The expression “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” comes to mind for this article.
Late last year, I had to register as partially sighted and was told there was nothing more that the doctors could do for my eyesight.
I was devastated, and being told just before Christmas made me more than a little bit upset; just thinking about it made me want to give up and cry.
Let me clear some things up. I’ve never had perfect vision (my right eye has always been lazy), but in the last few years, I have noticed that it’s been getting worse to the point where people coming up to me have made me jump out of my skin because I didn’t see them coming, I haven’t seen cars while crossing the road and I haven’t been able to tell how far away something was. I could do all of those things before, so, naturally, I got confused and went to my opticians.
They couldn’t find anything wrong with my eyes (to them, my eyes were perfectly healthy) and I was referred to many different specialists throughout the course of 2014. In the middle of last year, I noticed I couldn’t see a thing on my right-hand side at all – not even with the non-lazy eye. Then, I found that every so often my ‘good’ eye would get stressed (in the words of a specialist eye doctor) and everything would appear blurry, as if I was dizzy.
While that was happening, I wasn’t able to see anything moving towards me, and that’s when I got scared.
I had to go for many tests to try and figure out what was going on and what was making my vision worsen at such a rapid rate. They never did find a definitive answer for me and told me it was a neurological problem (a problem related to the brain) that is related to another condition I have. There is nothing more the eye doctors can do for me and they’re not 100% sure if my sight is going to be gone completely in a few years.
If I’m completely honest, that’s what scares me the most – not knowing.
Family and friends try to say the right thing, like “it will be okay” and “there’s help out there, you’ll be fine”, but in all honesty that just made me feel worse because nobody knew that and they had no idea what it was like being able to see then losing more than half your sight in less than a year. I knew that they were just trying to help and if somebody told me that they were losing one of their senses, I wouldn’t really know what to say either.
At the time, it was the people who didn’t say anything at all who made me feel better. It wasn’t because I was angry but because I was scared, and I still am. I’m currently in my final year at university, so this news couldn’t really come at a worse time when all my focus needs to be on my work and not worrying about my sight. With that said, at the very beginning of this year – as the clock struck midnight – I decided to stop moping around and get on with writing my dissertation and to get on with my life regardless of whether or not I was going to lose my vision.
Like most people, I’ve had to overcome obstacles in my life and each one makes us stronger, and I wasn’t going to let this one bring me down. There is a lot out there to help people with little or no vision now and I’ve had the help of different organisations, such as the RNIB and my local council’s branch of social services and rehab team. I got myself on the waiting list for a guide dog and I’m now working with different people to get all the support I need, including speaking to people who understand what I’m going though.
The application for a guide dog is pretty simple: phone up, they send you forms in any format you want (braille, large print or audio), you fill it in and send it back, they then forward it to your doctors to confirm that what you’ve said is true, and then you go on to assessments, home visits, and visitations to see the dogs. It’s a long application process though and I could be waiting for two or more years, as they have to find a dog that suits me and that will bond well with my lifestyle and personality.
My goal is to work as a journalist in the political field and I’m determined not to let my sight loss get the better of me. There is so much out there to help me reach my goals and just because I don’t see so well, it doesn’t mean I won’t. Writing this, I don’t want people to feel bad for me and I’m not writing for attention, but if writing this helps just one person, it will make me happy. This is because if I knew I wasn’t alone at the time, I would have felt better. Even if you don’t have sight loss, having any disability can make you feel different to other people, and I want to let you know that if you really want something, you’ll go and chase it no matter what stands in your way.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) helpline is 0303 123 9999
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc