When I went blind, I lost so much more than my eyesight. Nobody who has not been through this can possibly understand the challenges and frustrations that one is forced to face after sudden sight loss.
Simple things like taking a shower become massive tasks. This was such a disorienting experience for me. Reaching for the shampoo bottle on the little corner shelf without knocking off other items. Finding a new appreciation for soap on a rope (yes, there is humour in everything). The challenge of getting the temperature of the water to a perfect level with the tap mixer. Then finding your footing when stepping out of the cubicle. Reaching all over the room to source your towel while doing your best not to slip on the wet tiles. Drying off your body so that you can don your clothes. There have been so many times where I have put my t-shirt on backwards after thinking it was right. I have almost fallen down when trying to step into a pair of pants. Somehow my underwear often ends up inside out. There are even times that I put on mismatched socks and shoes without even knowing it.
Keeping my cool is really hard when I am so used to having the ability to do so much alone and now need to ask for assistance all the time. It is like been flung back into childhood I guess.
Eating without the use of your eyes is a tough obstacle to overcome. Feeling your way around the plate to locate everything is not the fun experience it sounds like. And when I raise yet another empty fork to my mouth, it challenges me to the limit of my sanity. Don’t even talk about reaching for something and knocking over the glass of water that is standing on the table in front of you. Not to mention the many over-salted meals. This tough task has become easier as the days; weeks and months have passed. I have learned to order items from restaurant menus based on my eating abilities. Sandwiches are much easier to manage than scrambled eggs on a croissant.
Mobility can also be an obstacle course in its own right. Feeling your way around with your hands and feet. Begging family and friends to return things to their rightful places so that items can be found easily. Learning the importance of wearing closed shoes when going out in public. Yes, I have had many falls and a good amount of scrapes, bruises and blood has spilled. Always my own blood at least. These accidents have become less common in my new world, but the aches and pains remain. Learning to use a long white mobility cane has become essential. It is like an extension of my arm and hand.
My other senses are needed more than ever as well. I have to listen to know people’s whereabouts. Smell and touch to assist me when searching for something. I use my sense of smell daily to ascertain whether I am holding the salt or pepper grinder.
Communication is probably the hardest challenge. We take so much for granted when we have eyes that work. Seeing a smile, a nod of the head or a frown can tell us so much. Being blind, these visual cues are no longer accessible. Sometimes, because I don’t have body language to use as a reference, I need to ask the same thing a few times before understanding fully. Yes, it makes me feel more stupid than the person I am asking – I assure you.
Eventually, I have had to find a way to come out of my little cave. I have needed to throw off the safety of my bubble world and fear of the unknown to escape my prison of blindness.
Some people who face sight loss become so frustrated and tormented that they are driven to rage. I have heard stories of guys smashing doors and throwing things around.
I am one of the lucky ones.
I have never needed to visit this terrible place of anger in the matrix of blindness. I have always had someone to take my hand and guide me. I have always had someone to help me find the lid of the toothpaste that I have dropped on the floor.
There is the challenge of dealing with people who are not good at handling or communicating with my kind. Self-centred individuals with limited empathy towards people who are different to them. These people will physically stand in your way and don’t speak up when they see you coming towards them. They will watch you struggle clumsily while looking for an item you have misplaced on the table in front of yourself. These people will send you pictures by email or on facebook without a description when they know that you cannot see them. We all come across these kinds of people in our lives – they are called assholes. Assholes who push you for answers and take advantage of you when you offer them everything you can. Assholes who you thought would be there and choose to rather walk away from you. Assholes who think that because you have lost your sight, you have lost your mind as well.
I choose to keep my composure and do my best to hide my frustration. I choose to be patient and against all obstacles, to do my damndest to remain respectful. Most importantly, I limit my exposure to assholes whenever possible.
Not one day goes by that I do not feel like a burden to my partner. Every second I appreciate her choice to stay at my side. Not a moment passes that I am not aware of all the challenges that she now has to face with me. I never take this commitment for granted. The only consolation is in knowing that I too would have been standing at her side if something similar had happened to her. I would pass her the salt and help her figure out the television remote control. I would explain where we are driving and what sights I could see. I would read menus to her and make sure that people did not hurt or take advantage of her. I would fight exactly the same way she fights for me. I would help her find that toothpaste tube lid when she drops it on the bathroom floor.
If you are someone who has found this blog while trying to understand this new dark world you have been flung into, please take some advice from me. Stay calm. Keep your composure and wits about you. Be patient. Take one small careful step at a time and most importantly, don’t smash any doors or throw anything. The feeling of complete and utter hopelessness will pass. Don’t worry about finding out who you can and cannot rely on, true colours will show.
Respect is earned and can be lost. It should never be expected and demanded. You are still in this world even if at most times it feels like you are no more than a picture on the wall.
Learn, love and you will again live.
Listen, smell, touch and taste. It is your new way of seeing now.
Will it get easier? No. It just becomes something that you get more used to and that makes it ok. Not great, just ok. If you want your life to be yours again, then you have to choose to make it great. Finally, always remember to put in more than you take out. Add more awesome to your everything so that you can get more awesome out of your life. Don’t choose safety always. Rather regret what you try and fail at; than regret not trying in the first place.
A ship may be safest while at berth in a harbour, but that is not what ships were made for…
Ok, I have to go now. I have just realised that my pants are on back to front again… Stupid broken eyes… Sigh.
#blind #accessible #BlindScooterGuy