Mahogany’s story

Mahogany’s story

It has been 18 years since I received a prosthetic eye. I am 23 years old. Thanks to author Cynthia Booer I finally found a community of people who understand what it’s like navigating the world with a fake eye.

It’s a blessing that I still have my real eye, but it has never grown. While my left eye grew, my right eye remained small. It’s still the same size as it was when I was a baby.

Cynthia De Boer’s “Me, Myself, and Eye” book inspired me to dig into my own condition. I loved how knowledgeable she was about her condition (glaucoma) and other conditions that cause eye loss. I went to the eye doctor recently for an exam and she told me that my condition is called microphthalmia. I was so surprised when my doctor told me what my condition was right after I read Cynthia’s book.

I don’t have vision in my right eye at all. It was suggested that I get a prosthetic eye to stretch out my right eye because without a prosthetic my right eye is almost closed. The first time I went to an ocularist I was 5 years old. I am 23 years old now.

When my ocularist approached me with what they call a “shell” (prosthetic eye mainly for people who didn’t lose their eye) my 5 year old self did not know what to expect. The eye was on top of a blue suction holder. I remember feeling like my ocularist was way too heavy handed. I was kicking, screaming, and crying. About 3-4 people had to hold me down.

Now I can take out my eye on my own. Now I go to the doctor and sit still when it has to be taken out. LOL!

As I navigated this world, I realized my eyes didn’t look like everyone else’s. I have a lazy eye or cross-eye. It’s a mix of both. I wasn’t satisfied with my eyes at a young age, and so wasn’t the world. To tell you the truth, I’m still not satisfied with it.

During my 4th grade year, I went from attending a predominantly African-American cultured school to a predominantly Hispanic school. I was bullied for my eye disfigurement, my skin color, hair texture, and culture.

Getting bullied for things I couldn’t change made me feel like I couldn’t be myself.

I remember all my bullies. I remember every hurtful word they said, but these two memories specifically were memories that planted a self-hate seed inside of me.

I remember going to the park with my mother and little sister. I ran up to the playground and heard one boy teasing the other, saying,

“There goes your girlfriend right there.”

And the other guy said, “Ewww, no, that’s not my girlfriend. She’s cross-eyed.”

The second memory was when my elementary school bully told me, “you’d get so many boys if your eye wasn’t like that.”

Hard times also included being at family gatherings or any gathering and blunt little kids (family or not) noticing the eye defect and saying it out loud in front of a whole bunch of adults. It was the most embarrassing thing in the world. I still fear it to this day. I still tense up around little kids and a lot of adults.

Or to have people staring at my eyes hard, mocking them by crossing their eyes, laughing, or asking me “why don’t you wear an eye patch?”

I remember one girl telling me that my kids would come out cross-eyed.

So for a while, I hid my right eye. You know, taking pictures looking downward, avoiding eye contact, only taking pictures with my left eye in the camera, wearing sunglasses a lot and glasses. The glasses help a lot; it looks less noticeable with glasses.

I always thought to myself that if my own family members, peers, or so called “friends” teased me about my eye, what would make me think that a guy I’m in a relationship with won’t? I felt like I’d embarrass him in front of his homeboys or his family with my disfigurement.

Could a boy truly love me for my eye disfigurement? Could a boy truly love me for my skin color, race, hair texture, and personality? The answer now is yes, but the answer back then was absolutely not.

I was the girl who was overlooked and didn’t get attention from guys, the girl nobody really wanted.

So I dealt with this by blocking out love completely. Like how I hid my eye, I hid my genuine desire for love.

I always feared meeting my potential partner’s family and a little kid coming around and shouting in front of everyone, “what’s wrong with your eye?”

That feeling is much more excruciating in front of people I know. Would he still want to be with me if that were to happen?

My eye disfigurement hindered me my whole life. It was why I lied and told everyone I was asexual, which meant I didn’t like boys or girls, to avoid rejection. It was the reason I was mortified making face-to-face YouTube videos. It was why I looked down a lot in pictures and avoided making eye contact. It was the reason I had self-hate and body image issues. It was the umbrella for most of my insecurities.

I wore the “asexual” lie on my forehead strongly too. It made me feel safe and satisfied because I never felt beautiful. I always felt ugly and like nobody would want to be in a relationship with me for who I am. Hiding behind this asexual lie gave me an advantage which was safety. The truth is I do like boys. I just didn’t feel like they would ever like me.

Before turning 16 my eye doctor said I could get surgery to make my right eye look like my left eye. I was ecstatic to hear this information. I was happy to look like everyone else and not worry about my eye insecurity.

My eye doctor told me that 16 was the age young girls’ eyes usually stop growing. Which is why this “special surgery” had to wait. It wouldn’t make sense to get it if my eyes weren’t finished growing. I depended on this surgery more than anything in my life.

It didn’t occur to me to love and accept myself for who I was but to wait to love myself after this surgery.

When I went to an eye surgeon who could supposedly give me my dream miracle, she examined my eyes and said that surgery that could make my right eye look like my left eye was impossible, but she could provide me with eyelid surgery instead. I was devastated. I was so hurt that this surgery I had depended on for so long couldn’t happen.

Come to find out I actually misunderstood what my ocularist was saying.

Eyelid surgery just lifts the eyelid up that’s it. It won’t magically make my right eye bigger to where I won’t need the prosthesis, and move normally like my left eye.

I thought to myself, wow, I’m stuck with my eye like this for the rest of my life.

Before, it was, get eye surgery, then love yourself. Now, I’ll have to accept myself for who I am.

Despite all this madness, I couldn’t hide my love and knack for speaking and writing. Not only was I consistently commended for my writing and speaking ability, but these two skills felt part of me, unlike my eye. My eye felt separate from me or who I wanted to be.

It was hard to love something that I believed took away from my beauty but I grew to realize the more I don’t accept that my eye is a part of me I will never accept myself. I could never get to the place of loving myself and allowing love in.

Just like how people didn’t accept me or made fun of my eye, there were people who loved me and never made me feel bad for my disfigurement. There were also people who never even noticed (thanks to my amazing ocularist who has done a phenomenal job at making the eye look real) it.
What I wish someone told me that I know now and have known throughout my whole journey is that, for some people it’s easy for them to accept their eye and be confident but for others, it’s one of our BIGGEST challenges. I want you to know that I get it.

I read one story here by Paula Hutson titled “I’m Still Adjusting.” Paula’s story is exactly how I feel. She still has a hard time accepting it and she’s older.

I understand the process of dealing with extremely watery eyes that need a tissue every second and cause your skin underneath it to get really dry. I understand having to deal with sharp pain from eyelashes getting caught behind the shell. I understand the insane clicking sound of your prosthetic being dry and needing a (this is one of the side effects of my eyelid surgery) lubricant. I understand the feeling of the eye spinning around on its own. I understand how annoying it is when mucus builds up around it when you wake up in the morning and trying to clean it feels like a death sentence. LOL. That’s why I take mine out every night now. I know what it’s like to go to some doctors and feel like a science project.

I did let my lazy eye hold me back and I still kind of do. But what’s different now is that I’m not where I used to be. I took small sustainable steps. I moved when I was ready and when it felt right. And I encourage you to do the same. Don’t force yourself to do what you’re not comfortable with but at the same time don’t allow this trauma to hinder you for the rest of your life.

Would you believe me if I told you I make face-to-face videos on YouTube, Tik-tok and Instagram that I get commended and thanked for every single day? Had I repressed my gift for speaking and writing because of my eye I wouldn’t be able to do this.

Each lie or fear that held me captive, once dissected and confronted, catapulted me into my higher self. That’s how my brand Hoppin’ With Hago was born. Which is a brand where I encourage women to build self-love so they can better their relationships and wellbeing.

This is coming from a girl who drowned in self-hate.

My eye story came with a lot of pain but what it did make of me was someone much more loving, lively, and joyful. Because I understood what it was like to be mistreated I watched how I treated others. I became so much more compassionate. Because I didn’t receive the love from the world that I wish I had, I give that love to the world. I provide the emotional safety that I wish I had and I’ve been able to impact people’s lives in ways that I couldn’t even imagine.

The existence of this community means the absolute world to me because I didn’t know it existed. Also, I keep/kept trying to get advice from people who do/did not understand what it was like to have a lazy eye or a prosthetic eye. With any insecurity, a good coping mechanism is finding a community of people who are dealing with the same flaw or problem as you so you don’t feel so alone.

To all the people out there who have lost their eyes and have artificial eyes I wish you nothing but peace, confidence, happiness, and ease. Even though I didn’t lose my eye, I lost my confidence, my desire for love, my truth, and my happiness. Nevertheless, facing my eye insecurity and finding confidence in my other strengths has allowed me to build my most authentic self as well as my self-worth and realize that I am capable of all the things that once felt impossible!

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