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Too Sighted To Be Blind

Too Sighted To Be Blind

It seems like it’s been ages since I’ve written anything for Bold Blind Beauty. I’ve been so consumed with all the other aspects of this site it’s been overwhelming. Things like updating policies, products, and people to feature, have taken so much time my choices are limited.

Image Description is in the body of the post.
Stephanae

One of the things I seldom talk about is how I adjusted to living with blindness. Next month will be 10 years since I gave up driving and began adapting to losing some of my independence. During that time my left eye was unusable and my “good” right eye had these massive floaters. 

I used to think floaters were these tiny specks that I’ve had for as long as I can remember. As a high myope (severely nearsighted) I remember seeing my first floaters when was very young. But the ones I had 10 years ago were different. They were solid black clouds that constantly moved to obscure everything in my line of sight. Imagine driving and suddenly you’re unable to see street signs, traffic lights, people, and vehicles on the road–it’s scary.

After I stopped driving I’d have to wait until January 2009 for what would be my last vitrectomy (macular hole surgery). During a vitrectomy, a gas bubble is injected into the eye. This particular surgery was a little different because my surgeon was going to remove those annoying floaters as well. 

Seeing Yet Not Fully Sighted

Veering off topic for a minute, if you’ve never held your head in a downward position for 4 weeks or more, you haven’t lived. Yes, this was what I had to do each time I had a vitrectomy. And let me tell you the first few days after each surgery my neck was on fire. I had to do this on four separate occasions and each time I was ALL IN. 

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Hey! I’m Walkin’ Here Tote & Ready To Conquer Tee

To help people understand what it might feel like to be blind there are various simulations from blindfolds to special eyeglasses. If I could point to one experience that prepared me for blindness it would be vitrectomy recovery. While I could see peripherally and downward, being unable to look up when I went for follow-up appointments was a strange feeling. Sort of like ‘you can see, but you can’t.’

Anyway, during this last recovery period, my retina specialist found a leaky blood vessel at the back of my right eye. Though an injection of Avastin stopped the bleeding, I’d find out later I was legally blind.

Too Blind To Be Sighted

To this day, none of my doctors can explain how the first macular hole evolved into the series of issues that stole my sight. Back when it all began the possibility of me ending up where I am today was highly unlikely. Going from healthy eyes to glaucoma, a torn retina, cataracts, uveitis, and blindness still seems like a dream. Yet each day I awaken I know it’s real. 

My blindness is the reason why I advocate for inclusion, accessibility, and equity. No one can know what going blind feels like until you’ve experienced it first-hand. Even then, when one or more of us share the same condition our sight is different for each of us.

The one thing this whole experience has taught me is to be more open-minded. I realize I know so much less than what I thought I knew and I’m learning more every day. There are so many conditions people live with and there really is no room for assumptions. 

I am blind and I look like I can see. It isn’t easy being too sighted to be blind yet too blind to be sighted. Even so, I will continue breaking down barriers in the hopes for a judgment-free world. One where blind and visually impaired individuals are doing what they love and are equally represented in all areas of life.

Featured Image Description:

In this three-quarter profile shot, I’m wearing a teal colored sleeveless sporty dress with a hoodie. It looks great with my Bold Blind Beauty braille teal wristband. Photo credit: Jana N. Williams Photography

Additional Images:

  • I posed with my “gold” white cane and wore a black tee with a white tote bag. The tee has an image of fashion icon Abby. To the right of Abby is a checklist Handbag, Heels, White Cane and directly under her and the checklist is the slogan: “Ready to Conquer.” The bag has black handles, features Abby, and say “Hey I’m Walkin’ Here!” Abby is front and center above the slogan
  • In this picture, I’m standing in front of a gorgeous red door at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Pittsburgh. Since there was a wedding in progress we couldn’t get any shots in front of the building so we found this magnificent red door with these tactile black knobs. 
  • The mug’s design includes fashion icon, Abby (in trio format) who are to the right of the handle. Directly under the trio is the slogan: “Blind Chicks With ATTITUDE.” To the left of the handle, the slogan is tactile braille.
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Christie Smith | Blind Beauty Issue 34

Blind Beauty Issue 34 Featured Image Description is in the body of the post.

Christie Smith | Blind Beauty Issue 34

Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) is the cause of Christie’s declining eyesight. “Retinitis pigmentosa is a group of eye problems that affect the retina.~American Academy of Ophthalmology

Freedom From Other’s Perceptions

“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.” ~Christie Smith

Regardless of the reasons behind our sight loss coming terms with it can be a difficult process. Even though intellectually we know we did not cause our eye conditions many of us experience feelings of shame. In addition to adjusting to our fear of blindness and grief from loss, how we are perceived wreaks havoc on our psyche.

While I am thrilled people are opening up about sight loss we still have a long way to go. Since many don’t understand the spectrum of blindness, too many individuals living with sight loss are harassed. When seen using smartphones or reading a book people say we’re faking because we use a white cane. Imagine how it must feel to lose your sight then become a target for bullying because of incorrect assumptions?

It’s no wonder so many of us feel we need to hide our disability. We’d rather people think there is any number of things going on with us rather than sight loss. Just something to think about.

Blind Beauty Issue 34 Featured Image Description:

Featured image is a mock magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Christie’s cover photo is a stunning black and white image. Always smiling, in this photo, Christie’s hair is swept up from the right leaving the left side curly. She is also wearing large hoop earrings.

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Projection & The ‘Other’ Side | Abby’s Reflections 21

Projection & The ‘Other’ Side | Abby’s Reflections 21

“It’s always easier to assess a person’s situation when you are on the outside looking in. Imagining ourselves in another’s position in some cases can not only be impractical but also harmful.”

Perceptions And Reality Can Be Two Different Things

Many people feel sorry for blind people because they envision that we live dull, colorless lives. We hear things like “it would be so scary,” “I couldn’t go on if I lost my sight,” or “life would be so hard.” The reality is life can be challenging for everyone with and without sight.

I understand how easy it is to use projection as a method of trying to understand a particular aspect of disability, we all do it. However, unless we are willing to listen, learn, and believe people with disabilities (PWDs) this method yields negative results. To play the comparison game by assuming our lives are better than another’s simply because they have a disability is abhorrent. We have to change the thinking that disability means ‘broken’ when all it really means is ‘different.’

Let’s continue to strive for inclusivity in all areas of life. Hopefully, there will come a time when we fully embrace our differences without condescension. Until then, resist the urge to assume that disability automatically means a deficit.

As for living with blindness, it’s not what one might expect. There are so many ways to experience a beautiful and fulfilling life, having eyesight is only one.

Featured Image Description:

A gray, teal and white boldblindbeauty.com template uses the ‘Abby’s Corner’ image. Abby, sporting her signature explosive hairstyle is sitting cross-legged in her PJs (gray bottoms & white top with a gray collar). She is using her teal Abby logoed laptop with a headset/microphone and her white cane is propped up next to her.

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Blindness, Self-Confidence, and Being Enough

Blindness, Self-Confidence, and Being Enough Featured Image Description is in the body of the post.

Today’s Guest Post was originally published on BlindAlive February 05, 2017 by Mel Scott

Being Enough What Does It Mean?

What does it mean to “be enough?” How does it feel? How will we know when we have reached that blissful state of “enoughness?”

These questions have been churning in my brain consciously for years, and probably subconsciously all my life. Well, I have been pondering on it long enough. I have some ideas that might help sort it out.

To say, “I am enough” is a very different statement than, “I have enough.” We can quantify “having enough:” there is enough food, shelter, or whatever it is that is required. “Being enough” is a bit more elusive. It is a state of mind. To be willing to say, “I am enough” and truly believe it, even for an instant, allows for a feeling of inner spaciousness; a peaceful expansion of consciousness.

I could easily tell you at this point to do twenty affirmations every day saying, “I am enough,” and eventually you will feel better. This absolutely can be an effective practice. I use it myself but I want to introduce another idea.

Are We Being Realistic In Our Expectations?

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation and the person said to me, “I am sad because I am not enough.” Usually, I might have said something like, “Of course you are, look at all the people you have helped and influenced over your lifetime.” There are a lot of dismissive remarks I could have made. This time, however, what shot out of my mouth was, “You are right! You are not enough and you never will be, so get over it!” I felt kind of shocked when it spilled out of me, but I realized the truth of the statement immediately.

How can any of us ever be “enough” when the To Do List is infinite? How can we be enough when we feel “less than” due to blindness, deafness, or a thousand other physical conditions, or when the size of our pants aren’t the size we have decided is the perfect one? How can we ever be enough when we measure ourselves by a superhero we have conjured up in our own minds? How can we be enough when the mark moves up as soon as we reach it?

We can’t! There is no way! Therefore, to be sad about not being enough means you will be sad about it the rest of your life. That does not work for me.

A Proposed Solution

The way I see it is I can either drop the thought, “I am not enough” and even drop the thought “I am enough.” They really are not useful because a measurement is inherent in both statements. I propose we drop them both. Can you imagine that? You never have to be enough again and you never will feel sad again because you are not enough. “Being enough” is no longer a measurement that applies to us.

How does that feel?

For me, a whole world of guilt-free possibilities just opened up. So much inner space can be created if we get over “being enough.” Let it go and observe how you feel. Take it in and you might breathe easier.

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Featured Image Description:

In the photo are 6 flat stones atop one another decreasing in size to convey balance. The stones are sitting on a rocky beach in the foreground. In the background is the ocean and the pastel colored sky is on the horizon. The color palette is a calm, soothing one in softly muted grays, blues, pinks, and whites.