Let Go To Move Forward
The story of my sight loss began 20 years ago, but it was not until last year that it got very interesting and very challenging. My diagnosis is Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), which is a progressive degenerative retinal disease that is quite insidious. In its early stages, it causes loss of night (low-light) and peripheral vision. In the later stages, central vision may also be affected, causing total loss of light perception.
For many, many years I thought I was beating the odds and had myself convinced that I was not going to end up like other people with RP. My rude awakening came in the form of being declared legally blind at the age of 37, having to give up my job, and losing my driving privileges. Everything crystallized at that point, and I had to face the reality of what was really happening in my life – RP was winning, and I was losing.
I learned that rock bottom is a very real place. Darkness folded in all around me, and I, very briefly, welcomed the embrace of the darkness. I felt myself sinking and saw the brightness of my light dimming, but I could not remain there. My life would not get better by chance. It would require change. With all my strength, I cried out to God to bring me out of the darkness, and He answered.
I knew I had to put a plan in place to get myself on the right path again because if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The first call I made was to my Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor with my state’s Division of Services for the Blind to request services that would enable me to reset and restart my life as a woman who is legally blind. After suffering from a broken bone in my foot last summer, I knew my top priority was getting a cane and training to use it so I started there. That was my first step toward regaining some of the independence I lost. Often, God takes us through troubled waters, not to drown us, but to cleanse us.
The next thing I did was by far the most difficult – I made the decision to stop hiding my hidden disease. I “came out” on Instagram and openly shared my story for the world to see and join me in navigating the murky waters of RP. This was such a tremendous step for me because I never let people in on my secret shame and feelings of inadequacy due to my visual impairment and also because I worried so much about what people would think. Never again will I underestimate the greatness inside of me because of the limited thinking inside of others.
Presently, I am enrolled in the Adapting to Blindness in a Learning Environment (ABLE) program at the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind (RCB). The ABLE program is designed to teach people who are blind and visually impaired invaluable skills for independence and success at work and/or school. Once I complete the ABLE program at the RCB, I will be returning to school in the fall to set out on the path of a new career that I can sustain as a woman who is visually impaired.
My plan for the future is to become a teacher for students who are blind and visually impaired. There is no greater way to effect change in this world than by imparting knowledge to future generations. Not only can I teach them, I can show them that they are as unstoppable as they choose to be. The only limitations we face in life are the ones we place on ourselves, and my hope is that I will inspire the children of our future to live their lives without limits.
It is easy to hear a person’s story of loss and only recognize loss, but I look back over my story and see how much I have gained. My confidence has grown exponentially, and it is true confidence, not just the façade I previously presented to the world. Once I accepted and began living my life as a woman who is visually impaired, I was free to be myself, loudly, and I firmly believe that beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself. I have learned to release negative people, emotions, and thoughts that do not benefit me. I have come to understand that if going blind cannot stop me, nothing can; and happiness is not about getting what you want all the time, but loving what you have and being grateful for it. Most importantly, though, I have learned what matters in life – my faith, my family and friends, and the impact I can make on this world.
To move forward we must accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be. We must be kind, loving and patient with ourselves, as well as others. My transformation was painful but I did not fall apart; I just fell into something different with a new capacity to be beautiful. Everything happens in divine order. The good, the bad, the unexpected, and the unfortunate. Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. Regardless of what is in front of you, it is a part of your path. Follow and trust, believe and hope, forgive and remain thankful, be brave and keep going!