Managing Social Anxiety & Sight Loss
While appearing confident is important it’s more important to articulate what our needs are. Because I appear as if I’m in control people forget I can’t see and sometimes this hurts more than helps. I think part of my struggle here is the delicate balancing act of being confident yet knowing when to request assistance.Bold Blind Beauty
These Four Walls
Recently I’ve talked with several of my blind & visually impaired friends about managing social anxiety and blindness. For many reasons, anxiety, as it relates to our sight loss, is a topic we don’t talk about frequently. On a personal level, one of my reasons is simply the fear of my fear. I feel like if I talk about it all the scary things in my mind they will come into existence. So how do I handle social anxiety and sight loss? The easy answer is I fake it.
Truth be told I’ve always lived with social anxiety and my blindness kicks it up several notches. A panic attack always lurks just beneath the surface whenever I’m in unfamiliar or heavily populated open spaces.
When you can only see blurry shapes, colors, and movement, it’s not ideal. Adding noise to this equation can overwhelm my senses compounding the anxiety. For example in a shopping mall environment, the expectation would be humans and service animals here and there. Without any central vision, I cannot see fine details so people’s faces are nonexistent. Whenever my grown children come by they have to identify themselves so I know who they are. So imagine being in unfamiliar territory with unknown people—no one stands out even people I know.
While being within the confines of my home makes me feel safer than anywhere else there are some challenges. When I’m home alone I know exactly where everything is, on the flipside when my son and grandson are here it can be chaotic. I rely on everything being in its place but when you share living space, there are bound to be problems.
The Moment Of Truth
Since retiring several years ago, my life mainly revolves around being at home on my computer. Blogging and social media have given me an outlet to connect with and live life vicariously through others. Even so, there is the inevitable grocery store run, doctor’s visit, or an occasional special outing that requires leaving home. Then there’s the dog.
As an animal lover and dog owner, it’s my responsibility to walk my Mollie. One would think that since I’m familiar with the area where I live this would be an easy thing to do right? Nah, it’s not that simple. See I live in a condominium complex without sidewalks which means I have to be constantly alert. In addition, I cannot use my cane when walking Mollie which makes me more vulnerable as drivers don’t know I can’t see. Many of my neighbors also don’t know I can’t see because I guard my privacy—so there’s that.
Today was a minor turning point for me as I admitted my fear and pushed through anyway. The first day at a new gym can be a little unsettling to anyone I suppose. For me, I was downright terrified but I’d put it off long enough and decided to be honest.
Because I’d called in advance the facility was expecting me but I opted not to disclose my disability until in person. With white cane in hand, I followed my son into the building. Once inside I met Tammy, the owner of the gym. I briefly explained my fears and she immediately put me at ease. She explained the gym’s offerings and told me she’d create a workout plan for me in large print. I was over the moon and may for the first time ever, take a couple of classes.
Today was a very good day. Was I still anxious? You bet I was! But being upfront with Tammy about my blindness and explaining what I can and cannot see helped her to help me. For far too long I let my fear control me and was afraid of being vulnerable, judged and appearing foolish.
I also think that while appearing confident is important it’s more important to articulate what our needs are. Because I appear as if I’m in control people forget I can’t see and sometimes this hurts more than helps. I think part of my struggle here is the delicate balancing act of being confident yet knowing when to request assistance.
Since empowerment is a key component of Bold Blind Beauty I sometimes feel torn about admitting my perceived flaws. Then there’s another part of me who understands that real empowerment and confidence comes from knowing when to seek help. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help.
My anxiety like my blindness is a part of me and will more than likely remain with me until my last breath. I do have a few additional tips that I’ll share at a later date. For now, though, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you ever talk about your fears?
Managing Social Anxiety & Sight Loss Image Descriptions:
The featured image, as well as the gallery of three photos, are of me on the treadmill. I’m wearing navy exercise capris, teal tank top, teal & navy sneakers and navy knotted head scarf.