Doctors, it’s time to take a moment for introspection. No, this is not a column about colonoscopies (again). Google “introspection.” It’s way different. Now, let’s all take a deep cleansing breath and be honest with ourselves and each other. It’s calming, I promise!

  1. What’s the first thing that pops into your head when I say the word “optometry”? Your profession? Your income? Helping people see stuff? Vision plans? Online refractions? (For me? Lunch. I would have turned into a raving loon many years ago if it weren’t for my lunch breaks.)
  2. What’s the first thing that pops into your head when I say the words “contact lenses”? Sclerals? CRT? Overwear? Ulcers? (For me? Lunch, again. That’s when, every day, I try another multifocal to see if it works better.)
  3. What’s the first thing that pops into your head when I say the word “family”? Your kids? Your grandkids? Your mom and dad? Too much hubbub? (For me? Yet again, lunch—you guessed right! It’s the only time a family member isn’t jabbering in my ear.)
  4. What’s the first thing that pops into your head when I say the word “lunch”? Vickers, quit talking about lunch? (For me? Uh, I can’t really think of anything. Come back to me again later.)

Okay, you get it. We are a part of a huge machine involving life in general. It’s easy to get sucked into the black hole of activities, products and, well, lunch. Stuff is constantly popping into our puny minds. Maybe we all need to stop for a second and let ourselves breathe. But if we do that, the vast majority of us optometrists will feel, unfortunately, awkward.

You heard me right. Why awkward? It’s because we have allowed the outside world to dominate the inside world. This creates stress and anxiety, and the only way to cure stress and anxiety is to look within, but we have all forgotten how to do that, right?

Dr. Montgomery Vickers

In the mid-80s (not my mid-80s, the mid-80s!), I had a three-year bout with anxiety and agoraphobia. Married with two young children, I only felt “normal” at the office and at home. In many instances, I could barely leave home unless I was going to work. The low point was when I almost didn’t go with my wife to see Barry Manilow in concert. Now that I think about it, all things considered, that may have been an advantage, but Barry surprised me and turned out to be pretty good after all.

I finally visited a psychiatrist. It reminded me of the Soupy Sales show, a children’s TV show from my era way back when. In one scene, this guy comes to Soupy’s front door and says, “Hey! You gotta help me! My wife thinks she’s a couch!” Soupy answers, “Why don’t you take her to a psychiatrist?” The guy responds, “We need the extra furniture when company comes over!”

So, I saw the doctor three times. I told him that I was too anxious to even go to optometry meetings because I was afraid I might pass out. He calmly responded, “You’re in a room full of doctors. I think they’ll know what to do.” I thought about my colleagues giving me mouth-to-mouth. This mental image only made things worse for me, much worse.

He gave me a prescription for Valium (diazepam, Roche). There were no real anxiety meds at that time. I never took it, but, for some reason, carrying the bottle around in my pocket seemed to help enough to make a difference.

We did one session of biofeedback. I was cured. This taught me instantly that I had the power to basically meditate my anxiety away. It also made me feel like a dork for paying that guy for three visits when I had the cure inside me the whole time.

So, what’s the first thing that pops into your head when I say “peace”?

Folks, you’ve had the cure inside you from the start. Look within, breathe and calm yourself down. What’s the worst that could happen? After all, you may need the extra furniture when company comes over. 

Dr. Vickers received his optometry degree from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1979 and was clinical director at Vision Associates in St. Albans, WV, for 36 years. He is now in private practice in Dallas, where he continues to practice full-scope optometry. He has no financial interests to disclose.