Eye Jizz


***WARNING*** The following blog post contains some ultra gnarly photos of an extremely severe eye infection. They are amazing and for some they will be absolutely gag inducing. Totally worth it. 


A Bike Trip: Eye infection to Depression

"I set out to open my eyes to the world, but came back nearly blinded by it."

 

Two years out of university, I had had pinched enough pennies for my massive bike trip to and through Latin America. I wanted to learn a new language, experience a different way of living and answer burning questions about economic disparity and the environment. My goals were lofty, but I was full of energy and excitement. Nothing could stop me.

6 months later, I scrambled to fly home after an eye infection had eaten through my cornea, severely scarring it.

I set out to open my eyes to the world, but came back nearly blinded by it.

F***.

Luckily that didn’t happen immediately. I had over 8,000km of riding under my saddle before the infection, and what a ride that was. Initially, I pushed hard, looking to show strong progress biking down the Pacific Coast. I had a fan club back home and did not want to disappoint them. To me, this progress by bike was analogous to my progress in life: always moving forwards, always with a goal and an endpoint in mind.

 

As I rolled through Mexico though, my attitude began to change. Maybe it was the exhaustion of sequential 100km days. Perhaps though, I realized how many things I was missing along the way. I began stopping earlier each day; to experience holidays bringing small towns together, to set up camp before sundown, to simply rest. Travel slowed, blog updates dwindled, and a better travel experience filled in. I was becoming a kinder man; kinder to myself in particular. A man learning to let go of expectations.

 

After 4 months in Mexico, I crossed the border on a rough road into the north of Guatemala, excited for a new normal. That excitement and positive energy, though, were immediately met with the pain and irritation of a scratched cornea, likely caused by a contaminated contact lens. In hindsight, I should have used daily contacts or glasses on the trip. I should have discussed this with my optometrist. Idiot.

 

I took my contacts out and rode to the next town, Playa Grande Izcan. Popping an acetaminophen and ignoring the pain, I bought food for the evening and continued down the road to a beautiful jungle with a round, crystal clear lake. In hindsight, I should have loosened my plan and immediately gone to a doctor. Idiot.

 

As I hiked through the thick jungle at sunset, sweat ran down my face and into my eyes. In hindsight, with that painful eye, I should not have wiped it with with my dirty sleeve. In hindsight, I should not have gone swimming in that lake. Submerging my head and wiping my eyes could have easily added fuel in the infection. Idiot.

 

Eventually, I did make it to a doctor, but not before an extremely aggressive strain of bacteria had frigging carved an ulcer halfway through my cornea. The pain was immense(!!) and the visual, when I finally decided to take photos, was disgusting. I watched at a white blob of pus grew, grew and grew consuming my eye. I was scared.

 

Luckily, the Guatemalan doctors were able to manage the infection and I safely made it back to Canada. When I was fully healed, despite having permanent vision loss, I returned to Central America, and finished the bike tour. But that’s not where my story ends.

 

Monthly contact lenses on a bike trip? In a tropical area where everything, plants, fungi and bacteria included, wants to kill you? Not going to the doctor when something was clearly wrong? Introducing obvious sources of infection? I felt like an absolute idiot admitting these mistakes. Day in, day out, I blamed myself for my vision loss.

 

And I continued to blame myself. After the eye infection I ran head-on into heartbreak, career uncertainty and more health issues. ‘What if’ I handled that romantic connection differently, ‘what if’ I did say yes to that amazing career opportunity? Those ‘what if’s and unforgiving self-blame consumed my mind for months triggering a deep, scary depressive state. Not wanting to get of bed. Thoughts of self-harm. As a relentlessly positive person and thinking back to the lighthearted days riding through Mexico, I never believed I could feel that. Living in Nicaragua at the time, I decided it would be best to come home.

 

In recent months, I had a Penetrating Keratoplasty (PK) surgery to help correct my vision. It’s wild! Look it up. The real healing though is coming from speaking openly and honestly about these events. Each time I tell the story I am greeted with compassion, playing an enormous role in helping me shed my self-blame and regret.  Thank you Jeremy, Brian and Taylor for providing the Sickboy podcast as another venue for telling this story. Really. Serious progress since this recording.

 

As a quick update on where I am in the world: I’ve moved to California to chase my professional ambitions in the renewable energy sector. I’ve also retired my bike for now and have picked up rowing crew.


- Kevin

Sickboy Admin1 Comment