Our guest blogger Elin Williams returns with 5 things she’s learned from being vision impaired.
Living with a deteriorating eye condition comes complete with varying feelings and realisations. For me, it’s an experience loaded with anticipation, anxiety, positivity and sometimes pure unknowing of what’s to come.
I’ve personally learned a lot from being vision impaired. Some things have proven harder to accept than others whilst, in contrast, some things have ushered me towards more of a positive mindset.
Either way, I wanted to honour some of the most vivid lessons in my mind and share a few of them with you today.
So, let’s dive straight in, shall we?
1. The power of perspective
I think this first lesson is an overarching banner for the others I’m about to list because sitting back and looking at the bigger picture is often what brings these realisations to the forefront of my mind in the first place.
Living in a world which wasn’t designed for those of us who can’t see can be challenging. I could easily dwell and listen to the negative commentary I occasionally have in my mind when it comes to my disability. But what would I achieve by doing so?
I’ve always made a conscious effort to sit back and reflect on what my vision impairment brings to my life rather than what it takes away from it. Gaining perspective on everything has been a big motivator in that.
It’s important to recognise the challenges, of course it is. I personally never try to gloss over them. But, in the same breath, I also try to maintain a positive mindset which I know will help me pave the way forward in terms of embracing my vision impairment.
Having perspective and taking a look at every strand of my disability, whether it’s positive or negative, affords me the opportunity to understand it all a little better and tackle things head on.
2. The importance of asking for help
I’ve so often let myself get swallowed into my stubbornness, even more so as a child when I was adamant that I could achieve something on my own. It was as if I wanted to prove something, to myself and others.
I wanted to prove that being vision impaired couldn’t stop me achieving tasks and goals I set myself. But it was later when I realised that this need to construct an image opposing the stereotypical depictions of a blind/VI person, something that meant I determinedly tried to do everything myself with constant refusal of any help, only placed detrimental affects on my mental health.
Although I can still be a little stubborn sometimes, I think I’ve graduated from my younger self’s unhealthy mindset. I have allowed myself to tap into the knowledge that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness.
Whether it’s something like reaching out to a counsellor in order to confront my anxiety or something as small as asking my parents or my brother to find a lipstick I’ve dropped on the floor, asking for help is important in any capacity.
I’ve definitely reaped the benefits since realising just that.
3. How to be patient
There’s a saying isn’t there? Patience is a virtue. And I really do echo that sentiment.
Through being vision impaired, I’ve always been aware of how it can take me longer to complete certain tasks. Whilst this encourages a feeling of frustration to weave through my thoughts at times, it has definitely taught me how to be patient, with myself and others.
Not everything will come easily but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen at all.
There are times when I’ll stumble over hurdles instead of clearing them with ease. I will have mishaps but, most often than not, I’ll learn from them and have the knowledge to tackle them straight on if they ever rear their heads again.
Some things naturally take longer to achieve, but that’s true for anyone, vision impairment or not. Some things call for steady perseverance.
I’ve truly recognised the importance of taking your time and being kind to yourself when you are working on a new skill or task. My mantra is don’t worry if you can’t complete a task to start off with. Learn to have patience, give it another shot and it will come with time.
4. The cane is not as scary as it initially seems
What I’ve learned from being a cane user is that first impressions don’t always count.
When I was first introduced to the cane, I dreaded the thought of using it. It seemed to magnify this hatred I felt towards the fact that I was losing my eyesight, something I didn’t necessarily want to admit to myself as an eight year old.
So, my cane was stored away in a box for another eight years after that, forgotten about except for one or two occasions when I trialled it around the house to gain more tangible knowledge of how it could benefit me – but it always found its way back to the box.
I went on to secondary school without it, feeling confident enough when navigating the big new space since I had received many mobility lessons beforehand to guarantee this feeling. My PA’s nicknamed me a ‘whippet’ in my first year as I’d be zooming around from class to class.
But as time went on and my eyesight started deteriorating more rapidly, I became more reserved in my voyage. I was anxious of tripping or crashing into someone in school. I started to neglect the thought of going outside independently.
So, reluctantly, I reopened the box and my cane saw daylight for the first time in a long time. Only now, it was far too short for me. But after placing an order for a new one, I started taking tentative steps forward.
I never did use it in school. I could never shake the thought that people would follow me with judgemental eyes. But I succumbed to the fact that I did need it away from my educational surroundings in order to gain the independence that I longed for.
So I did eventually pick it back up again and with the help of a bubbly mobility officer, I learned to embrace my cane.
You’ll never find me out and about independently without it anymore. For all that fear I once felt, the confidence and level of independence my cane gives me is much greater.
5. How to make light of the mishaps
I touched on this in a recent post on my own blog. The fact that my days often come complete with mishaps and misfortunes as a result of not seeing something.
I’ve been left black and blue by meetings with pillars, chairs, open doors and all sorts, incidents that have often tinged my thoughts with a hint of embarrassment. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being vision impaired, it’s the importance of laughing these things off.
I’ve so often relegated struggles and misfortunes I’ve had into the never to be spoken of again league. But I’ve also learned how to make light of some and how to remedy them with a giggle.
I’ve realised that any lesson, big or small, has helped me to view my disability in alternative ways. Some realisations have been harder to accept than others but I’m extremely lucky in the sense that I’ve always had the unwavering support of my family and friends to guide me through the darkest moments.
Being vision impaired equips me with knowledge and skills that I wouldn’t have access to otherwise, and that’s the most empowering thing about this whole experience.
Visit Elin’s blog, ‘My Blurred World’
Read more blogs and articles in the Stories Section of the Portal
Join the conversation in the VICTA Parent Network Facebook Group