Edited By Katherine Schneider, Ph.D., with contributions from writers of The Outlook From Here
Feelings about low vision and blindness run the gamut from A to Z, anger to zest for the challenge. It all depends, on the day, the triggering event, how long you’ve been dealing with vision loss, your general views on life, etc. etc. To recap the list I provided in my first memoir, To the Left of Inspiration, you might feel: anger, boredom, confusion, disappointment, exasperation, frustration, gray, happiness, inspiration, joy, kindness, laughter, mystification, nervousness, outsider, pride, questioning, rapture, self-pity, timidity, uncertainty, vulnerability, weariness, X-ray vision (not!), yearning and zest.
Dealing with feelings, be they of the mad, sad, scared or glad variety involves naming them, claiming them and sometimes finding creative ways of letting them out. Members of our writers group gave the following fine examples:
Adjusting to Low Vision is Scary–
I was taking white cane training. The lady training me wanted me to practice in my work setting and community. We drove to one of the facilities that I am required to visit every month. I knew that the employees, at least most of them, had no idea that I could not see and they were going to be stunned. I was afraid. Would this tarnish my reputation? Would they feel the need to ask me a thousand questions and still not understand? Would they see me bump into things as I practiced?
I told myself the old adage, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I told the instructor that I was scared but not discouraged. I told the facility manager that I would be practicing with my white cane so I can better get around in the facility. I smiled at every shadow I saw or thought I saw move. I perspired beyond my “Secret” deodorant, but I did very well. I learned from the experience and I am now really good in that facility.
Deciding Not to Drive Is Hard
Having low vision, I was terrified of getting into an accident or some other driver hitting me. I eventually got my license after two road tests when I was 35. I got a job that required a driver’s license—a job I had wanted for a long time. It was very scary to speak about my driving experience, which was zilch. During the interview I stated that I had a license but I didn’t feel confident driving myself or someone else in a car. I did mention that I felt very confident about getting “from A to B.” Driving was scary when I could not see with both eyes to judge distances. It has been two years since I surrendered my driver’s license. I feel I did the right thing for my safety and that of others around me.
Give Yourself Permission to have a Pity Party
About once a year, I have a really good cry. When this happens, I don’t want to be talked or reasoned out of it because I feel like I deserve one really good cry. The rest of the time, I remind myself of how great my life is and think of all the far worse things that could happen to me. When I put it into perspective, my vision loss seems like one relatively small inconvenience among many other challenges and blessings. I also like to take pleasure in the little things. For example, even though I can’t join my friends in a Frisbee game, I can listen to their stories about the game and offer my companionship over a cup of coffee.
Interdependence and a Song or Two
Although stubbornly striving to be fiercely independent, there is one lesson I have learned over the years: To succeed in life, you sometimes have to ask for help. It often makes me mad or sad that I’m not able to return the favor. Just once in my life I would like to ask, “Can I give you a ride today?” Nonetheless, I just keep adhering to the advice from two old Beatle songs which state, “I get by with a little help from my friends,” therefore, just “Let it be.”
Whether you feel sad, scared, self-pitying or sanguine, you’re not alone. Talking to a friend, joining a support group, distracting yourself with music, prayer, a long walk, or writing, you’ll make it through! Tomorrow’s feelings may be somewhere different on the A to Z list. There’s always the possibility of a good laugh in it, too, like when I almost took my guide dog’s vitamins instead of my own, early one morning before that needed cup of coffee.
As the saying goes in the community, “ Abapita!… Ain’t blindness a pain in the anatomy!”
Katherine Schneider lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Featured image description: The featured image is a picture of someone holding their head in their hands. The person’s face is not visible but the image is highly emotional, though it remains unclear what emotions the person is feeling and why.