Monday, August 4, 2014

Coming to Terms With Blindness

Going Blind is not easy. It is to say the least a traumatic event in anyones life.

Though you may think it an individual event, it isn't. When you go blind it affects others around you. Family, friends, colleagues at work, or health service agencies. Lots of people are touched by your blindness, throughout the time when you are trying to adjust to your own changing life events, they too are involved for good or ill in those events.

I ofdten heard during my transitioning period. "Stop the pity party others are worse off than you."

To say this however is possibly the least helpful thing to say to a person going blind. At best it shows a lack of feeling on the part of those who say it. At worst it only makes you feel more isolated.

I say allow yourself to feel sad about your loss of sight.

Feeling sad about your situation allows you to cope in the long run. Sadness, even anger allow you to build a new life of acceptance. This acceptance of trhe changes you have undergone allows you to find solutions to many of the new problems that you will face.

For instance, you may see blindness merely in terms of a loss. You lose your ability to act independently, you lose friends, you lose the enjoyment of going out, you lose the ability to read. The you lose cycle can go on indefinitely.

One the other hand, losing your sight doesn't mean anything of the sort. You lose your sight, so you accept the use of a cane, you lose some independence for a time but you are able to regain much of that in the long term. So the cane tells people you are blind. It gives you independence. Maybe later you could get a dog to guide you, but first comes acceptance of some limitations rather than maintaining a struggle that you are not going to win.

Give yourself lots of time to adjust.

I have met people who think that going blind is simply like turning off a light. OK now you are in the dark, you don't need to adjust, just get on with it. But you need time to learn day to day living skills again.It took me several months of walking with a cane to become comfortable with my surroundings, playing out my route to work day after day as I moved about. Eventually I could tell where I was from the noise my cane made or the pressure of a tree branch as it brushed my head. 

Now all this has been learned again as I have moved on to work with a dog and a whole other set of skills had to be learned.

You will often be infuriated by other people. I can promise that. The store clerk who when asked where something is, waves an arm and says "Over ther." The colleague who leaves a hand written note on your desk and then indignantly says" You can read? Can't you?" When you go to ask them what the note says. Or the ever helpful restaurant witer or waitress who will ask anyone but YOU in your group at the table what YOU want to eat or drink.

Coming to terms with blindness is not easy. For you , if you are the one going blind, it can seem personal. For those around you, it can be a minefield of emotions too.

Never feel bad or apologetic for going blind. It is what it is. Give yourself time to adjust, feel sad, feel angry allow negative emotions to flow because if you don't they only get worse. Allow the bad feelings to foster a state of acceptance and drive you toward a fuller life.