What’s It Feel Like to Have Strabismus?

With strabismus, making eye contact is a struggle.


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Answer by Sabrina Ali, lazy-eyed, former investment banking analyst:

I have strabismus, and my eyes are lazy in different directions (left eye rolls up, right eye rolls in). I’ve spent some time figuring out the angles and distances that make my “laziness” less obvious to the unsuspecting observer, but it’s still noticeable after a little while. I also have no depth perception or 3-D vision because I only use one eye at a time.

I am comically bad at sports that involve hand-eye coordination. I can’t catch, I can’t pass, and I certainly can’t hit a baseball with a bat. Sometimes I even miss the ball in kickball. The harder I try, the more likely I am to inadvertently sabotage my team. I’ve grown to think it’s kind of neat to be really, truly horrendous at something (not just a little bit bad), but I think this was upsetting to me when I had to play sports in gym class growing up.

In the same vein, I am also bad at navigating stairs, jumping over puddles, and seeing the secret image in those Magic Eye optical illusions.

The only true point of frustration for me is that I can’t make eye contact. This is difficult when meeting new people and was problematic when I was a college debater (eye contact is important for public speaking, I’ve been told). I’ve learned to position myself so that people are sometimes fooled into thinking I’m making eye contact, but I tend to slip up when I get really engaged in conversation.

There are a couple of somewhat counterintuitive positives to all this. The main one is that people will sometimes make awkward and embarrassing comments about my lazy eyes that often lead to an entertaining conversation. The other is that nobody can ever tell where I’m really, truly looking because my eyes tend to go all over the place. So I can pretend to be looking directly at someone when I’m really staring into space or out the window. This is helpful during boring conversations or if I’m trying to keep a straight face in an unintentionally funny situation.

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