By Mike Morris
I, Mike Morris, am losing my vision. That is how I finished my previous post. If you read that post, you’ll understand the statement was said in fear. It was the moment when I admitted to myself and others around me that I was loosing my vision. I had already accepted that I was a member of the club. Today was the day I realized what it meant to be a member of the club.
My life was changing, and not how I thought it would change as I entered my forties. I thought I spent my twenties and thirties positioning myself to capture my dreams. It turns out I was spending my early years preparing for a chapter I didn’t plan for. It was time to make some lemonade.
The past couple weeks reminded me of a valuable lesson I’d learned years ago. If we keep our minds open, we can learn something from everyone that enters our life. I recently discovered the value of low vision therapists. I recalled people in my life I knew were visually impaired, and successful in their own rights. I am not the first person to go from 20/20 vision to life as person who is visually impaired. It was time to learn from those that are walking the life I wanted to lead.
It didn’t take me long to locate support groups for every sort of vision impairment or blindness. Some were held online, others in person at local, public meeting places. I found an online support group for my exact diagnosis. I joined the online community, then quickly left the community.
What had I just signed up for? When I thought of joining a support group, I expected to find a group that was supportive. The support group I found was not supportive, unless you consider hearing horror stories and complaints of being a person with a vision impairment supportive.
I didn’t join a support group to hear what’s wrong in life. I was looking for a group that provided the definition of a support group, “a group where members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community.”
The second and third groups I found turned out to be much of the same as the first. I left the second group as quickly as I left the first. The third group, I took a different approach. I didn’t leave. When I saw opportunities to speak positively about our condition, I did. My positivity wasn’t accepted. I was asked to leave the group.
For me, the fourth time was the charm. This group had people of various visual challenges. As a group, humility ruled. Laughter of the groups’ quirkiness was present. When someone had a problem to work through, advice was freely given. Frustration was shared. The best part was that all members of the group came together for the same purpose, help each other be better. Finally, I found a group that gave what I was hoping for.
What did I take away from this group? Life was going to get worse, then better. I remember being told the time would come when I wouldn’t be able to distinguish the men’s restroom from the woman’s (it did, in a dimly lit supper club). The group taught me about Charles Bonnet Syndrome (glad I learned about this before I started seeing things).
The greatest lesson the group taught me was one I already knew, but needed a reminder. Life could be worse, and I while I couldn’t control what was happening to my vision, I did have control over how I reacted to what was happening. I still possessed the ability to do what I wanted, albeit occasionally modified from the norm. This lesson was about to have a significant impact on my life.