We can all benefit from hearing advice from others from time to time, I always feel like a weight has been lifted after talking through a dilemma with a friend or family member, hearing what they have to say and benefiting from what pearls of wisdom they have to share.
When it comes to my vision impairment, there’s a lot of things that I wish I had known and advice that I could have benefited from hearing or words of reassurance that could have helped me to keep going in difficult times, I think it could have been really beneficial for me to hear those things from fellow blind/VI people.
Of course, I gained some advice from professionals and comfort from my family and friends but when I was a child, I was a stubborn little thing (still can be at times) and this meant that I was very reluctant to talk to others who were in a similar situation to me since I was always slightly apprehensive about what the conversation would entail.
When I hit the midst of my teenage years, I realised how invaluable it could be to hear about other people’s experiences and learning from what advice they had to give. Whether that was with regard to becoming confident in using my cane, how to access services or purely how to stay positive when life with sight loss gets a little too much.
I’m only 20 so I might not have enough ‘life experience’ to be dishing out advice. However, I have been living with a vision impairment since I was a little one and I sure have learned a lot of things during my 17 year long sight loss journey.
So, if you’re newly diagnosed with sight loss, a young person seeking some advice or you just want to hear words from one VI person to another, I’m hoping this post might be the one for you.
I am in no way qualified to give any kind of advice but sometimes, it can be really helpful to learn about other people’s stories and what has helped them. So, these points are purely things that have helped me through my personal sight loss journey, things that are derived from my experiences and I hope they’re of some use to you.
By this I mean, talk to professionals, engage in the sight loss community, find information about what support you’re entitled to and seek help and advice when you need it, there is so much strength in that.
As I said, I used to be quite apprehensive about talking to others in a similar situation to me because it made my vision impairment seem even more real in a way and, at a time when I wasn’t quite ready to accept, I wasn’t prepared to engage much with fellow blind/VI people.
However, as I made my way through my teenage years and learned to accept my disability and become comfortable with it, I started to write about my experiences in this small corner of the internet, I started talking with other VI people and learned how invaluable the sight loss community really is.
Now, you don’t have to start a blog to figure that out for yourself or to start connecting with fellow blind/VI people, it can be done through local or national charities, social groups and events and so much more. Give it a go, there’s no better feeling than finding someone who you can relate to.
Likewise, it’s equally as important to reach out to family and friends to gain the support and comfort you might need at times. I can’t begin to explain how helpful it has been to me to receive support from my family and friends and it’s definitely something I will be forever grateful to them for.
Find your voice
You are the only one who is familiar with what support you need in order to conquer life with a vision impairment.
I know it can be overwhelming when information is thrown at you right, left and centre and I know how difficult it is to voice what you think will help you or not.
I’m still working on finding my own voice but it’s something I’d like to think I’ve improved on in the last couple of years. I am now so much more confident in saying how my vision impairment is affecting me, what support I think I do or do not need and also filing complaints when services don’t work as effectively as they should.
We often have to fight for our rights as disabled people so when you find your voice, doing so becomes so much easier.
Embrace the skills you will learn
The opportunity to learn new skills comes hand-in-hand with a life with sight loss.
I’ve learned to touch type, read and write braille, how to use a cane and so many more things that helped me to navigate the world in a more independent way.
I can’t deny that it’s been difficult to master some of the skills, especially when it comes to the cane since it can be a daunting thing to start using, I used to be so reluctant to use it because I was afraid of what people would think and what looks I’d get when out and about in public. But, I soon realised that if the skills I learn allow me to gain independence without the need to be attached to someone else 24/7 then it’s incredibly important that I embrace them.
Even though they can seem daunting sometimes, I can assure you that the skills you will learn will contribute and make a positive change in your life rather than taking away from it.
Read about others’ experiences
Relating to the point I made about talking to others in order to feel like you can relate to someone and feel less alone, reading about others experiences can also be extremely important.
There weren’t many stories out there when I was registered blind from the perspectives of VI people themselves but now, charities and organisations are constantly sharing individual stories and experiences and the number of disabled bloggers is on the rise, something which I think is so important.
A simple google search can lead you to an abundance of personal stories from blind/vision impaired people and hearing about them can make all the difference.
It’s definitely something which has helped me in so many ways over the past few years.
Focus on the funny side
This might be a difficult one to some people, especially if you’re in the early stages of your sight loss journey or you’re finding it difficult to accept, something which is completely normal might I just say.
However, focusing on the funny moments that can be experienced due to your vision impairment can, in time, make it easier to adopt a slightly more light-hearted approach to life with sight loss.
I recently wrote a guest blog post where I compiled my top 10 #BlindGirlProblems – some of the funny things that have or continue to happen to me due to my disability.
Sight loss can be a difficult journey and a heavy subject to talk and think about sometimes which is why I try my best to focus on the funny moments, believe me, there’s quite a few!
They say that laughter is the best medicine after all, don’t they?
Remember that you are so much more than your disability
I know that this is something that is preached quite often but that’s because there is so much truth in it.
It took me a while to realise that my disability is only a small part of who I am. Yes, it means that some aspects of my life are different and slightly more difficult but it doesn’t mean that it controls the life I live.
It’s so important to take note of what makes you, you. It might be your sense of humour, your amazing talent to sing, to cook or purely your compassion for others.
Remember that your disability is only one small layer of your overall identity.
Living with sight loss or any other disability means that sometimes, you feel like you’re swimming against the tide. There’s no denying that it can be tough but often, it’s about changing and adapting your mindset, having more confidence in yourself and your abilities and realising that you’re not alone.
Sometimes, it can be easy to let your disability hold you back, to think that your impairment makes an indentation on what you can achieve. Trust me, I’ve been there and there are still times when I find it difficult to move forward.
But, most often than not, it’s about realising that, in fact, you are capable of so many things and noticing that your disability can bring positivity into your life, no matter how unrealistic and completely bonkers that can sound at times.
Even though others’ misconceptions and preconceived ideas can make us doubt it sometimes, vision impairment and disability doesn’t mean that we’re incapable. We can still do so many things that fully sighted people do, whether that’s having an education and succeeding in it, gaining employment, writing blogs, having friends, going out and having fun, do I need to go on?
Often, we are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for.
Over time, I have learned to remind myself that my disability contributes to my life in many positive ways and even when it doesn’t and it leaves me feeling frustrated, there are things I can do to move forward, stay positive and adopt a can-do attitude. I hope that some of these points can help you to realise that you can do the same.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you have ever been given? Are there any words of wisdom you’d like to share? Let me know as I’d love to hear from you.