Dealing with sight loss

Being blind from birth, I cannot imagine what losing your sight must be like. If it was me, I’d probably not take well to it in the beginning. Eye sight is undeniably practical and having that taken away must be a bit of a frustration.

But I am able to understand at least some of the grieving process you may be going through.

Last year, I got extremely depressed and I couldn’t really figure out why. My life wasn’t going well at all. I had lost my job, because it relocated, and with media contracts being far from stable, I didn’t want to move to another city and build up an entire network only for my contract to possibly not be renewed after a few months. I had lost my mother only 8 months before and I have a terminally ill father who, though he’s still alive today, was sure he’d leave this life last year. But my depression didn’t seem to stem from those reasons. I was in the process of dealing with all of this in my head and knew the depressed feeling was something new, something that hadn’t been there before.

I found myself obsessing about my blindness. It has always been something I dislike and would rather not be afflicted with, mainly because it’s not practical, but at that time I really felt a deep hatred for myself and my condition. I would even say I was embarrassed about it in some strange way.

When I spoke to the few blind friends I had, I kept saying how we must be less worth than sighted people, how we were uglier because we couldn’t make eye contact, how surely we must be burdens for sighted friends and family and how we’d always be at an unfair advantage because if we made a mistake, it was blamed by others on our blindness and not because we were humans.

I know I must have pissed some of my friends off by talking like that, because I was dragging them down with me by offending all blind people out there. The blind friends I have are the kind who have good jobs, working relationships and live pretty much like sighted people, so it was unfair on them and it wasn’t fair on me either.

Now, a year later, I have almost got over how I felt then and it wasn’t long ago that I had a very eye opening conversation with another blind friend about my self-hatred. She became blind as a result of an accident when she was 1 year old, so she can’t really remember what being sighted is like. But she told me that she too had gone through a similar patch to me a few years earlier. With her, it had got so bad that she’d stopped communicating with people she didn’t have to talk to, and she’d gone to see a psychologist.

The psychologist, who specialised in sight loss, told her that when a body loses one of its key functions, it will at some point go into denial because something important has been taken away from it. My friend didn’t have to go through the process of losing her sight when she did, because she was so young, but she’d had a delayed reaction to it which had come out when she was an adult. She said the same thing had happened to me.

I wasn’t convinced. I was born blind so I never knew what seeing was like. She replied that I may not know, but my body and mind are being deprived of sensory stimuli which are so basic to our human biology that at some point, it was only natural for me to experience this grief reaction.

This got me curious, so I asked a number of people who are born blind if they’d ever had such a reaction. Surprisingly many of them said that they’d had depressive feelings combined with anger towards their condition. This had usually not lasted longer than a few months which it did in my case.

If I was a scientist or psychologist, this is a phenomenon I’d love to make a formal study of.

Having gone through that grieving process for myself, I have a lot more respect for people who are losing their sight. I at least didn’t have to further compromise my independence while I was having those thoughts and I don’t have to make the readjustments someone getting used to a life as a VI has to.

Being blind sucks. There’s no way around it. But the two main reasons it sucks, is because of it being unpractical and because of the ignorance of people.

I’m by no means saying to you who are losing your sight that you’re heading for an easy life, but if you have understanding friends and family around you as well as successful blind and VI people who can remind you that life can be beautiful and fulfilling without sight, it will hopefully make what you’re going through less frustrating and over time you’ll learn to appreciate the advantages of blindness which I’m planning to address in a later post.

Take the time to grieve. Be angry, cry, and get the emotions out of your system. Go talk to a pro, a friend, or buy a punchbag, attack it and pretend you’re attacking someone or something you don’t like to maximize the punches. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking your life is over. It isn’t. It’s waiting for you to live it to the fullest when the worst of the pain is over.

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One thought on “Dealing with sight loss

  1. This was a very interesting blog entry. When I began having vision loss a few years ago, my reaction was anxiety and fear more than grief. But the vast majority of people that I have met who have experienced vision loss have described their experiences to first be one of denial followed by a period of anger and grief. I am still fearful about my vision loss more than sad, but I realize that my reactions will change over time.

    Best, Michelle

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