Confession: I’m Actually Color Blind

What’s one thing interesting about yourself that most people don’t know? It’s the question you loathe to hear at your office’s requisite team-building meeting Michael Scott-style. Not me. While most people sit and wrack their brain for a more creative answer than “I can binge watch an entire season of television in one day with minimal bathroom breaks,” I know I have the answer in the bag.

I’m color blind.

Not the racist kind of color blindness that everyone on your Facebook feed claims to be. Actual color blindness or color vision deficiency.

Specifically, I have protanopia. Before you ask, no that’s doesn’t mean I only see in fifty shades of gray, but I wouldn’t mind collecting royalties if I did. Rather, in my case, my eyes don’t process colors the same way “normal” eyes do. I mix up reds and browns, purples and blues, grays and greens. Pretty much everything in my world is a more muted version of itself or I simple can’t see a specific shade at all. I once painted my childhood bedroom pink when I thought it was gray and just yesterday I tried to pair a navy blazer with a purple shirt because they looked identical to me.

Adding to the oddity, while it’s a relativity common occurrence in men, only around 0.5% of women (of Northern European descent) have color blindness. That means every optometrist I’ve ever had takes 10 times as long at my appointments testing me and making me late to third period algebra. Thanks for that.

Let’s be honest, being color blind is odd and certainly affects my daily life, but it isn’t life threatening or even that serious. I’ve always just written it off as a fun party trick that didn’t really matter. Then my husband gave me Enchroma sunglasses that correct color blindness for my birthday and I could suddenly see what I was missing.

I had no idea.

color blind heidi

The first thing I saw was the sunset from my front yard. To me it was yellow and red with a bit of gray, but when I put on the EnChroma glasses I could suddenly see purple. I had never seen the color purple like that before. In the difference between one moment and the next, my world was suddenly in technicolor. It was like Dorothy waking up in Oz.

My neighbor’s house which I always thought was brown? It’s red.

The light pink and purple shoes my daughter was wearing? They’re neon.

My world has been sun-faded like a plastic playground slide and I didn’t even realize it. Did you guys know that street lights are green, like REALLY green, not just mint green? That leaves aren’t just a uniform color of green, but there are nuances to each individual one? Or that my one year-old has auburn hair, not brown like my natural color? I even had to stop wearing the glasses on my runs, because I was ruining my mile time by stopping every few blocks to look at flowers and parked cars. Can we talk about why so many people drive purple cars?

seeing eyes

To be candid, I’ve been surprisingly emotional over the last several weeks as I’ve thought of all the amazing colors I’ve missed over the years. We live in an incredible universe of wonder and beauty at every stop. I hope you never take another sunset or the color of your child’s eyes for granted, because each one is a miracle.

This post originally appeared on That’s Normal in 2016.
Heidi’s kids are really old now. You can watch the full video here.
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