In November many people stop and reflect on what they are thankful for. I have been thankful for many different things in my life such as my grandpa, my dog, the technology I use and even the vision that I do have.
I wasn’t always like this, back when I first met my best friend, I was going through the grieving process for my visual impairment. According to NOVO Renewing Joy In Life/ Grieving a disability, “There are five stages of grieving. The five stages are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.” When I step back and look at these five stages, I can see that I went through them at different times in my life. Which according to the NOVO website is normal.
My best friend saw me go through stages of anger, sadness, depression and eventually acceptance
When I was going through the anger stage, I used to tell my best friend, “I wish I could just lose it all. That way, I can get a guide dog and get more help.” My best friend was kind but firm with me. She told me that I needed to be thankful for the vision that I had. At the time I was going through my first round of training for how to use a long white cane. One day my Orientation and Mobility teacher had me put on a blindfold and she had me do several daily living skills tasks such as walking down to the cafeteria and back to my dorm, find an outfit, and brush my teeth and hair. I found most of those tasks very hard to complete. When she had me take off my blindfold, I felt thankful for the sight that I did have. I asked my teacher, “How can my best friend, who is totally blind, do all this so easily?” Her answer was simple. “Training. But why don’t you ask your friend that question.”
Later that day, when my friend and I were talking about my lesson, I asked, “How do you do all the daily tasks that I did today? I was so frustrated.” Her reply was simple. I’ve been blind so many years that I’ve learned to cope. Then she went on to say something that has stuck with me for so many years. “When you get done with your lesson you get to take the blindfold off and your vision that you have gets to come back. I never have that chance.”
There are times that I feel sadness, for example, when the Paratransit doesn’t show up to take me to an appointment. During the time that I was going through the denial stage I started to focus on the things that I couldn’t do. I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t use a computer without the help of a screen reader and magnifier. When I started focusing on the things that I couldn’t do, I fell into a depression. Other things in my life such as the loss of my beloved pet sent me into a time period of depression. I knew that I wasn’t getting better on my own, so I checked myself into outpatient counseling.
My therapist and my support network of friends and family helped me realize how lucky I am to be able to do a lot of things despite my visual impairment. I had to learn to see the positives in life. I cannot drive, and sometimes the paratransit services does not show up on time, but at least I can use the service. I have read on some support group posts that some people do not have such a service and they do not have a very supportive network therefore they are stuck. I am lucky to have a grandfather that is willing to take me to places as long as we make arrangements in advance.
I haven’t had many job interviews and when I do many employers haven’t heard of the word, Nystagmus. This has given me the opportunity to educate others on the condition. Another opportunity I have gained from this is I am in the process of trying to start my own business. My aim of my business is to help others with sight loss including parents of children who have Nystagmus. I hope to educate the general population about sight loss and help them understand that even though we have sight loss we can achieve a lot.
It breaks my heart hearing parents that are worried about their child’s future and then they post things such as, “My child’s life is over!” To me it isn’t over. You are just grieving. I had to go through the grieving process. I had to learn that it is normal to go through this process. The problem is when you get stuck on an emotion and you stay there instead of working through it. Believe me I was once there; I felt angry at my visual impairment, I wanted things to be different. I felt that if I wasn’t born this way I would be married, have children of my own, and I would be in the middle of a great career. However, I had to learn to accept that I am not that person. I do have a disability and there is nothing I can do to change that physically. What I can do is to learn to adapt things so I can do something that I couldn’t do before.
All of these things have helped me reach the level of acceptance. I no longer mention to my friend that I want to lose all the sight I have. I take pride in the fact that I am a proficient ZoomText and Kurzweil user. I have skills that can help the visually impaired community. I am happy. I feel that that is one of the most important things I can feel. I am happy with the person that I have become.