My Experience with Irlen Syndrome
I've always had trouble reading for more than 15-20 minutes at a time, especially when the material is information-dense non-fiction. After 15-20 minutes I would need to re-read sentences and even paragraphs, and would start to forget what I had just read, which was very frustrating. Still, I struggled through college in the early 2000's and did fairly well, and just last year struggled through my NASM CPT classes and exam. I've been Bulletproofing it for ~6 months now, and doing it 100% full-steam (no part of my life ignored) for two months.
So, after hearing the podcast interview with Helen Irlen I was curious if my reading troubles and deep-rooted hatred for fluorescent and led lit environments might be Irlen syndrome. I made an appointment and went in, not really knowing what exactly to expect. I had filled in the self-test, and as I'd find out, there should have been a lot more "yes" boxes checked than there were. I didn't think I had any of the symptoms where text on the page moves around or becomes distracting or fuzzy. I was wrong, I had just learned to ignore it. We went through some diagnostic tests (which almost made me cry) and tried various colored overlays (that's what you do on your first of two appointments), and I was absolutely shocked. A few of these test essentially broke my brain. Once I read some text through my preferred overlay, then removed it, sure enough I started to notice the peripheral text moving and dancing. It's very hard to describe if you don't experience it yourself, but imagine if all the text outside your half-inch of center focus literally began a subtle and distracting movement as you read. It sucks, and the stress and frustration of it builds up as you continue to read, and it destroys your reading comprehension because part of your mind (subconsciously in my case, before my exam) is paying attention to the distracting optical illusion and not to the subject matter.
The best example of how serious a biohack the overlay was, for me, is this: pre-overlay I struggled to read and retain 5-15 average pages of information-dense non fiction (textbooks, nutrition books, science, etc.). Post-overlay I, in one sitting, read and retained 140 pages of information-dense non fiction. This is absolutely life changing. Where I used to read and retain (poorly and with plenty of struggle) about one such book every few months, now I will be able to read one a week or more as my schedule allows. Think about the implications of that...
I just went in for my second appointment today, the second appointment is where you get tested for lenses so you can wear them all day. Sure enough, I found a lens that seemed to have a massive and hard-to-describe effect. The best way I can describe it is, I put them over my eyes and it felt as though the muscles in my face relaxed. As if I were flinching for something, and when looking through these lenses, the something was over and I could just relax.
I can't wait to receive my lenses in the mail in about a month. Once I get them I'll update this post in case anyone else is interested.
Thanks for reading all of this, and I highly recommend you go to an Irlen diagnostician if you have any doubts at all about whether you may be effected. If you have children, regardless of whether they show signs, please god get them checked out. I cannot imagine the amount of struggle throughout my 33 years on this earth that could have been entirely prevented if I had known earlier, and I'm so thankful and excited looking forward to all the books I can read and all the horribly-lit offices I can now be comfortable in!
Laboratory support staff by day, personal trainer by night