option was what I had asked opticians for years earlier – contact lenses.
In the past, doctors would always refer me to an optician, who would only give me glasses due to my age and because they insisted contacts would ‘push’ off my iris due to the turn. The doctors at QE hospital disagreed and I was given what I’d been wanting for years.
The only downside of the experience is that contacts haven’t become a permanent solution – and they never will be.
When I found out that the answer was ultimately contacts, I felt like I’d wasted the team’s time but they insisted it was worth the tests and if I decided to have surgery I could go back on the show and take the risks.
Watching the show back makes me cringe, but only because I still see a lot of flaws in myself. That aside it was such a positive experience and I would recommend it to anyone and would 100 per cent do it again.
It doesn’t come at any cost to you and you’re given the best doctors available.
Everyone has been really positive about it so far.
I don’t get recognized much, but when I do people are usually nice and either compliment me or ask lots of questions. It’s been seven years since my episode first aired, but there are still re-runs – just last year I had someone say, ‘I saw you on TV last night!’.
The biggest misconception of Embarrassing Bodies is that people don’t understand why someone would choose to go on national TV if their condition is so embarrassing to them. What the general public needs to realize is that most of the people on the show have been to their GP and countless doctors after that, and some have even paid for private treatment.
This is last resort when they’re told there’s nothing more the other medical professionals can do. Embarrassing Bodies opens the door to private specialist doctors who can take a fresh look at the case, who are innovative and want to find a solution for us.
I felt really confident with the way my eyes looked for a long time, but they’re now turning in again, even when I wear contacts, as my eyes have adjusted to having better vision.
The show really changed my life for a while, but now I’m back to square one. I’m still glad I took part in it, as it was a whirlwind experience. Plus, it’s always a good talking point.
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